The Marvel Cinematic Universe really is a comic fan’s dream come true. Since forever, comic-lovers everywhere have wondered what a real cinematic universe would look like. With the dawn of comic book movies in the early 21st Century, it was beginning to look like we would never get it as the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spider-Man all in the same New York. But the MCU has been extraordinarily successful in putting out so much content both in movies and TV. The benefits of that is the amount of tools writers and storytellers have at their disposal. Essentially, every film in the MCU is a sequel to the dozens of films that came before it.
We got the first glimpse of what this unique situation can do in Captain America: Civil War. Some might think it’s the first Avengers film that holds that distinction, but the difference between the initial Avengers film and Civil War is that Civil War is a completely manufactured storyline. It takes past events and existing characterizations to create a plot and conflict. Watching the movie made me feel for the first time that the MCU was its own living breathing entity, just like the Marvel comic universe.
The second time I felt this way was watching Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame — specifically the climactic final battle. These two movies combined felt like a true comic book blockbuster. Many complained that there were too many characters and none had enough time for full characterization. But that’s what a comic crossover is! It’s taking characters that the audience (or reader) already knows and loves and has an epic story with all of them, if only for a passing moment in some cases.
And now we come to Spider-Man: No Way Home. The strange thing about No Way Home is that this “comic book” comes not from its place in the MCU sequence, but in its place as a third Spider-Man film series. The filmmakers leans in to the concept of a Multiverse, something taken for granted in comics, and plays with it in the best way possible. We see comic stories like this all the time. Even animated movies and TV play with alternate realities because no live actors are involved. But the fact No Way Home is able to pull it off on film shows us just how the MCU is making the feeling of reading a comic book come to life.