The MCU Phase 6 Can Break An Iron Man Movie Tradition For The First Time In 16 Years

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War Machine’s first solo movie, Armor Wars, might feature one moment that the MCU has avoided since 2008’s Iron Man. First devised as a Disney+ series, the MCU’s upcoming Armor Wars movie is set to follow Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes as he deals with the appearance of multiple armored villains. In Marvel’s original Armor Wars storyline, Tony Stark faces various characters who misuse his designs while also escaping the authorities, but slowly realizes that his efforts to be a hero will always come with negative consequences for himself and the world.

Given that Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man died in Avengers: Endgame, War Machine will take Tony Stark’s place as Armor Wars’ protagonist. The MCU’s Armor Wars adaptation will likely delve into the implications of Tony Stark’s death, which may have allowed Iron Man copycats to design their own armors. With Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff gone, the Avengers divided, and Peter Parker wiped from all other heroes’ memories, the only person who could protect Tony Stark’s Iron Man legacy in Armor Wars and other upcoming MCU movies and shows will likely be James Rhodes.

Despite having appeared in eight movies and two shows, James Rhodes has never been shown suiting up as War Machine on-screen. This is likely to change in Armor Wars, where Rhodey will likely receive more screen time than ever before. Rhodey’s battles with multiple armored villains will likely require him to suit up in a wide array of situations, opening the door for suit-up scenes as visually creative as Iron Man’s. Since Tony Stark didn’t get to craft a nanotech suit for Rhodey before his death, War Machine can suit up like Iron Man did in his early movies.

What’s still a mystery is how Rhodey will be able to adapt to damage in his suits of armor now that Tony Stark is gone. Previously, Rhodey had constantly upgraded his armors parallel to Stark’s own developments and discoveries in his Iron Man technology. Rhodey may have plenty of spare War Machine armors left behind by Stark — which could include Tony Stark’s missing 33 Iron Man armors created between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame — but now he will need to be much more careful every time he suits up, and make each War Machine armor count.

Don Cheadle Flies as an Armored James Rhoades aka War Machine in Avengers Endgame and Marvel Comics

War Machine has been an important hero since 2008’s Iron Man, but there haven’t been enough times when Rhodey has shined on his own. Instead, virtually every big moment where an armored hero takes the spotlight in the MCU has been starred by Tony Stark. Iron Man has always stolen the show, even in battles where War Machine has participated. For instance, Rhodey could have suited up on-screen for the first time using any of Tony Stark’s Iron Legion suits to fight Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3, but Stark’s ego prohibited any other person from controlling them.

The more characters the MCU features in every installment, the shorter each individual hero’s screentime becomes. And after several suit-up scenes had already shown Iron Man’s technological evolution, showing Rhodey getting into the War Machine armor may have seemed redundant. Besides, War Machine is the kind of character who arrives fully ready on the battlefield, unlike Iron Man, whose volatile personality leads him to situations where he needs to suit up in the middle of a car race, aboard a helicopter, or while falling off a building.

Why Armor Wars Is Already Teased To Show Rhodey Suit Up

Rhodey in Avengers Endgame and Secret Invasion

Rhodey’s lead role in Armor Wars makes his first suit-up scene inevitable, but his MCU story so far also requires it. Secret Invasion revealed that Rhodey was impersonated by a Skrull at some point between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Nick Fury’s encounter with the rebel Skrulls. It might be crucial for Armor Wars to clarify when exactly Rhodey was replaced and how that Skrull was able to use the War Machine armor without raising any red flag.

Even if Armor Wars doesn’t spend too long on the Skrulls’ infiltration, a scene where the real Rhodey suits up for the first time after being replaced would be a well-deserved return to action for the hero. In a bittersweet way, it could also be a callback to Tony Stark’s own suit-up scenes from the MCU’s early movies. And almost 20 years after Terrence Howard’s Rhodey promised to put on the War Machine armor in Iron Man, Don Cheadle’s Rhodey could finally show what that process looks like.

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