There are a lot of great moments in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but there is one very specific and hilarious scene in which Peter Parker very confidently misidentifies AC/DC’s killer song “Back in Black” by saying “I love Led Zeppelin!” And though this seems like a funny throwaway, this is actually the exact moment where Far From Home brings the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe full-circle. You may have thought Avengers: Endgame was the end of this era of Marvel movies, but really, the latest Spidey flick is the real ending. And that’s because it wraps up multiple storylines about the only character who can never return to these movies — Iron Man.
If you squint through those special Tony Stark high-tech glasses, Spider-Man: Far From Home actually reads as Iron Man 4, and that’s because a huge chunk of the movie is about how Peter Parker deals not only with a world without Tony Stark; but more specifically, a world which Iron Man created. Spoiler alert, but the entire conflict of Far From Home revolves around disgruntled former employees of Tony Stark; people who either got yelled at by Jeff Bridges in the very first Iron Man movie in 2008, or in the case of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck, had their inventions hijacked and turned into holographic therapy for Stark.
Like the next generation of young Marvel fans who are just getting into all this superhero stuff, Peter Parker inherits the mixed legacy of Tony Stark whether he likes it or not. Because this version of Spidey doesn’t really have a fatherly-Uncle Ben figure, Iron Man was Peter’s next-best-thing to a dad. And in Far From Home, all the mistakes Tony made become Spider-Man’s problem. Happy Hogan reminds Peter that although Iron Man was great that he was also “all over the place,” which is a nice way of saying Tony Stark was actually kind of a douchebag and may have given Peter and the rest of the world more than they really want to deal with. Anyone who has had been saddled with messiness after the death of a parent knows how this goes. For Spidey, his personal life is totally compromised in the post-credits scene (in which his secret identity is revealed) all of which is, indirectly, Tony Stark’s fault. In fact, the seeds for Peter inheriting Tony’s problems are sewn in Spidey’s first official MCU appearance; in Captain America: Civil War. Back then, Tony recruited Peter to help him reign-in Cap, but we now know this movie also was where Tony ignorantly turns Beck into a bad guy.
Which brings us back to that AC/DC track; “Back in Black.” This is the song that opens the very first moments of 2008’s Iron Man; Tony Stark sits in the back of a humvee speeding through Afghanistan, drinking a cocktail, acting like jerky the millionaire arms-dealer that he is. From that point, Tony’s caravan gets attacked, and through the course of the movie, and a lot of snarky one-liners, he eventually becomes a slightly better person and you know, Iron Man. In fact, just like Far From Home, that film famously ended with Tony Stark revealing his identity in a press conference. And now, unwillingly, Peter Parker has become the new Iron Man insofar as his identity has been revealed too, albeit not by choice. Either way, Peter’s journey is very similar to Tony’s at this point, the only difference is Peter didn’t get much of a choice in the matter, whereas Tony did.
Despite everything that happened to Tony Stark, Captain America and Black Widow throughout all of their Marvel movie adventures, for the most part, these characters read as adults, and in the case of Tony and Natasha, adults who were not innocent people, like at all. But Peter Parker is the opposite of this. Even after everything, he’s been through in five movies, he’s basically still at the beginning of his hero’s journey. Which is why Far From Home is both an ending fo the old Marvel movies and the beginning of the new ones.
It’s unclear what new Avengers movies will look like in 2020 and beyond, but because Tony is 100 percent dead and Steve Rogers is 100 percent living in the past in secret, the big recognizable heroes of Iron Man and Captain America won’t be around. (Also that rumored Black Widow movie is thought to be a prequel?) In any case, if the new Avengers are Captain Marvel, maybe Hulk, Falcon, and Bucky, then it seems like Spidey might become their defacto leader. After all, once you’re secret identity is revealed, you’ve got nowhere to be other than with other superheroes.
The musical cues and plot similarities of Spider-Man: Far From Home help to complete Tony Stark’s story one movie after his onscreen death. But, our incumbent Peter Parker isn’t Tony Stark. Like at all. He doesn’t really know who AC/DC is, even if he likes the music. This Peter is the face of the future of the next big round of Marvel movies, and in some ways, that’s reassuring. The MCU began with a tortured man-baby who drank too much and said sexist things. That guy accidentally became a hero, and of course, because of that journey of redemption, we all love Tony Stark. But now, it seems Marvel is going to do stories about different types of heroes, and those people, like Peter Parker, might be a little bit better than the generation before them. Marvel is done with the old guys. It’s time to give the kids a shot.
Luckily, as Far From Home proves, the kids are more than all right. They’re better than us.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is out in theaters everywhere right now.