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After Spider-Man: Far From Home, the MCU multiverse remains unclear.
Spider-Man: Far From Home had a lot riding on it. Not only was it the first Marvel movie to premiere in the wake of the era-ending Avengers: Endgame, but it’s also officially the final film in the current phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So after Endgame came out in April and wrapped up most of the MCU’s loose ends, Far From Home seemed poised to introduce new wrinkles that would push Marvel’s films toward their next big storyline.
That was especially true after Marvel and Sony Pictures (the latter owns the film rights to Spider-Man and co-produced both Far From Home and its predecessor, Spider-Man: Homecoming) released a teaser for the film hot on Endgame’s heels, one that came with a spoiler warning attached. Some of the spoilers it contained seemed obvious and straightforward to the casual Marvel fan or recent Endgame viewer. But for comic book fans, the teaser hinted at a possible development that could radically change the MCU going forward.
Now that Far From Home is out, we can see that hint for what it truly is. And what it is appears to be a big bag o’ nothing.
(Spoilers for both Spider-Man: Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame follow.)
One of Far From Home’s trailers teased our first look at a multiverse
Let’s back up to May 9, 2019. The heartbreak of Avengers: Endgame was still fresh in the minds of Iron Man and Captain America fans. Curiosity about what the future holds for the remaining Avengers had yet to truly set in. But Marvel couldn’t wait for reactions to Endgame to run their course; it had another MCU movie coming up.
In came a lengthy new trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, the first to acknowledge the events of Endgame — including its character deaths. (Early Far From Home trailers had danced around the specifics of both Avengers: Infinity War and its then-forthcoming sequel, as Marvel and Sony began promoting the new Spider-Man several months before Endgame debuted.) And it offered more than just glimpses at what was next for the Avengers’ youngest hero; it also seemed to throw an intriguing wrench into the mix with just a brief line from a new character, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
In the trailer, Gyllenhaal appears as Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio, who appears out of nowhere to rescue Peter Parker and his classmates from certain supernatural disaster while they’re on their high school Eurotrip. Mysterio is presented as a hero who seems to be even stronger than Spider-Man, and he claims there’s a simple reason that S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers haven’t encountered him before: He’s from a different version of Earth. In fact, according to Mysterio, there are tons of other Earths.
“There are multiple realities, Peter,” he says to Parker while the two convene in an undercover cave somewhere. “This is Earth-616. I’m from Earth-833. We share identical physical constants.”
The trailer then cuts away from this scene without much elaboration — because it’s a trailer, and that’s the point. But as Alex Abad-Santos explained for Vox when it was released, Mysterio’s specific allusion to a multiverse, as the different versions of Earth that he mentions are collectively known, was huge for comic book readers.
“For Marvel fans, those numbers, especially ‘616,’ are like sirens,” he wrote. “They’re direct references to the comic books that Marvel’s movies are based on, which have their own rich history of parallel universes, altered timelines, and all kinds of reality manipulation hijinks — the kind of stuff that could be clues for where the MCU is going next.”
It’s important to know that this isn’t the first time that the multiverse has been referred to in the MCU. In Endgame, for instance, Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One tells Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk, that there are multiple timelines in the universe, which is why she fears the Avengers traveling back and forward in time and messing around with things in the hopes of undoing Thanos’s snap. Additionally, she had previously referenced these timelines in her Doctor Strange debut — but she’s never provided any specifics about potential other Earths that might exist within them.
So if the multiverse does exist in the MCU, the thinking went, and it includes specific other versions of Earth with different inhabitants and heroes, maybe the events of Avengers: Endgame weren’t quite as conclusive as they initially appeared. Maybe Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are still alive and well (or in Steve’s case, young and hot) somewhere! Or maybe Marvel was setting up a way for other Spider-Men, like Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse star Miles Morales, to join the Avengers’ fold.
In an instant, Mysterio had single-handedly given the MCU something totally new to work with — or so it seemed. And once Far From Home came out, Marvel fans would potentially come away with an idea of how this possible plot development would play out.
Still, savvier Marvel fans were reluctant to embrace this theory. As Abad-Santos wrote, “Mysterio is a classic Spider-Man villain who, in the comic books, is a master of illusion and deception and really cannot be trusted.” Mysterio was fated to be not just a villain, but one who trades in telling lies. When he drops a bombshell, like that he’s from an entirely different universe, of course it’s going to set off some lie detectors.
So much for the multiverse — or is it?
In the end, it seems the skeptical viewers made the right call. Far From Home ultimately reveals Quentin “Mysterio” Beck to be nothing more than a disgruntled ex-Stark Industries employee who has weaponized his rage toward Tony Stark’s poor treatment of him and his fellow scientists. The whole superhero act is a ruse; Beck is a fraud who’s using highly advanced technology to create realistic but illusory situations that make him look like a hero while putting Spidey in serious danger. Everything he told Peter Parker when the pair first met — including his mentions of Earth-616 and Earth-833 — was part of his lie.
And the scene in which Beck reveals that lie goes out of its way to underscore how easily anyone who subscribed to the multiverse idea has been played. Beck and Peter have a heart-to-heart at the bar where they’ve gone to celebrate after teaming up to defeat one of the movie’s Big Bads. Their conversation ends with Peter naively declaring that Mysterio is Iron Man’s true successor, and handing over to Beck the AI program that Tony Stark had originally left for Peter, called E.D.I.T.H.
But as soon as Peter leaves, guess what? Beck starts cackling maniacally, and tells the bartenders and his fellow patrons that they can break character now — the ruse worked! Mysterio was all a hoax, made up for the explicit purpose of duping little Peter Parker. And frankly, Beck says, he’s surprised that people as qualified as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury and Maria Hill believed Beck’s absurd story in the first place. (Although the second of the movie’s two end-credits scenes gives context for why that might have been.)
From the moment we see Beck laughing with his band of vengeful scientists, who were playing the parts of customers and employees in a busy bar, it’s clear that Marvel just tossed in the Earth-616 reference as something of a red herring.
As a result, Far From Home won’t have anywhere near as wide-ranging or significant an impact on the MCU as Endgame did. What sounded like a promising twist — offering the first concrete look into the existence of parallel worlds within the MCU, ones that could revolve around new superheroes we have yet to meet, or even different versions of the ones we already know and love — was nothing but a hint toward the movie’s obvious bad guy being, y’know, the obvious bad guy.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige made an effort to dampen any resultant disappointment in an interview with Fandango after Far From Home’s release. “It just means he was full of shit,” he said when asked whether Quentin Beck’s statement confirms there are no other Earths in the MCU, and thus no multiverse in its future. ”I mean, in Doctor Strange, we hear the Ancient One talk about the Multiverse, so we’ve already established it as a thing.”
So according to Feige, the multiverse remains a “thing.” But while we can’t know for sure that Marvel doesn’t have other status quo-altering plans in the works, throwing in a reference to something so specific and well-known to its most devoted fans feels unnecessarily harsh.
Far From Home isn’t a bad movie because of this; it’s still fun, and it boasts some stellar action sequences. But it’s unfortunate that Mysterio’s biggest lie — well, aside from claiming to be a hero and offering to mentor a grieving Peter who has recently lost the closest thing he had to a father figure when Tony Stark died — was such an empty one.
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