In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) finds himself on a jet with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Music kicks in, and the moment becomes familiar: “I love Led Zeppelin!” Peter shouts as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” blares over the speakers.
The mistake isn’t just a goof, but an emotional beat for an audience that’s stuck with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The end of Phase 3 directly echoes 2008’s Iron Man.
Far From Home is the perfect bookend to the Infinity Saga, not just in terms of dealing with Tony’s death in Avengers: Endgame, but how it’s narratively tied to the first film. Tony was the one who sought Peter out, who believed in him when nobody else did or when “everyone thought I was crazy to recruit a fourteen-year-old kid.” Since the kid from Queens was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, he’s looked up to Tony as his mentor, never quite aware of how much the Iron Man adored him. He’s without his father figure in Far From Home, but Tony has not quite gone: his influence and presence can be seen all over the film, and the throwbacks to Iron Man are strong.
[Ed. note: this post contains significant spoilers for Far From Home]
Peter has constantly maintained that he is “the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” — he believes looking out for the little guy is what he does best. He struggles to live up to the legacy Tony left behind, and constantly maintains that “the world needs the next Iron Man,” when really needs is to have faith in his abilities. In Far From Home we learn that Tony has bequeathed Peter his very own enhanced glasses uploaded with EDITH (aka “Even Dead, I’m The Hero” — so perfect, so Tony), his very own natural-language interface to assist him his superhero duties. While the glasses are near identical to the Tony’s Avengers: Infinity War pair, there is no denying how much they transform Peter’s face: he could be a younger version of Tony, and we begin to note the comparisons between mentor and mentee.
After Peter has handed over EDITH to Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) we gain further insight into the unhinged uomo di mistero and his dastardly plan of illusion. We learn he was an ex-employee of Stark Enterprises, dismissed by Tony for his unstable behavior. Beck’s team is made up of other ex-employees who were not given credit for their work. The revelation that one particular individual, William Ginter Riva (Peter Billingsley, reprising his role from 11 years ago) not only worked for Stark Enterprises but was the scientist Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) barked the immortal lines “TONY STARK WAS ABLE TO BUILD THIS IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!” at in Iron Man, only makes the connections between the beginning of Phase One and the conclusion of Phase Three stronger. We can even go as far as to say the both Beck and Stane are using a similar power trip method: earning the younger, smarter man’s trust, appearing as their ally, but whose real mission is to gain their power and end their lives.
Tech, too, plays a part in their similarities, not something we usually associate with Spider-Man, even with his science background. Having lost his suit (his Stark iteration and the new black “Night Monkey” provided by Talos-as-Fury), Peter designs and 3D-prints one on the aforementioned plane. Happy Hogan looks on tenderly, for the physical similarities to Tony in his moment are uncanny (let’s not forget that Favreau directed the first two Iron Man movies). Peter brings up the tech, selects, tests and swipes screens with all the skill and ease of somebody both familiar with the equipment and who has been creating this way for a number of years. When he plunges his arm down and into what would be the glove part of his Spidey suit, the maneuver is nearly identical to when Tony designed his Mark II Iron Man suit.
In Far From Home, Peter repeatedly states that he “needs a break.” After the events of Endgame, he wants the opportunity to go on vacation and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower with the girl he really likes. But at the same time he worries about his friends, about May, and about the responsibilities of being one of the only remaining Avengers. He can’t just shrug off his responsibilities where the safety of the world is concerned. It’s quite a weight for a high school student.
Throughout the MCU, Tony has acknowledged that he is not the typical superhero. The genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist went from being a party boy in the first Iron Man to the selfless hero of Endgame. But Tony has always struggled. Much like Peter’s desire to live up to Tony, Tony always felt he had to live up to the reputation of his father Howard (John Slattery). In Iron Man 2, he talks about Howard with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), insisting that “he was cold, he was calculating. He never told me he loved me, never even told me he liked me, so it’s a bit hard for me to digest that he said the whole future is riding on me thing, I don’t get that!”
Tony lets the extra fandom that comes with being a superhero fuel some rather reckless behavior, including partying recklessly in his Iron Man suit, and facing off with best friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Only after finding a film reel from Howard, informing him “one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world. What is, and will always be, my greatest creation…is you,” that Tony receives the jolt he needs (In Endgame, after meeting his father in the 1960s, he finally receives the closure and affection he has always craved).
But Tony’s demons and insecurities have always follow him around. In Iron Man 3 he suffers from PTSD from the events of the first Avengers movie, having multiple panic attacks in public places. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, he says to Nick Fury “I’m the man who killed the Avengers.” He is a man fueled with doubt. Peter, too, constantly doubts himself, which he grapples with when Happy collects him in the Netherlands. “Tony was my best friend,” Happy tells Peter in Far From Home, “but he was a mess. He second guessed everything. The one thing he didn’t second guess was you.” Like Tony gaining the knowledge and encouragement from his father, Happy’s reassuring words to Peter provide the jolt he needs to pick himself up, and complete his mission.
The mid-credits scene of Far From Home finds none other than J. Jonah Jameson popping up to reveal a posthumous message from Beck. Spider-Man is the enemy, he says, and “his name is Peter Parker.” Unlike most of his Avengers, Peter had managed to keep his superhero alter ego concealed until now, and the revelation goes against everything we expect to see in a Spider-Man film.
While setting a new benchmark for Phase 4, the announcement inverts a key moment in Iron Man. At the end of the first film, we see Tony unexpectedly reveal to the media and the world that “I am Iron Man,” an original ad-lib by Robert Downey Jr. that set a new path for superhero movies and the MCU’s success. Iron Man set a precedent for the world knowing superheroes identities. The Avengers have become celebrities, but Peter’s anonymity allows him to be a kid. This is all set to change in future movies.
While many believed that Spider-Man Far From Home would usher the beginning of Phase 4, it’s subtly mirroring of Iron Man, and the languishing presence of Tony Stark, make it the perfect conclusion to this superhero arc and the end of Phase 3. Yes, both movies are different, but the callbacks to Iron Man are comforting in this post Avengers: Endgame age. In the first Avengers film, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) said to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) that “people might just need a little old fashioned.” And still not quite ready to let Tony Stark go, fans just might need a little nostalgia.
Sabina Stent is a freelance arts and culture writer with bylines at AnOther Magazine, FANDOM, The F Word, Real Crime Magazine, Dazed, and others. You can find her on Twitter @SabinaStent.