Spider-Man Is The Root Of Marvel's Timeline Problems

Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Marvel Broken Timeline

Adding Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a masterstroke, but it's also led to numerous plot holes within the shared universe. In fact, pretty much all of the high-profile timeline problems the MCU suffers center on the decision to add Peter Parker to the Avengers.

In February 2015, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures reached a historic deal to share the character of Spider-Man. Marvel would relaunch Spidey as part of the MCU, in a series of films paid for and distributed for by Sony. In return, Marvel would be able to use the webhead as a character in their biggest and best blockbusters. It was win-win for both studios, and has already proven to be a tremendous success. Marvel chose Tom Holland as the third big-screen version of Peter Parker, introducing him in Captain America: Civil War. The first solo movie, appropriately entitled Spider-Man: Homecoming, grossed $880 million in the global box office. And Spider-Man has been front-and-center in the marketing for Avengers: Infinity War.

Read More: Spider-Man in the MCU: The Marvel/Sony Deal Explained

But this same period has seen something rather strange happen with Marvel. Until 2017, the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline was almost flawless. There were minor continuity problems - an incorrect calendar date here, a conflicting reference there - but nothing too significant. Given the sheer number of movies and TV shows that form the wider MCU, the timeline was remarkably solid and stable.

Then came Homecoming, and suddenly continuity was a problem like never before. Even though director Jon Watts claimed to have used Marvel's timeline scroll, the film introduced a number of major issues. In spite of fans' best efforts, it's really not possible to resolve them without falling back on magic MacGuffins like the Infinity Stones. So what went wrong, and why?

This Page: Marvel Added Spider-Man To Phase 3 At The Last Minute

Marvel Added Spider-Man To Phase 3 At The Last Minute

Tom Holland as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War

In 2014, Marvel took the unprecedented step of announcing their entire Phase 3 slate. The announcement included a slew of new franchises: Captain Marvel, Inhumans, and Black Panther. Meanwhile, sequels included Captain America: Civil War and - most excitingly of all - Avengers: Infinity War (in two parts). Not content with the success of the MCU's first and (then ongoing) second phases, Marvel was giving fans a clear sense of direction and momentum.

Plans change, of course. As revealed by the Sony email hack, there was discussion at Sony about sharing Spidey with Marvel, and it was later stated that in the early stages of Civil War, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely worked on two versions; one with and one without Peter Parker. This meant, when the deal went through, things could move forward on Captain America 3 (which started filming mere months after the studio agreement) without much difficulty. The film always had a "little recruitment section," in which Tony Stark would call in a new hero, but that wasn't always Spider-Man. As McFeely noted, "We had him in, and sometimes a month or two later Kevin would come back and say, 'No, negotiations are not going quite as well. Don’t plan on him!''

RELATED: Marvel Already Has The Perfect Line-Up For After Avengers 4

Despite that forward planning, the deal seems to have caused significant long-term disruption to Marvel's plans. They had already charted a course to Avengers: Infinity War, but suddenly that course had to adjust to accommodate a whole new series of films, and a character key to the epic culmination. Marvel shuffled their Phase 3 slate around quite dramatically, with several films changing release dates, while Inhumans was completely dropped, and passed down to Marvel Television for an ABC TV series.

It's impossible to say how much Marvel's story plans changed. They hadn't yet begun work on the script for Infinity War, although it's safe to say they hadn't really planned on Spider-Man's presence; meanwhile, they had also presumably expected the Inhumans to be in the film (marketing for Infinity War has suggested that the film is heavily inspired by Jonathan Hickman's Infinity event, and the Inhuman city of Attilan is a major part of that).

Key Release Dates
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
  • Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
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