Marvel mainstay Don Cheadle is about to return to the MCU as a significant player, with the actor teasing a "rebirth" for the Marvel Studios hero.
Cheadle's War Machine has been around since Iron Man 2 and remains an integral part of the Marvel on-screen canon. This staying power has become such a force that Cheadle's armored Avenger will lead his own film in Armor Wars.
The MCU actor has been around longer than nearly anyone else in the franchise, noting that he will continue working with Marvel as long as the projects remain "interesting and... fun."
The actor may have finished his MCU contract but has still chosen to reprise his role in titles like Secret Invasion and Armor Wars. It would seem these titles hit that "fun" criteria for the actor, and a part of that could be due to an incoming change to the character the actor recently teased.
James Rhodes' Next Evolution
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly (EW), Secret Invasion and Armor Wars actor Don Cheadle teased a "rebirth" for his MCU hero in his upcoming projects.
The War Machine actor said that Armor Wars specifically will be about asking “Who is Rhodey?" and "Who is he when he’s by himself?" Cheadle noted that these are things "we haven’t seen before," serving as somewhat of a "rebirth" for the character:
“Who is Rhodey? Where did he come from? What are the relationships? Who’s important to him? Who is he important to? What does he want to do? What are his goals? What are his desires outside of the relationship with these people that we’ve seen? Who is he when he’s by himself? A lot of these things we haven’t seen before, so there’s a… like I said, a good opportunity to explore all that stuff and hopefully create a full character that now, when we see the suit, we see everything else, we know what’s behind that. It’s a rebirth in a way, you know? It’s coming back to this character but we’ve never gone to the places that we’re about to go to in the show. So, I feel like we’re, in some ways, just getting to know him even after all this time.”
The Marvel Studios mainstay revealed that this will be the chance for Rhodey to "be more three-dimensional," remarking that his character "always sort of existed in the context of... Tony, and the MCU," but as he has noted before “Rhodey is his own dude” and Armor Wars will be the place to show that:
“That’s the hope, is that he gets to be more three-dimensional and, you know, things that we like, don’t like, his desires, his fears, all the things that I think we’ve only cursorily looked at as Rhodey. He’s always sort of existed in the context of, you know, Tony, and the MCU, and his job as an Avenger. But really, like sort of, peel all that back and really get to know what it is.”
In the same interview with EW, Cheadle also described what it was like getting that first call from Marvel Studios before Iron Man 2. The actor said that it was "a six-picture deal at the time," and he remembers asking a lot of questions like "What are the movies? What are they gonna be like?" But the honest truth was that even were "not sure about any of those answers" at the time:
"I think it was a six-picture deal at the time. And I was trying to figure out how long that was. I said, 'What are these? What are the movies? What are they gonna be like? How's the character going to develop?'"
Cheadle recalled Marvel "[needing] an answer in an hour" so he "talked to [his] wife about it" and decided to "roll the dice and see:"
"They were like, 'We're not sure about any of those answers but we need an answer in an hour.' And I said, 'I'm at my daughters birthday party laser tag game.' And they said, 'Oh take two hours.'
So, you know you have to take two hours to decide is this something you're going to do for however many years that is was gonna turn out to be. And I talked to my wife about it and we just kind of said, 'Yeah, let's roll the dice and see.'"
A New-and-Improved War Machine
While the Multiverse Saga has been about introducing new heroes to the MCU thus far, it has also been about doing deeper dives into characters who may have been sidelined to the likes of Tony Stark or Steve Rogers in the past.
And that seems to be the case with Don Cheadle's War Machine, in the streaming series-turned-big scree blockbuster Armor Wars. Not to say the hero has never been a part of nuanced character moments in the past, but now is the time to more fully explore Cheadle's armored Avenger, and learn what makes him tick. Something Cheadle seems more than excited to be a part of.
When the Armor Wars actor says his character will be experiencing a "rebirth" of sorts, that is not to say he will be transforming into a completely new person. Moreso it likely is in reference to the fact that audiences are about to explore parts of Rhodey they never knew existed before.
This will likely come to fruition in a similar fashion to how Sam Wilson's post-Endgame rebirth came. No, War Machine will not become the next Iron Man the way Falcon became the next Captain America, but exploring stories in the wake of losing a Tony or a Cap will allow Marvel to go deeper on these heroes that were so closely tied to other MCU figureheads.
Right now, Armor Wars does not have a firm release window, but Don Cheadle's War Machine can be seen next in 2023's Secret Invasion.