Many fans have been wondering if the Ironheart character will be overly derivative of Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, who just exited the MCU in 2019's Avengers: Endgame and has at least one more project focused on his legacy in the upcoming Armor Wars movie.
Early set photos suggested that Riri would build a suit made of scrapped parts from old Iron Man and War Machine suits of armor, leading some fans to believe Ironheart would be another love letter to Tony Stark.
Despite that notion, and after many months of paparazzi trying to dodge fancy studio umbrellas to get a good look at the MCU's iteration of Ironheart, Wakanda Forever's latest trailer finally showed off Ironheart in action, featuring her Stark-inspired heads-up display and her giant rocket boots.
Still, some are unsure how Riri is relevant to all the current MCU happenings. Now, the director of Black Panther 2 and his cast have lent a little more info as to how Ironheart will relate to Wakanda, Iron Man, and the MCU as a whole.
Cast Talks Black Panther 2's Iron Man Replacement
In Entertainment Weekly's latest piece on how Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will introduce a new hero in Dominque Thorne's Riri Williams aka Ironheart, director Ryan Coogler shared his thoughts on how featuring Riri Williams in the Black Panther sequel will help both his film and the greater MCU.
Coogler reminisced on Ironheart's comic introduction ahead of her debut in Wakanda Forever, comparing her taking over the Iron Man mantle to "Miles Morales" taking over as Spider-Man. He added that it's "always exciting" when someone with "a different background" provides a fresh perspective:
"I remember when Riri was invented in publishing, and there was a level of excitement around her coming up. It was similar to when Miles Morales was invented. Having lived with these archetypical characters for so long, it’s always exciting seeing somebody come up and take on the moniker with a different background."
Coogler went on to say that Riri will have an important role in tying Wakanda Forever to the greater MCU. The director explained that Thorne's new hero will serve as a "foil" in the film, claiming that "a thread of similarity" will be apparent, but Ironheart's "contrast" to well-known characters will be important:
"She brings a different type of energy, but she also has some similarities to characters that we’ve seen in this universe before. The film deals with a lot of things, but one of them is foils — people who exist in contrast, but there’s a thread of similarity. In this film, we get to see Shuri meet someone who has some things in common with her but is also very, very different."
Entertainment Weekly elaborated that taking on the MCU's Ironheart role is easily the biggest job Dominique Thorne has landed, and she's taking it extremely seriously. The 25-year-old went all-out for her superhero training ahead of Wakanda Forever, learning about "welding and sodering" to better fit the mechanic aspect of the Iron Man heiress. She also worked on how long she can hold her breath to prepare for Black Panther 2's "lengthy underwater scenes."
Dominique Thorne gushed to the outlet over her new MCU character, saying that Riri is "definitely not the typical or traditional superhero" and that she takes a lot of pride in being "fully herself:"
"I love the fact that she is just fully herself. She’s definitely not the typical or traditional superhero. She’s very much Riri Williams, the 19-year-old student first, and then there’s this whole Ironheart business that she has to figure out."
Shuri actress Letitia Wright called it "fresh" and "beautiful" for her character to meet someone like Ironheart who matches her intellect:
"It’s like that’s being done again in a fresh, beautiful way. I think it’s just beautiful to see that there’s more room being made for those characters to shine."
It's not every day someone gets to play an iconic superhero and act with some of the greatest names in the film industry. On top of meeting all of the MCU's heroes in Wakanda, Thorne says she immediately loved her new MCU gig because of her "fabulous scene partner to start (her) birth into the MCU" after shooting scenes with Oscar nominee Angela Bassett on her first day:
"I don’t think that I could have asked for a better way to come out of the gate. What a fabulous scene partner to start my birth into the MCU with."
Ironheart Is More Than Another Iron Man
Ryan Coogler seems set on highlighting the differences that Dominique Thorne's Riri Williams will bring to the MCU table, and he doesn't seem concerned with the sentiment that Ironheart will simply be an Iron Man stand-in.
Stating Riri will serve as a "foil" in the MCU means more than just showcasing Shuri's abilities; Ironheart will also create space for new stories and adventures with the same mechanical style that Iron Man fans love, without bringing about yet another billionaire egomaniac into Avengers Headquarters. Thorne seems confident that Riri will be a "19-year-old-girl first" and that her "Ironheart business" will be secondary.
Riri Williams' MCU introduction offers the unique opportunity to take the beloved, decade-long story of Iron Man and put a new spin on it, allowing a new character to take on the mantle, the adventures, and most importantly, the cool metal suits.
Coogler emphasized that he values a familiar moniker being taken on by "someone with a different background." Swapping a middle-aged white-male billionaire for a barely-twenty, Black female genius is about as much of a switch-up as you can give to a character, so fans can rest assured that Ironheart's MCU inclusion will be more than a repeat of the MCU's overarching Iron Man narrative.
As for how that contrast will be shown in Wakanda Forever, the film will at least partially explain Riri's roots, so fans will likely have an idea of how different Ironheart is from Iron Man before the first trailer for Dominique Thorne's solo series on Disney+ drops.
See Ironheart's MCU entrance when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11.