Spider-Man: Far From Home highlights the potential for Peter Parker to succeed Tony Stark as the emotional core of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But with Disney and Sony's recent falling out over their unconventional, four-year-old deal to share the wall-crawler, the future of Tom Holland's hero is uncertain. This then raises the question: If Spider-Man is forced to exit the MCU, who will become the new heart of the blockbuster franchise?
There are more than a few noteworthy candidates, but the clear choice isn't definitively obvious. The Guardians of the Galaxy are incredibly popular, but can they carry the franchise forward? Black Panther was a gripping film, but does that mean the titular character is ready to stand at the core of the MCU? Let's examine some of the characters who could potentially take Iron Man's place as the heart of the MCU.
The Guardians of the Galaxy
Nowadays, the Guardians are a household name. The Guardians of the Galaxy films are two of the most emotionally impactful films in the MCU. It's safe to say every MCU fan loves, or at least marginally likes, this team, which comes together to fuel the massive heart behind both films.
However, as heartfelt as they are, the Guardians still aren't at the franchise-defining level Iron Man was. Despite being the franchise's premier cosmic team, they're still fairly disconnected from a lot of the other pieces in the shared universe. With all that in mind, it's tough to see these guys spearheading the MCU moving forward.
Some fans have already drawn connections between Iron Man and Doctor Strange. Their interactions in Avengers: Infinity War are some of the best in the whole film. With only a few shared moments, there's a concise evolution in their relationship. They grow to respect each other. This becomes even more evident in Endgame, as the final battle erupts around them.
As enjoyable as these two are together, Strange's first solo film wasn't one of the most well-received MCU films. It wasn't bad by any stroke, but it didn't do enough to define the character in a meaningful way. His sequel film could do a lot to help in this matter, but until then it's hard to see Strange taking a seat as the heart of this franchise.
Captain America (Sam Wilson)
Since Sam's introduction in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he's grown more and more important to the MCU. He naturally grew from a simple supporting character to becoming a pivotal piece of Steve Rogers' journey in the modern era. With Sam taking over the mantle of Captain America, the character has exponentially more room to grow.
Therein lies the problem with Sam replacing Iron Man: He still has a lot of character growth to get through. Sam hasn't had enough material that defines him as the new heart and soul of MCU. He could certainly get there, though; The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will have to help deliver on all of Sam's potential.
Black Panther broke onto the MCU scene in a big way in Captain America: Civil War. His first solo film made even bigger waves. It wound up being the first superhero film to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Black Panther didn't shy away from tackling some dramatic, real-world issues, while also enthralling viewers in the lush fictional world of Wakanda.
But this is another instance where, despite the hero hitting it off with audiences, the character hasn't had enough definitive growth to act as the core of the MCU. Black Panther is an important film, but one of its weakest aspects is the lack of a concrete, emotional character arc for the titular hero. T'Challa is a great character, with loads of untapped potential, but much like Sam Wilson, he's got a long way to go.
Captain Marvel is a bit of a tough egg to crack. She's unforgettably powerful, and will be notably important to the franchise moving forward, but it's tough to say where Carol Danvers lands in terms of a future in the MCU.
So far, she hasn't done enough to set herself apart from the other heavy hitters in her circle. Not to mention, the fan base has drastically varying opinions about her. It'll be up to Marvel to more concretely establish her presence in future appearances.
Thor might be the most obvious choice for the job. He's the last member of the Big Three standing, and he's got a fourth film of his own on the way. Next to Cap and Iron Man, he's the most recognizable name in the MCU. His character growth is some of the most substantial in the franchise, as well.
Despite that, though, he still doesn't scream "heart and soul of a franchise." Part of that problem comes from how Thor was initially introduced to fans. He was fairly bland at the outset of the MCU. Nowadays, thanks to Taika Waititi, the character has completely changed. He's doesn't have the star status of Tony Stark yet, but Thor: Love and Thunder could do a lot to change that.