After a month of confusion, it's official: Spider-Man will return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For now, the new deal between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios entails two more films for the web-slinger: a third Spider-Man film and an unknown Marvel feature. As proved by this new development, more Spider-Man agreements can be reached down the line.
But at the moment, one of the big questions is, what does this mean for PhaseFour of the MCU. Will Phase Four be Spider-Man's swansong in the franchise after all that drama (unlikely)? What will Spidey's solo film be? Will the increasing focus on Disney+ affect the story that Spider-Man 3 will tell? Let's break down what we know and come up with some working theories.
What Do We Know About Spider-Man 3?
We know a few things about Spider-Man 3. The writers for Homecoming and Far From Home are returning, and director Jon Watts is in talks as well. So it's highly likely that the creative team that have taken Tom Holland's Spider-Man this far will be brought back together.
This also means that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige will oversee the creative aspects of the film. However, Feige also indicated that Spidey will be "[crossing] cinematic universes," in his statement, which may suggest the character will still cross paths with Venom at some point during his adventures.
Let's keep speculation about Venom 2, and the possibility of Peter Parker appearing in it, off the table. There is little chance that Venom and the other Sony Spider-Man Universe films (Morbius, Madame Web) will overlap with the MCU.
Which MCU Character Will Appear in Spider-Man 3?
So far, at least one MCU character has appeared in each MCU Spider-Man film. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony Stark mentored the web-slinger, while Captain America appeared in PSA videos. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Spidey teamed up with the Skrulls -- er, Nick Fury and Maria Hill -- to fight the Elementals. In both films, Happy Hogan played a role. So who will appear in Spider-Man 3?
It seems inevitable that Happy Hogan will make an appearance. He has played an essential role in each film thus far, and now that he's dating Aunt May (or at least he thinks so), it seems logical that he will be a part of Spider-Man 3. While a rumor several months back indicated that Deadpool might show up in the movie, that seems increasingly unlikely.
In order to figure out which characters will be in Spider-Man 3, the question to ask is who will be in the MCU come July 2021? While it might be tempting to believe that the Human Torch could make an appearance given his friendship with Spider-Man in the comics, it is more likely that Johnny won't meet the wall crawler until the Fantastic Four film reintroduces him and his team to audiences.
The MCU Character Who Appears In Spider-Man 3 Could Hunt Peter Parker
Given that J. Jonah Jameson has turned New York against Spider-Man, it's highly likely the MCU character who appears in Spider-Man 3 will either be hunting Peter Parker to bring him to justice or else the last person on his side. With that in mind, it's possible that someone from one of the upcoming Disney+ MCU shows will show up to track down Peter.
Two likely candidates could be the Falcon and Winter Soldier, both of whom will be halfway to building a new Avengers team following their Disney+ series. Another candidate? A young Ms. Marvel, out to earn her stripes as a hero by fighting another teen her age (this could be her introduction).
But arguably the most likely MCU characters will be either General Ross or Frank Castle.
Thunderbolt Ross has on multiple occasions stood in opposition to the MCU's heroes. He has consistently tried to restrain them, reining them in since, from his perspective, they're all the real threats to society.
On the other hand, Frank Castle is a stone-cold killer whose first appearance was in a Spider-Man comic. Castle could try to hunt Peter down without mercy or remorse. Given that the MCU can start using the characters from the Netflix-Marvel series by 2021, this would be the ideal opportunity to reintroduce the Punisher into the franchise.
Where Else Will Spider-Man Appear?
We now know that Spider-Man 3 is a certainty. However, there's still one huge mystery: what MCU project will Spider-Man appear in in addition to his third film. Every Phase 4 film announced could fit Spider-Man in somewhere.
Yet, it's hard to imagine Spidey popping up in Black Widow (already filmed), Eternals (cosmic story), Doctor Strange or Thor: Love and Thunder (too otherworldly), or...really, any of the MCU films that have been announced for Phase 4. With many well into production already, it seems unlikely that Spider-Man will show up in any of them.
So is Spider-Man going to appear in a fifth Avengers film? And if so, when will that come out? Phase 4 or 5?
It's very likely that, given the collapse of the Avengers following Avengers: Endgame, a New Avengers team will need to be established. Ergo, Spider-Man would have to make an appearance in this upcoming film in order to be one of the founding members. This seems like the most likely option for the character, and could also help kick off the action of Phase 5. A move like this would also indicate that Disney intends to keep Spider-Man around for Phase 5 and beyond.
But what if the franchise went in a different direction by putting Spider-Man in a film we already know about?
Spidey's Best Friend Forever
There is another possible place Spider-Man could appear: a Fantastic Four film.
As mentioned earlier, Peter Parker and Johnny Storm are close friends in the comics. Casual audiences probably don't realize this, since the Fantastic Four have never become part of a larger team on the big screen. Every prior adaptation has kept Marvel's First Family isolated from the rest of their universe, often failing to capitalize what makes them so fantastic.
Much like how Captain America: Civil War helped reintroduce Spidey into the MCU following The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it would make sense to use Spider-Man to help reintroduce the Fantastic Four into the MCU. Spider-Man would generate attention and ticket sales for such a film that a stand-alone Fantastic Four film might not be able to muster. The MCU brand is great, but the Fantastic Four has been soured by too many disappointing movies.
A Fantastic Four movie featuring an appearance by Spider-Man might just kill two birds with one stone: it could give Spidey a fantastic story and remind audiences why Johnny Storm is one of Marvel's most iconic characters