There’s a reason Iron Man is the first superhero to interact with Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s not just because it’s narratively convenient. Marvel Studios could have roped Spider-Man into the action more conventionally, giving him a new solo film first and establishing his villain base and supporting cast before adding him to Avengers adventures. By introducing him as a Tony Stark recruit in Captain America: Civil War, Marvel set the bar for Spidey a little higher. This kid from Queens was not just the new metahuman on the scene. This kid was special enough that Iron Man – the MCU’s inaugural success and standard bearer – would go to his house and pull him into things. Spider-Man has been the flagship character at Marvel Comics for decades. By bringing him into the film side this way, he got the boost a character of his stature deserves.
As usual when it comes to Marvel, this was part of a larger plan. Sure, the Civil War intro for Spidey served its purpose as an unconventional first outing for the character but that was just the beginning. According to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming are just the first two parts of a greater Peter Parker arc, one that will take us through five films.
“We are looking at a five-movie storyline — Civil War, Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, untitled Avengers, Homecoming 2 — or whatever we end up calling it — as an amazing five-story journey for Peter Parker,“ Feige told the Toronto Sun
The structural approach Marvel’s taking with Spider-Man makes sense. He was introduced through an interaction with the Avengers, and Homecoming deals with his reaction to that. So, it makes sense that his third and fourth appearances would be another interaction with the Avengers, this time in two parts, followed by another solo outing to reflect on where he’s been and where he’s going. Marvel took a similar approach with films like Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3 and the last two Captain America flicks. What makes Spider-Man more interesting is what Feige said next.
“In the way that the events of Civil War directly inform the opening of Homecoming and his state of mind as he goes back to high school, so too will the events of the next two Avengers movies as he continues with high school. This original 22-movie arc ends with the untitled Avengers in May of 2019 and then two months later it will be Peter and Spider-Man that usher us into the aftermath and how things proceed from there.”
It’s no secret that two years from now Marvel will conclude a massive narrative they embarked on way back in 2008 with Iron Man. What is still a secret is what the MCU will look like when that day comes, so much so that Marvel isn’t even giving the second part of Infinity War a title yet. Fans have been speculating at least since The Winter Soldier that Captain America might sacrifice himself for the greater good. It’s also not out of the question that Robert Downey Jr. will use the occasion to bow out as Iron Man. Casualties seem inevitable, which means there will be some kind of power vacuum in the universe when the dust settles in the spring of 2019.
Right now, Spider-Man is in no condition to fill that vacuum. He’s a fledgling hero who idolizes the Avengers and, while his childhood was very much informed by their presence in the world, he’s not yet on their level. Now, as his first solo movie arrives and Marvel reveals their larger plans for him, it’s becoming clear that we’re going to see Peter Parker adjust to an Avengers-level world in a major way. Over the next two years we’re going to see him evolve to the point that he may well be for the next phase of the MCU what Iron Man was for the first. It’s far too early to tell what that may look like, but Marvel is clearly grooming Spidey for greatness.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in theaters Friday.