This post contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War is one of Marvel's greatest triumphs, but its shocking ending presents a number of problems for the studio's marketing department. Finally showcasing Thanos in a meaningful role after six years of teasing, the culmination of the MCU to date featured the Mad Titan acquiring all six Infinity Stones, snapping his fingers, and wiping out half of the universe's population. Of course, this meant some of the superheroes who had united to defeat the villain were among the casualties, and Marvel didn't hold anything back when it came to offing the characters.
Arguably the most emotional death in Infinity War was that of Spider-Man. Bolstered by Tom Holland's genius improvisation ("I don't want to go... I don't want to go"), the scene was excruciatingly heartbreaking and was enough to bring anyone to tears. When viewed in a vacuum, it's a gut punch. However, when considering the larger picture and the future of the MCU, killing Peter Parker in Infinity War makes things rather difficult when it comes time to promote 2019's slate.
Why Spider-Man Has A Marketing Problem
In contrast to years past when they would announce full lineups years in advance, Marvel Studios has been somewhat cagey when it comes to discussing Phase 4 in beyond. While Kevin Feige has had conversations about films for 2025, Marvel is keeping their plans close to the chest. The reasoning for this is two-fold; it allows fans to concentrate on the now and focus on the present (instead of looking too far ahead). Additionally, this is a conscious choice to not spoil what happens in Avengers 4. In fact, there may not be any confirmation on titles until after next year's blockbuster hits theaters. This change in strategy is curious when you consider some Phase 4 projects are already in development.
The untitled Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel was dated for July 2019 back in 2016 - months before the first Homecoming opened in theaters. Anyone who's seen Infinity War can tell you why this is an issue. Spider-Man died in Avengers 3, but the fact his sub-franchise is continuing undercuts the drama of that particular moment. Knowing Peter Parker will return to help lead the MCU into its next era makes the death ring hollow and cheapens the impact it was meant to have. The same can be said for the Guardians of the Galaxy (who have a third standalone coming in 2020) and Black Panther (whose $1 billion solo film is definitely getting a followup), but Spider-Man presents the most immediate problem to deal with because his next film comes out two months after Avengers 4, and Sony (who is distributing Homecoming 2) will want to generate hype for their big summer release.
What makes this so tricky is that Marvel essentially has to spoil Spider-Man comes back in Avengers 4 well ahead of time so Sony can market the Homecoming sequel. During promotion for the first film, a teaser trailer was released in December 2016, followed by a full preview in March 2017. Given Homecoming 2 opens in early July, it stands reason to believe Sony will institute a similar marketing pattern for the sequel - perhaps unveiling a teaser as early as January 2019. Homecoming 2 reportedly starts filming this summer (with Tom Holland back in the lead role), so there will be plenty of footage to cut together a trailer for the wall-crawler's international adventure. Taking a page out of the Solo playbook and waiting as long as possible to begin advertising isn't all that plausible. Lucasfilm will have spent nearly four months (early February to late May) raising awareness for Solo. Cramming all Homecoming advertising in about half that time (early May to early July) is unheard of.
This particular predicament shares some similarities to Superman in the DCEU. Kal-El, of course, met his end at the hands of Doomsday in Batman V Superman, sacrificing himself so Earth would be saved. Still, savvy audiences knew the Last Son of Krypton would be back in the fold for Justice League, especially after seeing the particles of dust lift off Clark Kent's coffin. But whereas Warner Bros. botched the situation by being overly coy about it, Marvel has an opportunity to learn from their colleagues' mistakes by asking the right questions in marketing.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie (2019) release date: May 03, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019