Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse: What No Way Home Means for the MCU’s Future

After the latest Spider-Man film, the possibilities are endless.

Tom Holland and Benedict Cumberbatch in SpiderMan No Way Home.

Tom Holland and Benedict Cumberbatch in Spider-Man: No Way Home.Courtesy of Matt Kennedy for Sony Pictures/Marvel.

Major spoiler warning for Spider-Man: No Way Home—you’ve been warned.

In addition to webbing up the second-best US box office debut of all time, Spider-Man: No Way Home facilitates the most significant changes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Avengers: Endgame. With an emotional ending that includes the death of Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and a magical spell that causes everyone to forget their memories of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), No Way Home radically shifts the future of Spider-Man. Yet it’s not just Spidey, as the movie also positions exciting possibilities for future MCU plots as well. Now that every Marvel fan has likely seen No Way Home, let’s dive deep into what the events of the movie mean for both the webhead and the MCU at large.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

So much of Spider-Man’s MCU debut, which was also the third cinematic reboot of the character, was about a back-to-basics approach for the character. Casting a young Holland as Peter to “stay close to the ground” re-centered Spider-Man to his youthful comic book origins, in contrast to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, who were closer to 30 when they took the role. But everything around the character was much bigger than either of those two iterations, given his proximity to the Avengers. Now No Way Home’s conclusion functions as another soft reset. Peter’s decision to have Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) cast a spell to remove all memory of him from the world means Peter doesn’t exist. He doesn’t have access to the fancy Stark tech he once did (if there’s no Peter, that means his fancy customized armor from Tony Stark won’t work) or the expensive two-bedroom apartment he shared with May. The final moments see Peter in an apartment of his own, with rent to pay, in a hand-sewn costume. These changes represent the Spider-Man of comics lore, a down-on-his-luck, friendly-neighborhood hero who struggles to save the day and pay the bills. To go small, it turns out Spider-Man had to go big first.

Outside of this new status quo, there are few hints about Peter’s future. Kevin Feige confirmed Spider-Man 4 is in active development (possibly adapting the Black Suit arc?) along with an appearance in a future MCU crossover movie. But it’s hard to tell who will be involved. Holland continues to express skepticism about returning to the role, and director Jon Watts, who oversaw all three Holland films, will shift his attention to rebooting the Fantastic Four for the MCU. In short: it might be a while before we know when Spidey will suit up for his next solo flick.

A Daring Return

With all of the hype around the return of Maguire and Garfield, No Way Home also held a smaller surprise: the big-screen debut of Charlie Cox’s Daredevil from the Netflix/ Marvel series. Those shows —including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Punisher—have been in limbo since a 2019 restructuring of Marvel which repositioned Marvel Television (once part of Marvel Entertainment, primarily responsible for the comic book side of things) under Feige’s purview at Marvel Studios. Netflix swiftly canceled its Marvel series, leaving the fate of those characters lingering—until now. We saw the first indicator of this integration during the fifth episode of Hawkeye last week (released a few days before No Way Home), which revealed Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin as the mysterious bad guy pulling strings.. Combining this with the return of Murdock suggests the once siloed Netflix characters will slowly but surely become a critical part of the MCU’s ever-expanding long game.

It will be interesting to see what other parts of the Netflix Marvel series make it into the MCU. Those shows had high highs (the fight choreography on Daredevil, Krysten Ritter and David Tenant on Jessica Jones, the spot-on casting of Jon Bernthal as Punisher, the first season of Luke Cage) and low lows (Iron Fist, The Defenders, a general case of streaming drift). As for Kingpin, the big man is poised to affect the Hawkeye season finale, while Daredevil may show up alongside fellow lawyer Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, in her Disney+ series when it releases in 2022.

A Multiverse of Possibilities

Between No Way Home and the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness teaser, it might be easier to rebrand the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse. Marvel’s expanding the possibilities of its reality across Disney+ this year. The ending of Loki’s first season—which saw the fracturing of the timeline—combined with What If . . .?’s multiversal exploration, primed audiences for the idea of different versions of a character existing at the same time.

Now, Marvel is poised to expand upon this idea further. As discussed in GQ’s breakdown, the Madness teaser brings the Strange Supreme variant, an evil version of the sorcerer, from animation to live-action—and we don’t think he’ll be the last. Not only is there a likelihood we’ll see Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter in Madness, but other characters as well; The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit confirmed Madness just wrapped a series of reshoots to capitalize on “the playfulness of having alternate versions of characters appear onscreen” by including “more cameos and character introductions in Doctor Strange 2.” Given Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) role in Madness, might we see a different version of her? Or another take on Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) given her history with Wanda? Could this be the place to incorporate the X-Men into the MCU?

And Marvel likely isn’t done with the multiverse after Madness. While we’re unsure of the next Infinity War and Endgame-level crossover, there’s a case these realities could culminate in an adaptation of Secret Wars. Written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by artist Esad Ribić, the 2015 event comic series saw various Marvel Comics realities come into a new, patchwork world—complete with alternate versions of Marvel characters. Could Secret Wars be the movie to bring Maguire and Garfield back once again? What else may be in store? Like the multiverse itself, the possibilities are endless; as it turns out, the MCU playbook in the wake of Endgame is to go bigger than ever before.

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