The Marvel Cinematic Universe has achieved the impossible.
From its humble beginnings in 2008 with the very human Iron Man, to the grand scope of it all with Avengers: Endgame, Marvel has changed the landscape of cinema for better or worse (usually the latter).
So where exactly do you go once you’ve fought the supposed biggest baddie of the universe? The multiverse, of course! And just like how Tony Stark once paved the way for the Marvel universe on the big screen, Peter Parker seems to be the prime contender to do the same for the shared universe’s future.
While not particularly in-your-face, the seeds of a Multiverse have been present within the space of recent Spider-Man content. First, the trailers from Spider-Man: Homecoming literally dangle the existence of a multiverse in front of audience. And while this is ultimately revealed to be a farce, the fact remains that the theory is not entirely alien to the inhabitants of the franchise. Then, the movie concludes with a very familiar face reprising a very familiar role: J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, a character he’s become synonymous with over the course of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy (2002 – 2007).
In most contexts, having an actor reprise his role wouldn’t seem to be a big deal—but with comic books movies not only is an actor returning in the same role largely unheard of (discounting the mess that is the X-Men franchise), but also seems highly suspicious given that it’s, well, a comic book movie. It’s kinda like when a character dies, but you don’t see the body… or if the character is Loki—it’s just a little too fishy.
But the plot only thickens with Spider-Man’s MCU future. ‘Cause not too long ago it was confirmed that J. K. Simmons will not be the only actor reprising his role from a preceding franchise—Jamie Foxx is slated to appear in Spider-Man 3 as… Electro. A character he previously played in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Not only is that two returning cast members uniquely reprising their roles from previous iterations of the franchise, but they’re also from different iterations of the franchise. And a quick glance at other adjacent Spider-Man projects would also conveniently point as Sony’s otherSpider-Man film: Into the Spider-Verse. The 2018 animated feature not only boldly adapted a complicated comic book event, it also introduced the idea of the Marvel multiverse to the big screens.
Featuring the Spider-Men of various alternate realities, Into the Spider-Verse originally had plans to integrate at least some of the live action Spider-Men as well. And while that failed to occur, nothing is to say that it may not be on the horizons.
After all, the Master of the Multiverse is headed to Queens. According to THR, Benedict Cumberbatch is set to return to his sorcerous ways as Doctor Strange in Spider-Man 3. While Cumberbatch’s involvement could be as simple as a continuation of the ongoing trend of the MCU’s senior statesmen appearing in some capacity of a mentor to Peter Parker, the character’s unique repertoire of multiversal, and reality-warping abilities certainly suggest more than that.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe entering its 13th year of existence in 2021, and more than 20 flicks as well as a bunch of out of and in continuity TV shows, it’s only a matter of time before the mega franchise would require a streamlining of sorts—or an expansion that frees it from the bonds of excessively convoluted continuity.
Adding to speculation is also the previously confirmed casting of Elizabeth Olsen in Doctor Strange 2. With Olsen’s Scarlet Witch already tied up in the mind-bending WandaVision—a show almost certainly about her distortion of reality—it’s no stretch of the imagination that the Doctor Strange sequel (which is entitled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) will see the Doctor either dealing with the fallout of Wanda’s actions in WandaVision, or recruiting the character to assist him in the matters regarding multiple realities.
And if that isn’t enough to feed the conspiracy theorists, how about the fact that once Spider-Man director, Sam Raimi, is also now helming Doctor Strange’s sequel? Raimi’s familiarity with trippy horror as well as Spider-Man as a character might just offer the MCU the opportunity to continue building towards the win-win scenario of an alternate cinematic universe
The existence of an alternate cinematic universe would not only allow characters to be further exploited without the constraints of continuity, but also allow a Sony Spider-Man franchise to co-exist with the MCU’s. After all, with Venom already on his own film series, and Jared Leto’s Morbius well on its way, it’s clear that Sony has no plans of slowing down.