Iron Man’s MCU Phase 6 Villain Upgrade Was Teased 14 Years Ago

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14 years ago, an Iron Man villain’s upgrade was teased in the MCU in the years following their debut. So far, MCU Phase 6’s release slate is relatively bare aside from 2027’s Avengers: Secret Wars rounding out the Multiverse Saga before a potential rumored soft reboot of the MCU timeline follows. Sequels including Doctor Strange 3 and Thor 5 will possibly precede this movie as Phase 6 releases, possibly bringing the stories of the eponymous heroes to a close, if not within Avengers: Secret Wars itself.

Iron Man, meanwhile, is unlikely to reappear in the MCU despite his inarguable star power being an appealing prospect for an MCU that has experienced difficulty recently. With Tony Stark’s death in the Sacred Timeline drawing a line beneath Iron Man’s MCU journey, there is still one upcoming movie that will hone in on his legacy and possibly bring back some fan-favorite characters. Details surrounding Armor Wars, including a release date, are yet to emerge – but there is a huge opportunity for one of his most memorable villains to reprise his role in a more threatening capacity than ever.

Justin Hammer’s relatively meek persona could undergo a significant transformation in this context, turning him into a much greater tour de force in his next appearance.

Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer was underutilized during his MCU debut in Iron Man 2. While he was a charismatic font of comic relief within the movie, this also rendered him far less intimidating than his comic book appearances, where he was able to pose a significant threat to Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 instead portrayed him as a hapless business rival whose ineptitude belied the fact that he was one of the USA’s foremost weapons manufacturers. Instead, he was included to emphasize Stark’s genius as his ill-fated attempt to co-opt Stark’s tech landed him in prison.

Justin Hammer could harden into a far more threatening entity at Seagate, where the villain was confined. The MCU’s Seagate Prison has appeared on-screen on a handful of occasions, but its appearance in Luke Cage, in particular, portrayed it as a particularly unpleasant space where inmates are likely to emerge even more capable of criminality than before. Justin Hammer’s relatively meek persona could undergo a significant transformation in this context, turning him into a much greater tour de force in his next appearance – which is best placed in Armor Wars.

As Armor Wars appears poised to delve into Tony Stark’s legacy, it can compound this by continuing the trend within Iron Man movies that address sociopolitical discussions. Typically, this has surrounded themes of warmongering and weapons manufacturing, but having Hammer emerge as a far more antagonistic villain would help provide commentary on the carceral system and the nefarious nature of Seagate. Stark’s absence in Armor Wars also removes Hammer’s biggest obstacle, giving him more freedom than ever to misappropriate his erstwhile rival’s genius.

The MCU could also benefit from a more longstanding villain. The threat levels of many supposedly powerful villains like Gorr the God Butcher and Malekith were diminished by their fleeting tenures, while villains like Kingpin boast a far more threatening presence by virtue of their longevity. As it stands, Hammer is also the only villain from Iron Man‘s solo movies that could reappear in Armor Wars, which, with Sam Rockwell’s willingness to reprise the role, helps make his return even more likely.

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