What 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Tells Us About the Future of Spidey and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Tom Holland stars as Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Photo: Sony Pictures)

Spider-Man: Homecoming finally swings into theaters this weekend, and thus sets the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a direct course not only for 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War (and its May 3, 2019 sequel), but also for what comes after that – namely, “Phase IV” of the sprawling series, which will reportedly commence with Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (July 5, 2019). So how, exactly, does Tom Holland’s first solo outing as the famed wall-crawler set the stage for the studio’s forthcoming plans? From mysterious cameos to bombshell revelations, we break down the film’s hints about the MCU’s future.

Warning: Major spoilers for Homecoming follow. Please beware.

Where Homecoming Fits Into the MCU

Jon Watts’s film opens in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of New York from 2012’s The Avengers, with Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (soon to be the Vulture) being robbed of a construction contract to clean up the alien mess left by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This is the reason for his decision to embrace a life of crime, and specifically, to become a black market inventor-dealer of weaponry made from extraterrestrial technology — including, of course, his own winged suit. Given that its primary action takes place “eight years” after these prologue events (and, thus, The Avengers), the film implies that Homecoming is set in a near-future 2020.

Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) with some heisted Iron Man swag (Photo: Sony Pictures)

However, when pressed by Yahoo Movies‘ Ethan Alter, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige said that the MCU timeline is somewhat elastic, and shouldn’t be analyzed in too exacting a fashion.

Donald Glover, and the Miles Morales Connection

Even before Homecoming, Donald Glover’s relationship to Spider-Man was a tangled one. Thanks to a social-media campaign to get him cast as the web-slinger in 2010’s The Amazing Spider-Man (a role that ultimately went to Andrew Garfield), the actor wound up inspiring the look and style of Marvel Comics’ multiethnic Spider-Man, Miles Morales, whom Glover subsequently voiced in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. He’ll again lend his pipes to the character in an upcoming animated feature from directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (a.k.a. the duo that was just fired from the Han Solo spinoff movie). And in Homecoming, he turns up for two brief scenes as Aaron Davis, a crook looking to buy some weapons from Toomes.

Aaron Davis (Donald Glover) and Jackson Brice/The Shocker (Logan Marshall-Green) test out some of the Vulture’s merchandise. (Photo: Sony Pictures)

As comic-book fans will know, Davis is a thief who, in the comics, goes by the moniker “The Prowler.” Given that Glover’s appearance in the new film seems to be a set-up for sequel-y business, it could be that he’ll eventually factor into Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 as one of the hero’s many adversaries. More interestingly, though, Davis is also the uncle of Miles Morales — meaning that his purpose in this new Spider-Man series could be to help facilitate the eventual debut of Morales in the MCU — perhaps as the kid sidekick/student of Holland’s Spidey (in the same way that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark mentors Peter Parker in Homecoming). Time will tell.

Miles Morals/Ultimate Spider-Man and Aaron Davis/The Prowler (Image: Marvel)

Zendaya — Bratty Comic Relief or Budding Love Interest?

Ahead of Homecoming’s release, Marvel went out of its way to downplay Zendaya’s role as Peter Parker’s potential love interest, and to be sure, she functions solely as comedic relief in the film. Channeling the sarcastic attitude of Ally Sheedy’s anti-social Allison Reynolds from The Breakfast Club, Zendaya is largely asked to deliver cutting one-liners directed at Holland’s Parker in various high school-centric sequences. Nonetheless, in her final scene, we learn that her name is “Michelle,” and that her friends call her “M.J.” — which, of course, is the same nickname of Parker’s canonical girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson.

Zendaya as Michelle “M.J.” Jones (Photo: Sony Pictures)

On the one hand, this disclosure makes it clear that the MCU’s new Spider-Man franchise is going to reconfigure the hero’s mythology in unique ways. On the other hand, it also suggests that, no matter their bickering rapport in Homecoming, Holland’s Parker and Zendaya’s M.J. are probably destined for amour.

And that hunch was confirmed when Yahoo Movies’ Kevin Polowy spoke to Homecoming screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, with Daley stating about Zendaya’s MJ, “I think it should be a reinvention. It’s not up to us, but that’s certainly how we planted the seeds in this movie. Just to make her wholly different,” and Goldstein concurring, saying, “And a different kind of love interest. A love interest you don’t even see coming. So that the love interest you’re focused on for this movie goes away…”

The Sinister Six – Assemble

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony laid the groundwork for what was intended to be a spin-off focused on the “Sinister Six,” a cabal of Spider-Man’s greatest villains. That movie never came to fruition, but Homecoming resurrects that plan — sort of — by introducing a number of characters who might go after Spidey (alone, or as a gang) in the sequels. Aside from Glover’s aforementioned Prowler, both Logan Marshall-Green and Bokeem Woodbine play versions of The Shocker. Additionally, their concussive gear comes courtesy of Toomes’s weapons inventor Phineas Mason (Michael Chernus), who’s more traditionally known as The Tinkerer.

Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and Phineas Mason (Michael Chernus) hack Chitauri tech into super-weapons. (Photo: Sony Pictures)

Better Call Saul’s Michael Mando has a brief cameo as Mac Gargan, whose name will be familiar to comic-book fans as the alter ego of Scorpion (hence his scorpion neck tattoo). And, of course, in Homecoming’s post-credits stinger, Keaton’s Toomes is in jail (with Mando’s Scorpion), and still aware of Spider-Man’s real identity — which means that he too could make a return to the series, perhaps as the ringleader of the Sinister Six.

The Scorpion and Spidey have been battling since the 1960s. (Image: Marvel)

When speaking with Yahoo Movies, Feige tried to squash the notion that the film’s stinger means Scorpion might appear in his traditional costumed form:

Maybe that guy becomes the Scorpion, maybe he doesn’t. To us, that was more about the evolution of Adrian Toomes, the man, and that he actually, somewhere in there, is a good man, was doing things from his family, and that he’s protecting Peter Parker’s secret because he knows Peter saved his life. And he knows Peter saved his daughter’s life, and he knows Peter was doing the right thing, and that he makes, in that moment, a decision to keep that secret. For us, that was all that was about.

Oh, and then there’s Parker’s geeky best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). Although Ned is giddy about his buddy’s superhero secret identity, his name intimates that he might actually be Ned Leeds, who in the comics turns out to be the third version of Spidey’s nemesis Hobgoblin. Whether the MCU takes Batalon’s Ned down that route is anyone’s guess for now, and when speaking with Alter, director Watts tried to tone down all this Sinister Six talk, stating, “None of it is a specific tease to anything in the future, certainly not a Sinister Six movie. But it is sort of just this idea that we can create a world full of villains from the ground up. Spider-man is what it looks like when a regular kid becomes a superhero like now we can what does it look like when regular guys start to become supervillains, which I think could be really cool.”

Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Peter (Tom Holland) spring into action. (Photo: Sony Pictures)

Current denials notwithstanding, there’s no doubt Homecoming plants the seeds of various villains for future adventures.

To Infinity War… and Beyond

At the conclusion of Homecoming, Holland’s Spider-Man declines Tony Stark’s invitation to officially join the Avengers (replete with a swanky-looking new costume). That decision both stuns and impresses Stark, who understands that his mentorship has been a success. This moment also signals that Stark now views Parker as ready for planet-protecting duties, which should provide a smooth segue into next May’s Avengers: Infinity War — an epic team-up spectacular that’ll feature Holland’s Spider-Man alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Furthermore, the last-scene reappearance of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts – who was supposedly on the skids with Tony during Captain America: Civil War, but who appears to be accepting an impromptu wedding proposal from Stark here — implies that the recently MIA character may also factor into Infinity War.

Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) looks on as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) turns down Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)’s invitation to join the Avengers. (Photo: Sony Pictures)

And as if joining up with Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of the Avengers crew won’t be enough for Holland’s Parker to deal with in the years ahead, the closing moment of Homecoming — in which Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May discovers her nephew wearing his webbed costume — suggests that, in the not-so-distant future, he’ll also be dealing with some conflicts at home. Who said being a teenage superhero was easy?

Watch: The Spider-Man: Homecoming Stars Give Dramatic Reading of Classic Cartoon Theme Song:

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