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While the news of the Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios agreement to work together on future Spider-Man projects is exciting to fans, it has come at a small cost. As a result of the next solo Spider-Man film being scheduled for July 28, 2017, several Marvel films have been delayed, including Black Panther. But that’s only part of what’s changing. We’ve known for months now that the Wakandan hero will be making his debut in Captain America: Civil War, but with the wall-crawler now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a very good chance Marvel may be changing some things around with that project as well.
For those not familiar with the original 2006 Civil War story, Spider-Man played a key role in the conflict by revealing himself as Peter Parker to the public in support of Tony Stark’s pro-registration movement - but soon afterwards switched to Captain America’s anti-registration side. Because Spider-Man wasn’t available to them when Captain America: Civil War was being planned, an alternate idea was set up that would see Black Panther play the key third main superhero role the story. With Spider-Man now joining the film, however, we can expect it to have an effect on Black Panther – though the size of the change depends on how big Spidey’s role is. If it’s a cameo and/or minor role, then only slight adjustments should be called for, but if it’s a key supporting role, there’s a chance Black Panther may be scaled back in favor of showcasing the web slinger. After all, in terms of marketing, it’s better to primarily feature the character the audience is familiar with rather than a newcomer they’ve never seen on screen before.
One advantage Black Panther still possess in this potential fight for exposure with Spider-Man is the fact that he’s the king of Wakanda, and with the MCU’s Civil War set to unfold on a more global scale, it may work better to have a political figure enveloped in what’s going on between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Also, the MCU’s Peter Parker is said to be back in high school, so even if he has been crime fighting for a year or two, he’s not even close to being as established as his comic book counterpart when Civil War broke out. Him unmasking himself in the movie or joining either side potentially wouldn’t have as much impact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, whereas Black Panther, as a world leader, would make a splash getting involved with either Tony Stark or Captain America. So while highlighting Spider-Man in this film would be faithful to the source material, story-wise it would be better if it was Black Panther that played the role of tertiary superhero.
However, what may result is more drastic changes to how the Black Panther solo movie works in relation to Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (since it will now being coming out after that film, instead of before it). Depending on what the focus of the story is going to be, it’s possible that the central plot of the film won’t be significantly altered by the movie’s new release date and positioning within Phase 3. But if Marvel had any kind of big plans for Easter Eggs or post-credits scenes at the end of the Black Panther movie setting up Infinity War, that’s obviously going to have to change.
On the other hand, if part of the original plan for Black Panther was to set up the first half of Avengers 3, then there are still three potential options that Marvel could still explore after the release date push. The first option is that Black Panther can be set up to be a "prequel" to Infinity War – Part 1. The second possibility is that there is a long time gap in the timeline between the two Infinity War movies, allowing time for the solo Black Panther plot to unfold. The last option, though, is that Black Panther won’t play any role in Part 1 at all, but will show up and team with The Avengers in Part 2.
Details are still scare on what’s being planned for either superhero in the coming years. But if Marvel is wise, they’ll make sure to keep Black Panther as a prominent figure. Sure, they may now have access to Spider-Man, arguably their most famous superhero, but Black Panther opens up new areas of the MCU that Spidey never could, and the studio needs to take advantage of that in a big way without being distracted by a new character.
We’ll get an idea for what’s in store for both Black Panther and Spider-Man when Captain America: Civil War is released on May 6, 2016.