WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
When actor Tom Holland introduced the latest Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer with a spoiler warning regarding Avengers: Endgame, he wasn’t kidding. Not only because the preview begins with immediate references to the late Tony Stark, of course, but also because of what it reveals about the Homecoming sequel’s plot. Specifically, what a revived Nick Fury says about Quentin Beck, otherwise known as Mysterio. “Beck is from earth, just not ours,” he explains. “The snap tore a hole in our dimension.”
Or, as Peter Parker excitedly exclaims, “You’re saying there’s a multiverse!?”
This revelation kickstarted all kinds of takes about what the existence of the Marvel Multiverse would mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also spurred plenty of discussions about whether or not Beck, a notorious liar in the comics, is actually telling the truth about coming from an alternate reality. The Beck character’s history notwithstanding, audiences previously heard the Ancient One speak of the multiverse in Doctor Strange, so it’s not that far-fetched of an idea for Marvel to be considering.
So if Far From Home‘s introduction to the Marvel Multiverse isn’t a villain’s ruse, then studio president Kevin Feige and his creative team may have found a new Infinity Stones-esque story arc for their Phase Four slate of movies and beyond. More importantly, it might also allow them to provide their filmmakers and performers, both those they currently employ and others they might be trying to sign on with, with a brand new sense of creative freedom.
The studio’s ability to make so many interconnected films that ultimately lead to the Avengers tentpoles is what made the MCU so popular. But what if this connectivity was no longer a top priority? What if — dare I suggest it — Marvel actually started making movies that weren’t blindly bound to the titles that came before or after them? If done right, the multiverse concept would let Marvel and its creators do both. Everyone can have their cakes and eat them, too.
To truly understand how revolutionary this idea could be for Marvel, consider the “Creative Committee,” the so-called governing body that included Feige, then-Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter’s colleague Alan Fine, comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis, former Marvel Comics publisher Dan Buckley, and ex-Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. The group, which disbanded in 2015 when Disney took over Marvel Studios, used to oversee the films of the expanding MCU and would, on many occasions, give notes to filmmakers that caused more problems than not.
From Edgar Wright’s decision to depart Ant-Man and Shane Black’s having to change the Iron Man 3 villain because of projected toy sales, to a version of Guardians of the Galaxy that didn’t include the “Awesome Mix” narrative device, the committee’s known (and rumored) history of creative interference is as ludicrous as it is frustrating. And that’s just in terms of what directors and writers who spent time working with them have said on (and off) the record. If you consider possibilities that never came to fruition, like the fact that Ava DuVernay was initially offered Black Panther but passed because “it really wasn’t going to be an Ava DuVernay film,” then the committee’s sins seem even worse.
That’s not to say that Feige, who wrestled control of Marvel Studios from Perlmutter and his committee thanks to Disney’s Alan Horn, doesn’t meddle. Yes, more recent films like Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther have excelled at presenting unique stories that bear more of their director’s individual hallmarks — all the while still getting the Marvel seal of approval. But you’ve also got the upcoming Black Widow prequel, about which director Lucrecia Martel, a former candidate for gig, claimed the studio wanted “a female director because we need someone who is mostly concerned with the development of Scarlett Johansson’s character” and nothing more. “Don’t worry about the action scenes,” they supposedly told her. “We will take care of that.”
So what does the multiverse concept have to do with any of this? Well, it could help foster a studio environment in which Marvel still gets to make the movies (and money) it generally wants to make, while also releasing its vise-like control over the people they’ve hired to handle these characters, stories and tones. And it would accomplish this simply by serving as Marvel’s get-out-of-jail card for whenever fans who’ve been trained to expect a consistently connected universe (with post-credits scenes) begin complaining about the inconsistencies between the MCU’s multiple realities and timelines.
Just as Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s upcoming Joker movie doesn’t appear to have any direct connections to Jared Leto’s take on the character in Suicide Squad (which itself was connected to Warner Bros. and DC’s slate of Justice League-adjacent films), Marvel can use the multiverse excuse to make movies that truly stand on their own. For example, Feige can finally get his Moon Knight movie about mercenary turned supernatural vigilante Marc Spector, whose approach to crimefighting is about as wholesome as the Punisher’s. It would still be a Marvel Studios production, but the inherent disconnect would grant whoever the company hires to make it the creative freedom the traditional MCU would not allow.
Yes, this also suggests that the multiverse concept can be used as an excuse for the occasional misfire. (Remember when I mentioned Warner Bros. and DC’s Suicide Squad?) But that doesn’t have to be the case for Marvel. On the contrary, reframing the MCU as an interconnected set of cinematic stories spanning across multiple dimensions and timelines can be more of a creative springboard than not. Such a feat would provide fertile grounds for a live-action Miles Morales or a fresh-faced Kamala Khan, as well as further opportunities for more Avengers-esque tentpoles down the line.
More importantly, it would help Feige and Marvel Studios shed some of the more negative aspects of their controlling nature and replace them with a much freer sense of creativity. The more open and playful this filmmaking environment becomes, the more interested that directors, writers and performers — be they big names or up-and-coming stars — will be in making fresh approaches happen.