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Lost in the tangled web of promotion, anticipation, and expectation of the next Marvel film Madame Web is one small detail that could make a huge difference in the fabric of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It's a prequel.
Although no one who's made the film has said as such, for months it's been known Madame Web takes place in the past. And now the marketing for the film has begun to bring up casually that it's set in the year 2003.
No, this doesn't mean it's set between the first and second Sam Raimi/Toby Maguire Spider-Man films (although...), but it does bring up the question - why?
While making a film a period piece can be a good storytelling choice in the worlds of romance, comedy, drama, and others - to do so with a superhero such as this for no apparent reason means that there is a reason - one that's purposely not been made apparent yet.
(And it doesn't seem to be harkening back to the height of 2003 fashion, as I see zero sign of bucket hats anywhere in the trailer.).
What makes 2003 interesting in the modern landscape of Marvel movies is two-fold.
Madame Web's villain is trying to prevent something releated to the Spider-Verse
Tahir Rahim's Ezekiel is said to be looking to prevent the emergence of Spider-themed superheroes such as the titular Madame Web, and also the various Spider-Women cast in the film. On its own , this makes for an interesting, insular storyline. But with the Spider-Verse policing we saw in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and the 2014-2015 comic storyline Spider-Verse being about villains (in that case, Morlun and the Inheritors) trying to stymie the growth of the Spider-Verse heroes as a whole, the storytline may be something to think about, especially as Sony and Marvel are perpetually using films to set up more films.
The year 2003 in the MCU is important
Thanks to the five-year jump in Avengers: Endgame, most movies & TV shows have been ahead of our own timeline by a few years. For example, 2022's Ms. Marvel was set in the year 2025 in the MCU, while The Marvels was at least 2025, possibly veering into 2026.
In other words, say, if someone were to be born in the year 2003 (or soon after), as revealed in the events of the Madame Web movie, they would be in their early 20s in the MCU right now.
And lest you not forget, Madame Web is a movie about a clairvoyant - and a villain trying to stop her from her presumed destiny. And Madame Web in comics is known to be much older than the 30-something Dakota Johnson as she is in Madame Web.
It'd be exactly the kind of Marvel thing to do to have a scene - or a glimpse of a world 20+ years in Madame Web's future with an older, 50-something Madame Web (like her comic appearance) and the surprise reveal that someone unborn, or just born, becomes someone we know now in the MCU.
While Madame Web is MCU-adjacent thanks to the divide between the Sony/Columbia movies and Marvel Studios itself, you must not forget they did a crossover less than a year ago - with Donald Glover making a surprise return as Aaron Davis in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse after appearing as that same character in MCU's Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Think we're mistaken? Think about this: both Emma Roberts and Adam Scott are playing secretive roles in Madame Web, with some speculating they're playing a young Uncle Ben and a young Aunt May. At this point that speculation is just speculation (although the person sharing it says its real), but one thing is real - the studio isn't sharing who Adam Scott and Emma Roberts are playing.
Bringing things full circle, could Madame Web's villain Ezekiel looking to prevent - or cause - an infant Peter Parker from coming to be raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben after the shocking death of his parents? Sounds like the makings for a big ending, for sure.