How Marvel Can Solve Its Spider-Man Problem in One Movie

Spider-Man Far From Home-Publicity Still 2- H 2019
Columbia Pictures/Photofest
There are at least four ways to write Peter Parker out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the new deal extension runs out.

And so, the Marvel/Sony split over Spider-Man has been delayed, if only for two movies with a new deal announced for a third Tom Holland Spider-Man movie, and one last appearance in another Marvel Studios movie for the character.

It’s a victory for fans distraught over the thought of a Marvel Cinematic Universe without May Parker’s superheroic nephew, but only a temporary one. What this does mean is that Marvel has a chance to provide some closure to Spider-Man’s story — and offer an explanation as to why he won’t be quite as omnipresent or important to the MCU going forward as he appeared to be in this summer’s Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home. But quite what could that closure look like? Here are the four most obvious possibilities.

Into the Spider-Verse
Assuming that Sony wishes to keep Tom Holland and the current Spider-Man cast together for future projects, there might need to be an explanation for why he no longer seems to exist in the same world as all of the other superheroes that the studio won’t be able to use. There’s a relatively effortless “We just never refer to them again and hope no-one notices” solution, or something slightly more…cosmic.

Marvel is no stranger to storylines that verge on existential, and audiences are already familiar with the idea of parallel universes that feature different incarnations of Spider-Man — so what if one of Marvel’s many cosmic entities shows up and throws Peter Parker and everyone he loves into an alternate reality, where he’ll exist for the rest of his life? (Say, one that already includes Tom Hardy’s Venom, for example.) It allows for a soft reboot of the Spider-movie franchise, and gives an in-universe answer for Marvel going forward just where the spiritual successor to Tony Stark has disappeared off to.

The Death of Spider-Man
Of course, if Marvel is looking for a more permanent solution to its Spider-problem following the end of this new temporary settlement, it could always just…kill Peter Parker altogether. It sounds dramatic — and it is — but it’s also not the franchise-ending event that it once might have been, especially as it leaves the door open for a live-action Miles Morales to take on the mask in Sony’s subsequent Spider-movies, à la his origin in Marvel’s comic book Ultimate Universe.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has demonstrated that Miles has a following among mainstream (i.e., non-comic reading) audiences, so the prospect of allowing Sony to break from the past altogether and have its own new beginning for the live-action movies isn’t the worst idea — and removing Peter Parker from proceedings also makes it much easier for Sony to continue the franchise without worrying why Spider-Man isn’t asking his pals, the Avengers, for help even in the most dramatic circumstances without outright addressing the corporate fallout that led to Spider-Man leaving the MCU.

Spider-Man No More!
Of course, there’s another option altogether: What if Peter Parker just...retires? It would be, admittedly, an unexpected and somewhat out-of-character development considering Peter Parker’s legendary “with great power must come great responsibility” credo — although, admittedly, not entirely without comic book precedence — but what if Peter Parker simply stopped being Spider-Man for any number of reasons (he lost his powers, he had to actually take care of Aunt May long-term instead of just pretending to do it, he decides to concentrate on his education for once after realizing that both Black Widow and Iron Man just died doing this thing he does all the time)?

That way, he could quietly disappear from the MCU in something approaching a happy ending, and Sony could simply reboot the Spider-Man series one more time when they start up their own movies again following this brief deal extension.

Spider-Man? There Never Was A Spider-Man!
OK, this one is a little out there, but also not entirely outside the realms of possibility. Spider-Man: Far From Home ended with an unexpected post-credit sequence re-introducing the shape-changing Skrulls into the MCU. It seemed to come out of nowhere considering the rest of the movie, but it offers this (admittedly unlikely) possibility: Peter Parker isn’t real. He’s a Skrull, and so is Aunt May.

The clues have been there all along! Why wasn’t Spider-Man more awed about going into space in Avengers: Infinity War? Because he’d already been in space when traveling to Earth. What better way to infiltrate Earth’s superheroic defenses than pretending to be a kid from Queens who gets invited into the fold by a well-meaning idiot with father issues? It was genius-level manipulation of Tony Stark on the part of the Skrulls. I mean, who gets powers from a spider bite, right? How could anyone fall for that kind of origin? And, of course, if Peter Parker was just a Skrull in the first place, then it’s easy to write him out as part of the big Skrull storyline…and let Tom Holland play the “real” Peter Parker in Sony’s movies, instead.

There is, as it happens, a fifth possibility, although it’s somewhat less likely than everything above (Well, maybe three of the four ideas, at least): Sony and Marvel extend the deal again, and Spider-Man just…sticks around the MCU indefinitely…? Stranger things have happened…such as the new contract extension.

The third Marvel Studios/Sony Spider-Man movie will be released July 16, 2021.