WARNING: This article contains massive spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home.
The first full trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home introduced Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck as an interdimensional traveler whose Earth had been destroyed by what he called the “elementals.” Or, as a visibly excited Peter Parker exclaimed, “You’re saying there’s a multiverse!?” It was the nerd word heard around the world, and with the trailer’s introduction of the “multiverse” concept to mainstream Marvel audiences, many — myself included — wondered if this might be the MCU’s next big thing.
Unfortunately, though not at all surprisingly, Beck’s claim about being from an alternate Earth turned out to be yet another illusion. The multiverse, the elementals, Mysterio — none of it was real. It was all a big lie meant to convince Peter, super spies Nick Fury and Maria Hill, and the rest of the world that Beck and his team were the real deal. Though as much as this plot twist fits with Mysterio’s comic book origins, and despite the fact that it works really well in Far From Home, it feels like a missed opportunity for Marvel.
Or, more specifically, the fact that the multiverse Beck spoke of does not exist may end up being one of Marvel Studios’ most puzzling creative decisions.
So, what’s the problem? Why should the fact that Beck lied about the multiverse even be an issue? As I explained in a previous piece about the matter, the multiverse could potentially offer Marvel a way out of the massive corner it has arguably written itself into after 11 years and 23 interconnected movies. Ever since Nick Fury surprised everyone in the Iron Man post-credits scene, every single entry in the MCU has existed in a delicate (and not always entirely consistent) causal relationship with the other films. If the Infinity Stones were explained in one movie, all six of them were sure to turn up in another.
Interconnectivity is great! Though after so many movies’ worth of repetitive storytelling, theatergoers might start getting bored. And aside from possibly losing money, Marvel could lose out on talent, too. They already have with the likes of Edgar Wright (Ant-Man), Ava DuVernay (Black Panther), and Patty Jenkins (Thor: The Dark World). Why? Because the studio’s tendency for keeping a very tight leash on its filmmakers is not only well documented, it’s also creatively stifling. Or, at least it can be.
Yes, the dissolution of the so-called “Creative Committee” after Captain America: Civil War gave Kevin Feige the power to let directors like Taika Waititi, James Gunn and Ryan Coogler make their respective movies however they wanted to. (Within reason, obviously.) Yet they’re still all supposed to make these films fit squarely into a precise pattern that leads to the next entry, the next team-up tentpole, or both. But what if this wasn’t always the case? What if, with the narrative strength of the multiverse concept, Marvel Studios started hiring filmmakers and encouraging to really make these titles their own — regardless of whichever past or future movies they do or don’t connect to?