Marvel Studios has something of a juggling act on its hands.
While the studio tries its best to keep hidden the “many, many, many, many secrets” April’s Avengers: Endgame is promised to hold, the practical reality of maintaining a slate of upcoming films makes their job a little harder.
Probably half by design and half by circumstance, studio president Kevin Feige and co. have created a little wiggle room for themselves. By foregoing 2019’s November and 2020’s February release blocks, Marvel will take a long break in between July’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and May 2020’s unknown release.
And because what everyone anticipated would be that May 2020 release - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 - has been pushed back, for maybe the first time in Marvel Studios history, fans don’t even know what the next film MCU to go into principal production will be, much less the next five to ten.
Marvel Studios films tend to begin principal photography about a year before release, though production and casting news usually precedes that by several months. But so far - nada. We can try to guess what the next Marvel Cinematic Universe film will be (Black Panther 2?), but for now at least Marvel Studios can use the unknown quality of anything past July 2019 to their advantage to keep fans theorizing about who lives, who dies, and who maybe joins an Infinity Watch post-Endgame.
But of course they do have to deal with marketing Far From Home (which just kicked in his week) featuring a very alive Peter Parker while maintaining Endgame’s secrecy.
Now perhaps the moviegoers most shocked by Infinity War’s last five minutes will still have their questions and doubts, but for the most part, close observers of the MCU like Newsarama expect Thanos’ snap to be undone in one form or another. It would seem unlikely for the MCU to continue under the pall of half of all living creatures in the universe wiped out with the few remaining superheroes left played by actors whose Marvel Studios contracts are running out. And we're pretty sure sequels to Black Panther , Doctor Strange and more are in the pipeline, not even mentioning reports of Disney streaming TV shows like Vision and Scarlet Witch and Falcon and Winter Soldier.
The question seem much less than if the snap will be undone but more how and then who has to pay the ultimate price for the undoing.
Few expect Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to be one of the snapped heroes who doesn’t make a return. For one he’s a Marvel icon at the beginning of his MCU journey, just a 15- or 16-year-old kid, and there’s that nagging detail that Holland previously revealed he was contracted for no less than three solo Spider-Man films.
So the Wall-Crawler is almost certainly going wind up alive again after the events of Endgame, but the question is does this week’s Far From Home trailer provide any clues as to how that happens?
There seems to be two main possibilities here. One, everyone who is snapped is brought back post-snap. Or two, time travel is used to prevent the snap from ever happening at all, perhaps even well before the Battle of Wakanda.
Does the trailer offer any direction as to which is more likely?
As we noted the evening of its release, its general tone does seem to point in one direction.
Far From Home seems for the most part a palette-cleansing happier-go-luckier type story, without at least universal consequences, first introducing us to a Peter, May, Ned, MJ and Happy that seem perfectly at peace - and in May’s case absolutely giddy. This would seem on the surface to not be a post-snap world, in which half of everyone ceased to exist only to be brought back weeks, days, hours, minutes or even seconds afterwards, aware of what transpired.
Remember, the Infinity War post-credits scene implies that probably millions more unsnapped people would die by car collisions and from airplanes falling out of the sky around the globe, even if the snap lasted just seconds.
May’s seeming enthusiastic embrace of Peter’s secret identity - a reversal of the classic comic book dynamic - also doesn’t suggest to us a world in which all this occured. This Peter seems to still regard his place to be a "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man," and not a veteran Avenger in full-standing with cosmic war stories to tell.
Of course, there’s also a third possibility - that Far From Home takes place before Infinity War. This would be a somewhat unusual approach by Marvel but not entirely without precedent, as the last five MCU films have sort of crisscrossed one another timeline-wise.
Both Homecoming (2017) and Black Panther (2018) begin immediately following the events of Civil War (2016) and then take place over the ensuing weeks following. And neither seem to lead immediately into Infinity War (2018). But Thor: Ragnarok, released in 2017 in-between Homecoming and Black Panther, leads immediately into Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp, released after Infinity War and once presumed to be a prequel more or less occurs concurrent with it.
Whew, got all that?
So is it possible Far From Home occurs between Homecoming and Infinity War? That’s theoretically plausible, but a few problems stand out.
For one in the trailer it seems like Spider-Man transitions from his blue suit he was still rocking at the start of Infinity War to the tweaked more black-ish suit somewhere towards the end of Far From Home. This means either the new suit was temporary with a special function and Peter went back to the blue before Infinity War .... or Far From Home takes place after - assuming the new suit will be the new status quo.
And the bodega that got destroyed in Homecoming seems completely rebuilt, suggesting a somewhat significant passage of time.
It’d also be a bit wonky for Marvel Studios to return to a timeline before Infinity War more than a year later assuming its sequel Endgame more or less serves as closure on everything MCU that came before.
The most nagging hole in that theory is of course the very conspicuous absence of Tony Stark, by image or even name check in the trailer.
And speaking of checks, it is Pepper Potts’ signature on the giant charity check Happy is carrying at the start of the trailer and not Tony’s, which isn’t a conclusive clue but interesting nonetheless.
By all indications, Robert Downey Jr. doesn't play a significant role or any role in Far From Home, with some version of Nick Fury and/or Happy taking over the adult mentorship mantle(s). Of course RDJ could make a so-far-uncredited cameo, but at the moment the trailer lends itself more to the notion of a post-Iron Man MCU, which in turn suggests a post-Infinity War/Endgame MCU.
So while speculative at best, Far From Home at first glance seems most like an MCU that has moved forward in time, but in which the snap never occurred and nobody even remembers Thanos’ invasions ever happening. And in which Tony Stark had to possibly sacrifice himself or go away to ensure the universe remains safe from the threat of the Infinity Stones.
Now there’s an even wilder fourth possibility, but we’re going to get to that another time...