Editor’s note: The below contains full spoilers for Secret Invasion.Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes first made his cinematic debut in 2008’s Iron Man, which means that the character has been in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its very inception. At that time, the role was played by Terrence Howard, but he would soon be replaced by Don Cheadle in 2010’s Iron Man 2. In this film, audiences finally got to see Tony Stark’s best friend – with some unfortunate help from Stark’s biggest industry rival, Justin Hammer – first don the War Machine armor.
Since that time, Don Cheadle has owned the role and made Lt. Col. Rhodes his own character, appearing in six other movies (seven if we’re counting the post-credits scene for Captain Marvel), including Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, as well as having a brief appearance in the Disney+ series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and he’ll be appearing in the forthcoming Disney+ series Secret Invasion. However, he’s yet to appear in a film all his own. That is all changing with Armor Wars, where he’ll finally be stepping out of Tony Stark’s shadow to become a hero in his own right.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on July 30.
Is There a Trailer for Armor Wars?
Thus far, there is no trailer for Armor Wars, as filming has not yet started.
In fact, as Cheadle said in a recent interview:
“I haven’t seen any script, I don’t know where it’s headed, but I am excited for its potential.”
With the script still being locked down, there is no set date for when filming will begin. Before audiences get a trailer, they’ll no doubt learn of some casting – both known characters and new ones.
That said, with the release slate as it currently stands, some assumptions can be made. If Armor Wars happens before Captain America: New World Order, which is slated for some time in 2024, then it’s likely production will have to start sometime this year, which means we’d most likely see a trailer early in 2024. However, if Armor Wars follows that, then it might be until later in 2024 that a trailer is released.
Until we get a nailed-down slate from Marvel, it’s all speculation.
When and Where is Armor Wars Premiering?
When the title was revealed in December 2020, it was initially conceived as a Disney+ series. However, in September 2022, Marvel Studios gave their audience an update on the title, saying that it would now be released as a film. In an interview, Marvel producer Nate Moore said of the change:
…When you’re talking about a show that wants to be about seeing all the cool armors and, you know, Don Cheadle interacting with all these armors and sort of the legacy of Tony Stark, that became kind of cost prohibitive to do as a show. And we realized as a feature, not only can we get into some of the beautiful imagery that is from publishing, and there’s certainly an Armor Wars run, but also there’s ways then to leverage the ideas of that movie and affect other movies down the line.
When Does Armor Wars Take Place?
Though Armor Wars currently has no release date, it was revealed at the 2022 D23 that it would be taking place after the events of Secret Invasion and will tie directly into that. Secret Invasion shows that Rhodey was replaced by an undercover Skrull for years, only for the real Rhodey to return finally. This a significant development, and Armor Wars will likely focus on War Machine’s return to normal society.
Is There a Plot Synopsis For Armor Wars?
Thus far, there has not been an official release of any possible plots or storylines for Armor Wars. However, there are hints of what is coming and what could be expected. In a 2021 interview with the Post-Credits Podcast, Cheadle said of his character,
The death of Tony Stark, I’m pretty sure, will play a role in the series. Where we’ve been sort of progressing Rhodey—even in the last film where he’s now up again and he’s now walking again and he’s now mobile again—so as the technology continues to develop and we keep making innovations in the suit and what happens, I imagine there’s gonna be another elevation and another way that we’re going to keep digging into that part of Rhodey.
It should be noted that the above quote came when Armor Wars was still being developed as a Disney+ series, so it’s possible that some of this information has changed. However, given that the need for a bigger budget necessitated the change, it seems reasonable that the character arc for Rhodey wouldn’t require changing.
In another interview, Cheadle further said of his character in Armor Wars:
“I think in every successive film, he’s coming more and more out of Tony’s shadow and becoming his own person, but I think we haven’t really figured out who he is and really dug into that, so that’s what the movie is for.”
Cheadle said of his character in Armor Wars and the overall plot:
“If you know anything about the lore, and you’ve read the comic books, you understand that it’s a series that was built around Tony’s Stark Tech getting out and Rhodey taking it on to get this tech back from the wrong hands, the bad actors whose hands it is in.”
The lore of Armor Wars, as covered above, sees Tony Stark grappling with his greatest nightmare – the theft of his technology, and its subsequent possession by very dangerous hands. With Stark most assuredly deceased in the MCU, it will fall to Rhodey to honor the memory and legacy of his best friend to do all he can to both recover the technology and ensure that no one ever uses it for nefarious or destructive ends. The narrative corollary to this is that the mission would require War Machine to step out of Iron Man’s long shadow to become a hero in his own right.
What Is the Storyline Found in the Comics?
Written by David Micheline, drawn by Mark Bright and Barry Windsor-Smith, and running between Iron Man #225-#232, the “Armor Wars” storyline saw Stark technology stolen by a villain named Spymaster, who in turn was hired by Justin Hammer. Hammer then sold it to supervillains the world over, whose reckless use of it was responsible for much death and destruction. This is a worst-case scenario for Stark, who originally stopped being an arms dealer due to the collateral destruction his munitions were causing and the innocent lives that were taken.
Feeling heavy responsibility for failing to be more proactive in protecting his work, Stark and Rhodes set out to neutralize the tech of each villain. Not knowing who they could trust, they kept their plan entirely to themselves, which resulted in Iron Man appearing to be a rampaging vigilante, getting him kicked out of the Avengers, putting a target on his back from the US government, and estranging his friend, Captain America. Stark saw this sacrifice of his public image as necessary collateral damage as it resulted in him dismantling the underground network of armored villains who were terrorizing the world.
The series saw Stark crossing paths with heroes such as Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America, and the Avengers, as well as villains such as the Titanium Man, Beetle, Crimson Dynamo, Stingray, and Stilt-Man.
It should be noted that the concept of villains stealing Stark’s technology is, at this point, well-trod territory for the red and gold of ol’ shell head, going back as far as the first Iron Man and the very inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There, Obadiah Stane stole Stark’s arc reactor territory to create his behemoth, the War Monger. In Iron Man 2, aspects of his technology were leaked to Justin Hammer by Ivan Vanko, the son of Anton Vanko, an old associate of Howard Stark, before Hammer got his hands on the Iron Man armor for himself. Similar themes of stolen technology are found in Iron Man 3, though the technology at the center of the film – Extremis – is not necessarily Stark property. In fact, even in Spider-Man: Far from Home, the villainous Mysterio’s plan is to con Peter Parker into giving him control of Tony Stark’s proprietary defense system.
In each of those films, Stark’s concern was never about reclaiming his stolen technology as much as it was about stopping the villain from their dangerous agendas. Presumably, what will set Armor Wars apart from these previous films, is the mission of recovering stolen Stark technology that is being used for destructive ends.
Who Is Making Armor Wars?
This early on in the pre-production process, only one name has been released for behind-the-camera talent, that of comedian/writer Yassir Lester. Though he has no previous cinematic credits, he has written on Adult Swim’s Black Dynamite and Mr. Pickles animated series and has worked as both a writer and actor with Cheadle on Showtime’s Black Monday.
Who Is Starring in Armor Wars?
So far, the only actor known to be starring in Armor Wars is Don Cheadle, who is reprising his role as Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine. Audiences last saw him in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier where he questioned Sam Wilson’s decision to relinquish Captain America’s shield back to the government. Before seeing Rhodey in Armor Wars, audiences will next see him in the Disney+ series, Secret Invasion. In an interview with Variety, Cheadle said of his role in that series,
“In the trailer, you see that he’s got to confront Nick (Fury.) He and Fury are gonna go at it throughout this show, as far as what they need to do, given what’s happened on this planet at this point. It’s kind of a thriller and a different kind of show than you usually see in the MCU, which is great that we can continue to keep changing it up and switching it up. It’s lots of fun.”
Who Else Might We Expect to See in Armor Wars?
Though no other casting for Armor Wars has been released, given the story from the comics, the properties coming before it, and the characters that already exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems safe to assume audiences could see heroes such as Ironheart, Nick Fury, or Sam “the New Captain America” Wilson.
As for possible villains, if Armor Wars is closely tied to the events of Secret Invasion, it seems possible that there could be some Skrull villains introduced in that series that could carry over into War Machine’s conflict. Just as likely, given Rhodes’ military and government ties, the villains could be born of those organizations or something akin to them, something like Hydra or A.I.M.
And obviously, Stilt-Man.