Shruti Talekar | Contributing Editor
To me it seems like it’s been eons, but “The Avengers,” the first of many crossover films to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will be 10 years old in May.
For people my age, and certainly those younger than me, it’s hard to imagine a film industry where the production companies aren’t doing their damn best to make crossovers happen every which way — forever following what Marvel did first.
Universal made a disastrous attempt at a “DarkVerse,” and only got two movies in before lack of audience interest and critical panning sent it crashing and burning.
The DC Extended Universe, or the DCEU, faced production issues and critiques from its beginning. It got this particularly because it lacked a singular visionary holding the universe together, like MCU producer Kevin Feige.
Zack Snyder would have been many fans’ choice of a shoo-in to lead the DCEU, but it’s becoming increasingly clear recently that Warner Bros. has no interest in keeping his movies relevant to DCEU canon.
As far as I’m concerned, the DCEU seems to be entering its death throes.
I applaud Marvel for its success. The comic company was on the verge of bankruptcy 20 years ago, selling the rights away to its iconic characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four just to stay afloat.
Now they’re the dominant hand in the film industry and, after bringing together one universe of superheroes across decades of movies and subsequent sequels, they decided to tackle something even bigger.
The big bad multiverse.
Multiverse is an actual scientific theory. Basically, it’s the idea that there are multiple groups of observable universes out there. The theory hasn’t been proven in reality, but it’s provided a great playground for science fiction, fantasy and comic book writers.
Marvel and DC both play with the multiverse concept, because it gives them room to mess with characters and plotlines without completely erasing the storyline of their main universe.
Marvel’s main comic book universe is Earth-616. Throughout the “Infinity Saga,” the films spanning from “Iron Man” to “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” almost all of the action took place in one universe. It’s only recently that the MCU has branched out of this pattern.
In true form, the multiverse got its kickstart with the Disney+ series “Loki.” While the show wasn’t the strongest of the MCU’s new and shiny TV shows, it did set up the potential for world-altering shenanigans in the future. In the final episode, a female Loki variant named Sylvie killed “The Watcher” in order to unleash chaos in the multiverse, paving the way for unregulated multiverse travel and interference.
But Loki isn’t the character most people think of when they hear “multiverse.” That’s Spider-Man. This is mainly because everyone loves Peter Parker and Marvel certainly doesn’t want to knock one of its top money-makers out of the forefront of the NY superhero roster. So it made variants of him in other universes.
Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen are two of the more prominent examples of multiverse “Spider-People.” They both starred in the 2018 animated film “Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse,” a Sony production separate from the MCU.
And finally, this past December we got to see evidence of these Spidey variants on the big screen with the return of past Spider-Men, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire, along with their own menagerie of villains, in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
And let me tell you, I’m not even that big of a Spider-Man fan, but I was screaming along with the rest of the theater when Garfield and Maguire showed up.
The success of the film aside, both critically and commercially, the relationship between the three Peter Parkers in the film brought some interesting questions to light about the multiverse.
The one I most want to dissect is, how does one define a relationship with yourself, but from another universe?
Well, if you’re Peter No. 3, Garfield’s Parker, you would consider the other Peter Parkers you’ve met your brothers. In a recent review with Variety, Garfield talked about how he saw the relationship between all three Peters as a bond of brotherhood — with Maguire as the older, Garfield as the middle child and Holland as the youngest.
It seems that Loki doesn’t feel the same about his counterpart.
As Loki was airing, it was clear that the writers were angling for some kind of romantic relationship between Loki and Sylvie, who, let me remind you, would be the biological equivalent of his twin sister.
I hoped that they wouldn’t follow through with it and Loki wouldn’t share a kiss with a literal copy of himself, but in the final episode Loki confesses his feelings to Sylvie and they share a smooch.
Then she basically pushes him through a wormhole. So there’s that.
Many fans online weren’t pleased with Loki’s relationship with Sylvie, particularly after he had explicitly confirmed his bisexuality on-screen a few epsidoes earlier. Rather than champion for the Loki and Sylvie romance the writers were feeding them, many fans turned instead to banter between Loki and TVA Agent Morbius as their favored romantic pairing.
Lokius, the ship name for the two characters, was ranked No. 6 on Tumblr’s Year in Review Ship List and the ship produced a significant amount of buzz on other social media platforms.
It’s not unheard of for characters to get up to some icky things in the multiverse. After all, if you have an infinite amount of universes to play with, why not take a meander down that darker road?
One of Marvel Comics’ more vile examples of this takes place in the Marvel Ultimates comic, where the iconic mutant twins, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, or Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, engaged in an incestous relationship with one another.
I’m pretty sure Marvel wouldn’t bring something that extreme to the big screen unless they suddenly feel like channeling their inner Lannister, but it goes to show where the Loki and Sylvie thread began.
Do I love that Loki basically wants to bang himself? Not really. Would the fans have reacted with such disdain if Sylvie was a man? Maybe not. Biphobia runs wild and rampant on all fronts. But now that we have the Parkers’ relationship as a counterpart, it does poke some holes in that flirtation between the gods of mischief.
The MCU train doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon, and it seems that they’ll take on even bigger baddies across the universes. It’s likely that we’ll see even more interactions between character variants.
Will we soon find Doctor Strange making goo-goo eyes at his evil counterpart? I doubt it, but with the power of infinite universes at their hands, anything and everything is possible. Let’s see how far they’ll stretch those boundaries.