At D23, several industry insiders spoke about the abrupt unraveling of Sony and Marvel's unconventional deal to co-produce Spider-Man films: Tom Holland gave a prepared statement, Jon Favreau remained optimistic, and Jeff Goldblum reacted as only Jeff Goldblum can.
But the comments that gained the most attention came from Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, who said, "It was never meant to last forever. We knew there was a finite amount of time that we’d be able to do this, and we told the story we wanted to tell, and I’ll always be thankful for that."
Regardless of your feelings about the Sony/Marvel split, whether you think it's permanent or merely negotiating tactic, one has to cast heavy doubt on Feige's statement that this was the complete story he wanted to tell.
What Was Spidey's MCU Arc?
Spider-Man underwent a distinct and effective arc across five films. He starts as just some teenage hero on YouTube who, thanks to Tony Stark recruiting him in Captain America: Civil War, finds himself wanting to do so much more. When he finds success on his own, however, he realizes he might be better as simply a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, helping out people who the Avengers might overlook.
This continues into Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, where Spidey, in defending his neighborhood, is taken into space. However, he selflessly acts and never looks back, even after his mentor, Tony Stark, dies. Until this point, the arc featured Spider-Man coming into his own as a hero, facing insurmountable odds, yet remaining determined all the same. However, his arc was tied to Stark until his death.
Spider-Man: Far From Home brings this arc home by showing how Spider-Man could live without Stark as a mentor, showing him bearing the full weight of responsibility. And, of course, he does. He manages to be a hero for the whole world using nothing but his wits and bravery in a brand-new world without the heroes who inspired him.
On paper, that's a brilliant story. A great arc. A complete arc. However...
Tony Stark Died Knowing Peter Would Be There
There are two plot points in Spider-Man: Far From Home which indicate that, no, this wasn't a complete story, but rather a launching point for a far larger saga. This first scene in question takes place after Mysterio defeats Spider-Man, which leads Peter, broken and beaten, to call Happy Hogan for help. This leads to a talk between Peter and Hogan over Stark's legacy.
During this discussion, Hogan states that Tony wouldn't have sacrificed himself in Avengers: Endgame unless he knew Peter was there to keep the world safe. This indicates that the MCU future relied on Spidey's presence, that he'd play a huge role going forward.
This isn't the sort of thing you say in the final chapter of a story. If anything, this feels like the start of something rather than the end of it. However, this heroic legacy can be told in a Sony-exclusive Spider-Man story, in theory. Spider-Man would be his own hero there without any of the Avengers to help.
But when taken in conjunction with the other, more obvious indication that the story would continue, Feige's comments become more ridiculous.
So, Let's Talk About the Cliffhanger
The mid-credits scene for Spider-Man: Far From Home is arguably one of the most shocking in the history of the MCU. Mysterio leaks doctored footage to the Daily Bugle, which frames Spider-Man for murdering Mysterio in cold blood, all before continuing to expose Spider-Man's identity as Peter Parker to the whole world.
This cliffhanger opens the door to a vast array of untold, unexplored narratives in the Spider-Man universe. Peter has never had his public identity exposed for the world to see like this -- at least, not in film.
This revelation would drastically impact not only Spider-Man but also the entire world he occupies. A newspaper publication attacking one of the superheroes who stopped Thanos? This event would have a ripple effect throughout the MCU in the same way that Stark revealing himself did.
Yet if the movie ends with this cliffhanger -- and that's it -- then how was this the story Feige intended to tell? It's a very incomplete story if this is the whole thing. So, why did Feige say that?
Feige's answer adds little new information to the conversation. It is arguable that Feige's entire statement is a product of his remaining careful in the light of the ongoing negotiations between Disney and Sony. Despite what many have said, there are indications that the two companies will continue to negotiate a deal to keep Spider-Man in the MCU.
When companies negotiate, it takes time. News of the deal breakdown broke less than a week prior. It is all but impossible for a new deal to keep Spidey in the MCU to be constructed in only a few days, though public pressure should spur on negotiations.
In the meanwhile, Feige needs to be careful. He can't offend his superiors at Disney, but he also can't alienate Sony. He needs to appear grateful and content to appeal to Sony's sensibilities and not place blame on either side, but also inspire the belief that, regardless of how events turn out, the deal produced some quality content.
In a sense, Feige did create the exact story he wanted to tell. The only problem is he will need a new deal to tell the rest of Spider-Man's story.