Spider-Man: No Way Home was a monumental hit, and demonstrates that Spidey himself does not need to MCU to be successful in his franchise future.
Spider-Man 4 does not need significant connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to tell the next story of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Tom Holland first debuted as the MCU’s Spider-Man in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, being recruited by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). After numerous appearances in both solo movies and MCU ensembles, Holland returned for Spider-Man’s wildest big-screen adventure yet in 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.
In No Way Home, five Spider-Man villains from other universes are accidentally transported into the MCU when a spell by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) goes awry. No Way Home also brings Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s iterations of Spider-Man into the story, and in doing so makes a major statement about Spider-Man’s status in the MCU. After No Way Home and going into Spider-Man 4, the Wall-Crawler himself no longer needs the MCU framework either for storytelling purposes or to bolster his box office prospects.
No Way Home Is A Celebration Of Spider-ManThe reasons behind No Way Home’s tremendous box office success are many, but one of the biggest ones is how much the movie itself is a tribute to Spider-Man. Teaming up Holland’s Spidey with Maguire and Garfield against several of their respective villains is central to No Way Home’s multiverse story. However, as a Spider-Man reunion of sorts, it also celebrates the Wall-Crawler’s past and present big-screen adventures. Some of the best scenes of No Way Home simply involve the three Peters or their various villains sharing stories and riffing off one another.
For as much wisecracking and web-slinging action as No Way Home delivers with its three Spider-Men, it is also a deconstruction of who Peter Parker is and how he will always take the fall for those he cares most about. No Way Home concludes with Holland’s Peter doing exactly that to maintain the stability of the multiverse, at the cost of the entire world forgetting about Peter Parker. As tragic as No Way Home’s ending is, Holland’s Peter Parker finally completes his origin, and his journey to adulthood, to fully become the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man at last.
No Way Home Shows Spider-Man’s Popularity Transcends The MCU
More than any of Spidey’s previous MCU appearances, No Way Home is a Spider-Man movie before it is an MCU movie. Holland’s previous MCU roles, in some respects, positioned him as more or less a sidekick to Iron Man, with Peter still having a lot to learn as an adolescent. Even in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home, the MCU setting feels more intrinsic to the story of each, due to other previous MCU movies being heavily intertwined with their stories.
While very much set within the MCU, No Way Home centers Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and the story threads connected directly to him, with the MCU itself treated more as a backdrop. The return of Maguire and Garfield obviously cements No Way Home’s central focus on Spidey, while No Way Home’s huge box office success and widespread acclaim demonstrates that how far Spider-Man has come since joining the MCU. With minimal focus on MCU world-building and Doctor Strange and Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) the only other MCU heroes to appear, No Way Home shows the power of Spider-Man’s popularity as a singular character.
How Spider-Man 4’s Story Could Stand Alone In The MCU
While the MCU is heavily reliant on cross-overs and Easter eggs, Spider-Man 4 need only build off where No Way Home left him. That does not mean that Spider-Man 4 will or even should actively distance itself from the wider MCU, but the impact of No Way Home will enable it to be much more selective on how it does so. Should Spider-Man team up with Doctor Strange or Daredevil, that builds directly on their roles in No Way Home without the need to fit Peter into any other major MCU stories. Peter’s relationship with both characters would even make them the most logical MCU heroes to appear in Spider-Man 4.
The fact that Spider-Man 4 will start Peter off from the position of being invisible to the whole world already isolates his story from virtually every other character in the MCU. The big question of whether Peter will continue to keep his secret from MJ (Zendaya) and Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) will also loom over Spider-Man 4 (along with the possibility that MJ still remembers Peter after No Way Home). All of these take far greater precedence for Peter Parker’s story over his role as an MCU hero, and could well make Spider-Man 4 one of the MCU’s most standalone movies, by far.