In February 2015, Marvel and Sony reached a historic deal that brought Spider-Man into the MCU - but did it actually undermine Avengers 4? The fundamental problem is that Spider-Man was one of the heroes who died in the cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War, and Marvel command are doing their level-best to persuade viewers that the webhead is really dead. "The sooner you accept that," Infinity War co-writer Christopher Markus insisted, "the sooner you will be able to move on to the next stage of grief." But that argument is pretty hard to sustain, given Amy Pascal has already confirmed Spider-Man: Far From Home is set "minutes after" Avengers 4, and Kevin Feige himself has said Peter Parker will introduce us to the post-Phase 3 MCU. It's clear Spider-Man will return from the dead, meaning the other victims of Thanos's "snap" will probably return as well.
The problems are only going to get worse as we get nearer to the release of Avengers 4. Spider-Man: Far From Home releases just two months after Avengers 4. That means Marvel and Sony will be marketing the wall-crawler's next adventure even before we've technically seen Spider-Man's resurrection in the first place.
While other sequels are in the works, they could conceivably be set before Avengers: Infinity War. Take Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, for example; given the second film was set in 2014, there's actually precedent for James Gunn's Guardians movies to jump around the timeline (although Gunn has denied this), and even if not its 2020 release date has just removed enough to not be an issue. The problem is uniquely associated with Spider-Man. Feige may claim that it always had to be this way, that Peter Parker was the perfect hero to hold our hand as we enter the future of the MCU, but in truth this whole situation is rather awkward. Did the Sony deal cause major problems for Marvel?
How The Spider-Man and Sony Deal Impacted Phase 3
Marvel had actually planned out the tail-end of Phase 3 as far back as 2014, when the studio took the unprecedented decision to announce their entire upcoming slate through to 2019. Behind the scenes, though, this early Phase 3 slate was in a state of significant flux. Marvel had approached Sony with the idea of using Spider-Man as part of the MCU, and Captain America: Civil War screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely drew up two versions of the script; one with Peter Parker, and the other without.
In December 2014, a major hacking incident led to a lot of Sony secrets making their way onto Wikileaks. This included an early draft of the Spider-Man deal, which proposed a trilogy of solo Spider-Man movies to be released at two-year intervals. The first would be in 2017, the second in 2019, and the third in 2021. It's true that this wasn't the final deal, but so far its details match up with everything we've seen to date. Adding Spider-Man: Homecoming into Phase 3 led to a few release dates being adjusted, while Inhumans was dropped altogether, but that didn't cause too many issues with the overarching Phase 3 narrative. However, the 2019 sequel is far more problematic.
The Problem With Marvel and Sony's Deal
We can presume that Marvel had already decided the "snap" would happen, either in a cliffhanger ending for Avengers: Infinity War or - as considered in some drafts - at the beginning of Avengers 4. This 2019 sequel locked Marvel in, and they could only really take one of three approaches:
- Spider-Man could survive the "snap," with the sequel set inbetween the two films.
- The sequel could be set before the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
- The movie could be set after Avengers 4, introducing viewers to the future of the MCU.
Keeping Spider-Man alive would change the narrative of Avengers 4 far too much, given Marvel clearly intend to focus on the original team of Avengers in order to bring Phase 3 to a close. Meanwhile, jumping around the timeline simply wouldn't make any sense, given Marvel will be wanting to launch the next phase of the MCU. So they took the only choice remaining to them, using it as a launchpad for the post-Phase 3 MCU.
Marvel's deal with Sony may have added Spider-Man into the MCU, but the 2019 Spider-Man: Far From Home has caused Marvel's greatest marketing issue to date - and it's effectively undermined the entire narrative Marvel is trying to build up, that these deaths will stick. Actions truly do have consequences.
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019