Marvel and Sony's Spider-Man deal seems to be dead - which means the MCU's future plans are about to be changed a lot. Back in 2014, Marvel and Sony reached an unprecedented deal that introduced a whole new version of the wall-crawler into the MCU. The last week has seen that agreement come to an end, probably the biggest body-blown Marvel's shared universe has suffered since its inception in 2008.
Marvel Studios has gradually announced their Phase 4 slate at San Diego Comic-Con and D23, unveiling films and Disney+ TV shows that will be released over the coming years. But the studio tends to operate to a specific five-year outline, and in some cases they have ideas in the works a full 10 years before they expect them to happen. Spider-Man is literally the most marketable superhero in the world, and Spider-Man: Far From Home positioned the wall-crawler at the forefront of the MCU going forward. It's safe to say that Marvel's plans involved the web-head and are currently being adjusted.
Marvel Studios increasingly tend to be pretty secretive about their medium-to-long-term plans, which means it's difficult to say exactly what they were - even when the Spider-Man 3 would release. At the same time, though, it's safe to assume Marvel intended future Spider-Man films to build off of the stories they'd already told, which means specific plots can be identified by casting a critical eye to both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home. What's more, Marvel tends to be aware of discussions among fans, and even to incorporate some popular theories into their overarching narrative. Let's attempt to reconstruct the MCU's Spider-Man plan that, for now, will never be.
Tom Holland Was Signed Up For Two More Movies
Tom Holland had originally signed up for six MCU films, and the first five - Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home - were essentially a single character arc. However, that doesn't mean Holland's time as Peter Parker was coming to an end; he's stated he wants to play Spider-Man for decades. "Peter Parker is a character we see [in the comic books] as a 15-year-old boy and then as a 35-year-old man," he explained back in 2017, and noted that he'd pitched the idea of sticking around to Marvel and Sony execs. "It would be really cool if it pans out," Holland added, "because it means I would be Spider-Man for a very long time."
The reports on Spider-Man leaving Marvel suggested that Holland had signed on for two more films, an increase of one on his original six. This doesn't necessarily suggest Marvel and Sony were considering running with Holland's decades-long pitch, but it does mean they had another Spider-Man arc in the works, and that Holland's incarnation of the wall-crawler would have been hanging around for at least another half-decade or so.
Spider-Man's Secret Identity Had Been Revealed
Spider-Man: Far From Home had positioned Peter Parker as the embodiment of Tony Stark's legacy - and then, in a stunning mid-credits twist, had neatly inverted Iron Man's story. Spider-Man's secret identity was exposed by Mysterio's agents; worse, the wall-crawler was framed as a villain rather than as a hero. It was a bold move, one that promised future Spider-Man movies would explore entirely new ground that had never been touched on by previous movies. Where Marvel planned to take it - Peter's identity being revealed has led to some strange comic turns over the years - is unclear, but the statement of intent was clear.
Whatever the case, it's likely Spider-Man would have to tackle his problems alone. Kevin Feige said (via CinemaBlend), the twist would come with Peter "out of the shadow of Tony, out of the shadow of the other Avengers, as his own man now". Even before the Sony deal fell apart, it sounds like the producers were starting to distance Spider-Man from his MCU connections in Spider-Man 3. Feige described this as "all Peter focused and Peter based," which is something Sony can do without Marvel Studios' involvement.
Marvel Could Have Gone For The Sinister Six
The two MCU Spider-Man films have introduced a surprising number of villains, including the Vulture, the Scorpion, the Shocker, the Prowler, and Mysterio. Spider-Man: Homecoming's post-credits scene hinted at some sort of potential supervillain team-up against Spider-Man, with the Scorpion wanting to know the secret identity of the kid who got him locked up. Now that particular cat is out of the bag, it's not hard to imagine Spider-Man's foes allying together in order to pursue a vendetta against him. The Scorpion, the Shocker, and the Vulture could all conceivably be out of jail already; if they had survived the snap, they could already have served five-year prison sentences.
It's not hard to imagine a scenario where this leads to the formation of the Sinister Six, an iconic supervillain team whose sole objective is to beat Spider-Man. Producer Eric Carroll insisted that the films weren't necessarily setting up the Sinister Six, but he admitted that he knew fans were eager to see this idea reproduced on the big screen. Marvel Studios has a reputation for fan-pleasing decisions, so it's hard to believe the studio wouldn't have used the Sinister Six sooner rather than later.
Spider-Man Could Have Launched Norman Osborn's "Dark Reign"
Looking beyond Spider-Man 3, there's been a lot of speculation that Marvel Studios could have turned a Spider-Man villain into one of the entire MCU's greatest foes. Although Norman Osborn is best known as the Green Goblin, in the comics the wealthy industrialist manipulated himself into a position of power and took over a SHIELD-replacement organization called HAMMER. The so-called "Dark Reign" era saw the Marvel superheroes on the back foot, many of them wanted as illegal vigilantes, with Osborn ascendant.
Even Sony Pictures seem to have believed Marvel would adapt this idea for the big screen; at one point the studio reportedly considered voice-casting Osborn in the now-canceled Silver & Black, but intended to avoid showing the character so as not to contradict the MCU. If this really was in the works, then it's the most dramatic adjustment to Marvel's long-term plan, although they could perhaps do the "Dark Reign" plot with a different character taking the Osborn role.
Miles Morales Was Set Up As A Potential Future Spider-Man
Finally, Spider-Man: Homecoming introduced Donald Glover as Aaron Davis aka the Prowler. In the comics, Davis is the uncle of Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man, who was referenced in the movie and explicitly named-checked in a deleted scene. The MCU's Spider-Man movies have deliberately avoided retelling the wall-crawler's origin story, meaning it's an entirely open possibility that there are other genetically-engineered spiders out there - and Marvel could have created Miles Morales as soon as Tom Holland wanted to bow out.
It's safe to assume that particular idea was a distant one, given Marvel don't like retelling stories that have been told before, and Miles was adapted superbly in Sony's animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Besides which, it could have been decades before Tom Holland decided he wanted to move on - and, in truth, it still could be.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022