Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Spider-Man: Homecoming
Spider-Man: Homecoming is full of Easter Eggs, shout-outs, cameos, and references to the wider Marvel universe, from the opening scene, set during the aftermath of the 2012 Avengers movie, to Gwyneth Paltrow’s surprise appearance in the closing moments of the film. There’s so much to love, but one of the biggest connections was apparently revealed weeks before the movie’s release: the fact that a kid version of Peter Parker made his MCU debut all the way back in 2010’s Iron Man 2.
Iron Man 2 concludes with an exciting battle during the Stark Expo, during which the title character, better known as Tony Stark, saves a little boy wearing an Iron Man mask. Tom Holland recently let slip that the little boy Stark saved was actually Peter Parker. It’s an awesome revelation and had been a fan theory for years, and his confirmation validated those fans’ hopes. However, some were upset that Tom ruined what promised to be a huge revelation in the then-upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. He even apologized, saying
“Maybe I’ve just done a big old spoiler, but it’s out there now. It’s cool. I like the idea that Peter Parker has been in the universe since the beginning.”
While fans would have preferred to have witnessed the reveal in the film first, at least Homecoming would confirm Holland’s assertion, right?
It’s Not In The Movie
Wrong. The Iron Man 2/Spider-Man: Homecoming connection is not made canon within either of the movies. Iron Man 2 was made long before Marvel Studios officially had the legal right to make movies featuring the Peter Parker character, and Homecoming, despite the intimate relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker, makes no mention of Iron Man saving Peter all those years ago.
The question becomes: what value does so-called “Word of God” have on what is and is not considered canon? Director Jon Watts said that he made the connection while watching Iron Man 2 with Kevin Feige, but in the interview with Uproxx he doesn’t specifically state if the connection was made before or after production finished on Homecoming. Is the supposed link between the two movies something that fueled Homecoming‘s writing process? Or is it an afterthought, and did the subsequent implied subtext between Peter and Tony actually have no bearing on the development of Homecoming?
At some point, grandiose cinematic universes run the risk of becoming impenetrable to general audiences, who feel overwhelmed by the need to “do homework” just to enjoy any one movie. By and large, Marvel Studios has done an admirable job of letting each Marvel Studios production stand on its own two feet, winning over casual audiences through individual merit while feeding hardcore fans subtle teases of adventures and characters yet to come. The important part of these teases is that they occur within the art itself, the movies.
At one point in Homecoming, Donald Glover’s character, Aaron Davis, mentions having a nephew. Comic fans already know who Miles Morales is, and know exactly what the scene is hinting at with the future of the franchise. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula and Gamora mention their father, Thanos, who previously had a cameo appearance in the first Guardians and will be the main antagonist of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. Back in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Agent Sitwell mentions a bunch of characters, from Doctor Strange to “a TV anchor in Cairo,” which could allude to fan-favorite vigilante Moon Knight. Even going back to Iron Man 2, the map near the end of the film has a bunch of points lit up, including one in Africa that alludes to Wakanda, the setting for Black Panther. These moments, which toe the line between Easter Eggs and legitimate plot points, are all permanent, since they’re part of their respective movies, and that’s what matters here; the Spider-Man/Iron Man 2 connection is completely segregated from the art.
If there’s nothing in the movie itself to confirm this “fact,” then is it truly canon? How much weight should be put behind the words of stars like Tom Holland or Robert Downey Jr., directors like Jon Watts, or even mega-producers like Kevin Feige? Are backstage interviews canon? What about tweets? Does a fan theory that earns creator approval become canon?
A popular fan theory states that the little boy from the third act of Batman Begins is Jason Todd. If Christopher Nolan had tweeted a confirmation, would that make it true? What about the little boy at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2? He’s wearing a Spider-Man outfit and stands face-to-face with The Rhino in the film’s closing minutes, in what is clearly on the aforementioned Iron Man 2 scene. If Marc Webb tweeted the boy’s identity as Miles Morales, what difference would that make for the movie? None.
Does the Peter Parker Iron Man 2 cameo make sense? Yes. Does it fit into the established MCU timeline? Mostly. Is it actually part of either movie? Absolutely not. Movies last forever; they will be watched over and over again as the years turn into decades and beyond. Meanwhile, a tweet will be forgotten almost immediately, and press tour interviews don’t last much longer.
The Harry Potter Connection
Something similar happened with the character of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter novels. The kindly old wizard’s sexuality is never fully explored in the books, but when J.K. Rowling later stated that Dumbledore was gay and always had been, she ignited a firestorm of both praise and backlash. Many fans were overjoyed to learn of Dumbledore’s sexuality, but it would have meant a lot more to the marginalized community if this fact had been made known in the original stories, rather than simply a claim made years after the fact.
Perhaps there is some subtext within the stories, about Dumbledore’s intimate friendship with Grindelwald, but nothing solid, and certainly not enough to truly justify Dumbledore’s status as a gay icon. However, the story isn’t over yet. Jude Law will be playing a young version of Dumbledore in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel, and if the character is confirmed to be gay in the highly-anticipated movie, then it will become truly part of the Harry Potter world (the movie world, anyway). The content of a work of art is the highest form of canon, and is – to many – the only truly reliable source of canon knowledge.
With that in mind, there’s still hope for proponents of the Iron Man 2/Spider-Man: Homecoming connection. The story gained so much traction that that Peter’s childhood meeting with his mentor may yet come up in a future movie. Since Tony Stark reportedly won’t be appearing in Homecoming 2, that leaves Avengers: Infinity War. Perhaps Tony Stark doesn’t know that Peter Parker was the young boy he saved all those years ago – how would he? He was just a kid in the middle of a heated battle, wearing a face-obscuring mask. Maybe Peter was too embarrassed to ever tell his idol how he saved his life, but it may yet come up as a plot point in the future, at which point all the perceived subtext could be validated, much like what may ultimately happen regarding the Dumbledore example. It could happen, but, for now, it’s just a fan theory…
…That is, until Kevin Feige tweets about it. Then it’s canon.
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