I don't think it's possible for fans to be much more excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming. The first solo film starring Tom Holland's newest incarnation of the wondrous webhead promises to be an absolute delight; every trailer and every teaser reminds us that this version of Spider-Man is firmly positioned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While fans have been focused on Iron Man's major role, we've also been learning some subtle details — and they may be more important than we think.
Yahoo has recently released details of their set visit to the Staten Island ferry. They only saw part of the action, as Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr. filmed their scenes in Atlanta, where the crew constructed a full-scale facsimile of the ferry to shoot the bulk of the sequence.
Still, Yahoo saw enough to notice that #Marvel's paid real attention to detail. As they report:
"Of course, real New Yorkers would notice the small ways this particular boat has been Marvel-ized. In place of ads touting real N.Y.C. tourist spots, there are posters hawking the 2018 Stark World Expo, as well as the Battle of New York Memorial Museum, which carries the tagline, "…Remember Always.""
Both posters sound like nothing more than a fun detail, the kind of thing that's set to make fans grin. But they both point to something far more important...
The Stark Expo is Back!
"Please, it's not about me. It's not about you. It's not even about us. It's about legacy. It's about what we choose to leave behind for future generations. And that's why for the next year and for the first time since 1974, the best and brightest men and women of nations and corporations the world over will pool their resources, share their collective vision, to leave behind a brighter future. It's not about us. Therefore, what I'm saying, if I'm saying anything, is welcome back... to the Stark Expo!"
With those words, Tony Stark launched the second Stark Expo, building on his father's legacy. The Stark Expos are clearly modeled on the real-world 1939 World's Fair, an attempt to gather together the brightest minds and determine the future of the human race. Of course, as we saw in Iron Man 2, Tony's first Stark Expo didn't exactly get off to a good start!
Of course, the #MCU has changed a lot since Iron Man 2. Tony's first Stark Expo featured quite a few figures showing off their high-tech military hardware (Justin Hammer's went down pretty explosively). In the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion in 2012, I'm pretty sure world powers will have been pushing money into planetary defence. We can assume the 2018 Stark Expo will be geared around protecting the world from threats; that dovetails perfectly with Tony Stark's personal arc through the films.
Meanwhile, this couples with the museum to hint at a world shaken by the alien invasion. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been dining out on the cultural shockwaves for years, most recently through the Inhumans. Inhumans are seen as part-alien, and the public fear anything alien. More subtly, though, Season 3 included a moment where Constance Zimmer's Rosalind Price hinted that, in the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion, the line between space exploration and defence has blurred.
Planetary defence is now a priority. I'm willing to bet that the seemingly-bottomless budget that S.H.I.E.L.D. now commanded is being directed towards space defence. Meanwhile, Tony Stark - who has a unique understanding of the threat, having flown through the wormhole - is gathering together the world's greatest minds. It's pretty easy to see the pattern.
Here's the catch; whatever may have been going on, the Stark Expo isn't due to begin until 2018. That's the year Avengers: Infinity War will release — and most Marvel movies are set in the year of their release. If the world's top scientists are indeed being gathered to consider how to defend our world, the odds are good that they're simply too late.
Drawing the Threads Together
At first glance, these posters are nothing more than Easter Eggs, there to delight the fans. In reality, though, I'd suggest that Marvel is playing the long-game, subtly setting up elements that they'll explore in Avengers: Infinity War. #InfinityWar will see Thanos's armies return, and the Earth's defences will be tested like never before; after all, this time the Mad Titan is coming himself.
But do these two posters hint that the world is doing more to defend itself than we previously thought? In the comics, Joss Whedon created an organization known as S.W.O.R.D.: a group dedicated to the Earth's defence. They're as high-tech as S.H.I.E.L.D., they typically repurpose alien tech, and they're often based offworld in an orbital headquarters known as the Peak. Their most notable leader is Abigail Brand, a half-alien commander with the kind of attitude that would make Nick Fury look like he's something of an open book.
This possibility becomes a little more likely when you remember that the casting call for Infinity War named Brie Larson for the film. It's a curious twist in the tale, given that Brie Larson is playing the part of #CaptainMarvel, and her solo film is supposed to be an origin story. It seems that, just as she was in the comics, Carol Danvers is set to make her debut as a character before she gets powers. She was traditionally an Air Force pilot before she became a superhero, but Marvel's recently retconned that to make her an astronaut. Is it possible they're preparing the way for the MCU's Carol Danvers to appear as a member of S.W.O.R.D.? After all, the character's become closely associated with S.W.O.R.D. in her current run — she's actually currently S.W.O.R.D.'s commanding officer.
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Together, these two posters offer us a window into the soul of the MCU. They suggest a world that's coming to terms with the alien threat, determined never to forget the horrors of the Chitauri invasion, and gathering its greatest minds together in the world's defence. Of course, however ready the world may be — there's no way it's going to be ready enough. Thanos is coming; and that 2018 Stark Expo could well end even more explosively than the last one. This time round, it may well be interrupted by an alien invasion...
Do you think we'll be introduced to S.W.O.R.D. in 'Avengers: Infinity War'?
(Source: Yahoo; Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)