Terrence Howard Out, Don Cheadle In For ‘Iron Man 2’ — A Good Thing For The Franchise?

The internet has been en fuego this morning with the breaking news that Terrence Howard is out and Don Cheadle is in for the role of Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes in the upcoming sequel to this summer’s mega-hit, “Iron Man.” While details about exactly why the surprising switch happened — the studio and Howard reps giving the typical, vague responses about “financial considerations, among other differences” — at the end of the day, “Iron Man” fans should be happy that a talented actor has been replaced with an equally talented actor.

But that being said, is this move good for the franchise? Possibly, only we here at Splash Page can’t shake two words from our collective heads over this announcement: “Batman Forever.”

Sure, common knowledge dictates that a big part of the troubles with “Batman Forever” rested on director Joel Schumacher’s shoulders, and there’s even a small yet vocal subgroup out there who thought that Val Kilmer donning the cape and cowl was a step up from Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman. But for the hardcore comic film fans, “Batman Forever” was definitely the first sign that the wildly successful franchise was headed for the gutter (“Batman & Robin” being the final nail in the coffin) — face it, if there was a “blogosphere” in 1995, you just know it would’ve been flooded with complaints about the Kilmer-Keaton switch. After all, most comic fans had exalted Keaton to a type of “Christopher Reeve” status — in that Keaton was Batman the way Reeve was Superman.

Yes, Jon Favreau will still be directing and Robert Downey Jr. will be back on board to play the titular role. Yes, Howard’s role as Rhodes was more of a supporting role, and “Iron Man 2″ will bring his character to the forefront more, so fans may accept Cheadle that much easier. But for most of us, “Iron Man” was perfect as-is — heck, the scene in which Rhodes sees the War Machine prototype armor had us all itching for the sequel ASAP — and this switch could prove jarring for those of us who are comfortable with the film’s cast of characters.

Ultimately, “Iron Man 2″ is likely to do just as well, if not better, than the first offering, but you really can’t blame us for being so skeptical about major cast changes like this. It didn’t work for “Batman,” we’re still waiting to see if it possibly hurt the “Hulk” franchise, and now time will tell if it’s doomed the “Iron Man” franchise as well.

So what do you think, readers? Can Don Cheadle step into War Machine’s boots? Or do you agree that losing Howard is a bad sign for the franchise? Talk to us in the comments.