Is Sam Raimi's Spider-Man the First MCU Film?

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home, now playing in theaters.

Marvel movies thrived for a decade before the advent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their success helped pave the way for what was to come, but canon made a clear distinction between which films were which. The MCU officially began with 2008’s Iron Man, with subsequent entries clearly demarcated.

Like a lot of other things, Spider-Man: No Way Home changed all of that. It confronts the new realities of the multiverse in a fundamental way, and in the process, changes which MCU movies come first on the timeline. If the film’s internal logic applies, Iron Man no longer holds the pole position. Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man does.

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No Way Home features one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood: Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield teaming up with Tom Holland for a trio of Peter Parkers. It also entails multiple villains -- one from each of the first five Spider-Man movies -- crossing over into the MCU along with their respective Spideys. Exploring the differences between the three characters is part of the fun in No Way Home, playing with notions such as Maguire’s organic web-shooters and the comparative lack of other superheroes in the previous Peters’ native timelines.

That extends the history of the MCU by default since it includes the events of all five movies plus the Tom Hardy Venom pictures to boot. In turn, those events have impacted the MCU in ways that can’t be changed. Most notable is the death of Aunt May caused by the Green Goblin from Maguire’s universe, but plenty of similar ripples exist. Furthermore, should anyone from those previous universes return to the MCU -- a reasonable supposition since Raimi is helming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness -- then the events of their respective films would further impact the timeline. In short, incorporating them into the MCU has become a necessity.

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It certainly adds some intriguing options to the saga’s viewing order. A chronological viewing, for instance, would place the Maguire films between Captain Marvel and Iron Man, with the first Andrew Garfield movie taking place around the events of 2012’s Avengers and the second around the events of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Despite their incongruity with the rest of the MCU (they quite literally take place in a different universe), they fit surprisingly well into such an order: providing regular doses of Marvel’s signature hero interspersed with regular entries focused on other heroes.

It’s also a way for the MCU to own and honor the movies that came before it while retaining its own creative integrity. It incorporates key components in Peter Parker’s story -- such as the death of Uncle Ben in the original Spider-Man or Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 -- without forcing the MCU to regurgitate those stories just to have them in canon. With Loki introducing the idea of variants and the multiverse now a fundamental part of the MCU, the franchise can eliminate narrative redundancies without pretending that non-MCU events never took place.

Furthermore, assuming one accepts this model, then there’s a chance that characters from earlier Marvel movies will appear as well. The X-Men’s eventual arrival in the MCU is a given, and it isn’t past the realm of possibility to have someone from the original 2000 movie show up. That would necessitate another retcon of the timeline, leaving Raimi and Maguire claiming second place or even further back. Still, if Wesley Snipes’ name becomes attached to the new Blade, the MCU’s timeline will shift all over again.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in theaters.

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Robert Vaux (551 Articles Published)

A native Californian, Rob Vaux has been a critic and entertainment writer for over 20 years, including work for Collider, Mania.com, the Sci-Fi Movie Page, and Rotten Tomatoes. He lives in the Los Angeles area, roots for the Angels, and is old enough to remember when Splinter of the Mind's Eye was a big deal.

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