Phase 3 of the MCU will end with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Fans have gotten two trailers in the wake of Avengers: Endgame, but the second trailer introduces the concept of the “Multiverse.” Nick Fury teases that the snap tore a hole in their reality opening it up to other universes.
For Marvel comics fans, this isn’t a new concept. Marvel has dealt in the multiverse for years. For movie fans, however, it’s an exciting moment that could solve Marvel’s IP problem and make the MCU a truly sprawling experiment in media that everyone should be excited about.
What Is the Multiverse?
The Multiverse is an actual real-world concept, so fans should get excited. Erwin Schroedinger, the man behind Schroedinger’s cat, declared there were multiple histories happening at the same time in different universes. The concept deals with quantum physics — remember the Quantum Realm, guys? — and states that there are 9 types of different multiverses. It gets pretty complicated and treats physical reality like dice in a cup. Sometimes the dice are static and don’t move; sometimes they bounce around and create new combinations and patterns.
Marvel treats the multiverse as a means for covering up different continuity, errors in writing, the 70+ years these characters have existed and much more. 616 is the designation of the primary Marvel universe created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and the rest of the classic Marvel bullpen. The MCU even has a designation in that universe as M-19999. Several characters bounce between the multiverse, most notably the spiders (Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy and others.) and the Young Avengers.
For M-199999, the characters have previously been unaware of the Marvel Universe at large. The Ancient One warned the Avengers in Endgame about their actions having greater implications. Thanos, for all the so-called “Good” that he wanted to do, ended up causing more harm than good by leaving other universes’ resources exposed. Thanks to Thanos and the Avengers messing around in the Quantum Realm, the natural order of their reality has been disrupted and left them open to attacks from other realities, just like what happens in the comics.
Marvel, Bankruptcy, and the Multiverse
To understand just why the multiverse is important to the MCU, fans need to look at real-world history. The company that would become Marvel Entertainment first offered publicly traded stock in 1991. The company made a series of business decisions in an attempt to grow their company. In an attempt to distribute their products directly, Marvel saw a decrease in sales of their products. Marvel filed for bankruptcy in 1996 and the company it had acquired, Toy Biz, merged together.
In an effort to continue to grow their company, Marvel began to plan its own movie slate working with multiple companies, selling the rights to their beloved characters to studios like Universal, Columbia Pictures, New Line Cinema and Sony Pictures. Not pleased with their results, Marvel worked to form Marvel Studios, Hollywood’s first independent movie studio since DreamWorks was founded by former Disney employees.
Marvel Studios was eventually purchased by Disney and faced with a problem. While they had licensed several other iconic characters to different studios, most notably Spider-Man and Sony, they still owned the rights to the core Avengers. At the heart of Marvel Studios was a love of storytelling equal to that found at Disney. The two studios formed a perfect partnership that created the MCU at large. Four of the top five films in the Domestic Box Office are a part of the MCU. If Marvel could collect its properties once again with Disney in its corner, the studio could come as close as anyone to recreating the comic book adventures beloved by billions as possible.
That is, if they could get the rights back.
Marvel, Disney, Disney+ All Go Into the Spider-Verse
There are a lot of really complicated deals in place to protect Marvel properties. As the MCU has grown in scope, fans are longing to see their favorite characters share screentime. Everyone has screamed for Deadpool to meet Spider-Man, for Wolverine to meet Captain America, and for the interactions in comic books to become reality.
It’s easier for Marvel to make comic crossovers happen than with movies, which is why expanding the MCU into the multiverse solves their IP problem. With Nick Fury, Spider-Man and Mysterio sharing that there is a multiverse out there, Marvel is now as big as Marvel and Disney want to make it. Marvel is as big as fans want to make it. Thanks to the addition of a Marvel Multiverse, every single property Marvel has licensed for film is connected to the other and its comics.
No one knows how in-depth they might go, but the concept of fan-favorite Deadpool meeting Tom Holland’s Spider-Man just became a real possibility. Eddie Brock as Venom could, theoretically, battle with Jon Bernthal’s Punisher. The world outside of Marvel fans just got even bigger, and it solves Marvel’s storytelling problem. Avengers: Endgame is becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time. It’s a monumental masterwork. How do you top it?
You build a multiverse that doesn’t just span movies — it spans studios. It spans television shows, and you accept and acknowledge that #ItsAllConnected even if the fans don’t actually see it all connected. Sony has already been laying the groundwork with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In a world where there are multiple spider-people, it’s not a far stretch to realize that they could cross paths with some of the Avengers at some point. It also solves the problem of actors contracts expiring, bringing in new properties, and much more. The Multiverse fixes a lot that Marvel would have to face in a great big way.
The only limit to Marvel is the imagination of its writers and the feasibility of getting actors together in the same room. Even if it’s not possible to, say, have Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson meet Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier, it’s still technically canon. All of it has been connected thanks to opening up the MCU to the world around it. For fans and creators alike, the world outside their window they can play in has just got even bigger.