Exactly one year ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was forever changed. After releasing over ten films, Marvel Studios seemed to be at the top of their game with no reason to get help from others. Sony, on the other hand, was trying to figure out the lackluster results of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with rumors swirling that they would reboot the franchise yet again.

That is when the shocking announcement made its way onto the internet and across the world. Marvel and Sony came to the agreement to bring Spider-Man into the MCU and help Sony reboot the franchise. Following the agreement, everyone gave their thoughts on who should play the character, with Tom Holland eventually landing the coveted gig.

This year will kick off Phase 3 of the MCU and when the first movie of this phase, Captain America: Civil War, debuts in a few months it will do so with the first appearance of the new Spider-Man. The integration of a young and beloved character like Spider-Man will give the MCU a new toy to play with it. However, that isn’t the only thing this deal has to offer the MCU as it also allows for plenty of interesting possibilities moving forward for both Sony and the MCU. For reasons that I will explain below, this year and this character could prove to be the make-it or break-it year for the MCU.

The MCU In 2016

This could arguably be the busiest year for the MCU to date. With three movies set to hit theaters in 2017, Marvel Studios will be hard at work filming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (which begins production tomorrow), followed by Thor: Ragnarok and the Spider-Man reboot in the summer. Not only will these three films be in production, but at the end of the year they will start a nine month shoot of the two part Avengers: Infinity War. And let’s not forget that while these are all filming, the remaining Phase 3 films will all be working on scripts and storyboards.

And on the TV side, the remainder of season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will continue production on its third season (which resumes airing on March 8th on ABC), and its more than likely the series will go into production on a fourth season later this fall. Marvel Television and ABC have also ordered pilots for Marvel’s Most Wanted and Damage Control, and they’re actively developing a few other shows, including John Ridley‘s mysterious show and a second comedy. Whereas on the Netflix end, there’s plenty going on. Netflix is currently filming Luke Cage, which should wrap production on season one shortly, and will soon enter production on Iron Fist. Plus, they’ve already ordered a second season of Jessica Jones, and it’s said that they’re looking for a showrunner for a potential spin-off for The Punisher.

As you can see, there are plenty of properties for the heads at Marvel to coordinate. The amount of properties filming will test the strength of Marvel and just how much they can handle. The focus of the company will change depending on what is currently the most pressing need. The MCU has, so far, been a collection of very good, and often great, films. With that success, however, has come some major criticisms, those being the stakes at play in the movies and lackluster villains, which is why the end of Phase 3 is so important.

When we finally arrive at Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel has to make sure that Thanos was worth the wait. Thanos has to be the threat that will truly crush the Avengers and, in all likelihood, be the one to end quite a few of their lives. The build up for him has been going on since 2012 and we will not be getting the final results of this until 2018 and 2019. That’s 6-7 years of making fans wait for something they were promised. And if it disappoints? The MCU faithful could start to turn.

I’ll admit, if Thanos does not live up to the hype, I will be extremely disappointed in the grand scheme of the MCU. Avengers: Age of Ultron was just as much set up for Infinity War as it was a sequel to The Avengers. Marvel has been teasing us with the idea of a villain so powerful that he will command the attention of the entire MCU for 4 years at this point, and they have to deliver, otherwise it could turn people away from sticking around for future Phases of the MCU.

Speaking of other Phases, Disney and Marvel are already planning Phase 4 and 5 amidst working on the entirety of Phase 3. During this current slate of films, we will be introduced to Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, the Inhumans, Spider-Man, and, I’d assume, a fair amount of other heroes that have yet to be teased/hinted at. The first 3 Phases have had the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor as their headliners, but Marvel is ushering in what could be the next generation with the previously mentioned characters. I am led to believe that a majority of them will have sequels in Phase 4, plus the probability that Ant-Man, Thor, and Captain America movies will continue on.

Throughout filming movies this year and prepping others, Marvel has to find the right balance between showcasing the possible future, but also giving the stories at hand the spotlight and attention they need. Most of us are incredibly excited to see Black Panther and Spider-Man debut in Captain America: Civil War, but this is a Winter Soldier sequel and it also needs to feel and act like one.

Spider-Man In 2016

Back at the Phase 3 announcement in 2014, the idea of Captain America: Civil War got me crazy excited. I started looking back at the hints Marvel was laying as the lead up and then of course looked forward to imagine what it could look like. Never did I think that this movie would include Spider-Man, especially since at the time the relationship between Marvel and Sony seemed toxic. So when the deal was struck to bring him into the MCU and share the beloved character, I was immediately excited. But there was also a sense of fear.

This fear was a result of the possibility that, while Marvel and Sony may have agreed upon a deal and are currently happy with the situation, moving forward things can -and probably will- change. Marvel has spent a lot of time making their cinematic universe one of the best and most unique things to happen in cinematic history. They single handily spawned a new way to look at films. ( Thank you, Kevin Feige, for making that happen.)

Not only is Feige overseeing all of Marvel Studios, but when the Spider-Man reboot starts up, he will be serving as a producer on that as well. Civil War may be the first chance for Spider-Man to exist in the MCU, but this production will show us what we can expect from the deal moving forward. It was reported that Sony still has final creative control with the character, but I find it hard to believe that Marvel and Feige would let them do anything that would not fit the larger universe moving forward. How will Sony and Amy Pascal feel about not really being in charge of a movie that they are solely financing and distributing? Only time will tell.

Sony’s pride and final say could be the ones responsible for there not yet being a single piece of promotional art, concept art, or footage that have shown off the web-slinger. Personally, I am 100% behind whoever has decided to leave him out of the marketing and treating him similar to how Disney did Luke Skywalker for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That is not to say I would not be head over heels excited should they reveal the suit before the movie, but seeing it for the first time in theater would be incredible.

When the reboot starts filming this summer, it will be fun to see what other MCU characters could pop up. Rumors have swirled that both Captain America and Iron Man could appear, although those remain rumors for the time being. (Personally, I think that having someone like Ant-Man pop up would be great.) Having these MCU characters appear will be great, but we also need the Spider-verse side characters to shine in their roles and give us new versions of Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, J. Jonah Jameson, and Flash Thompson. Not to mention whatever villains that will be included.

Sony wants a big universe to play in that will give them a surefire $750M per movie, something that The Amazing Spider-Man franchise did not do. They need to take this one movie at a time and not worry about the eventual and inevitable spin-offs. Everyone wants a Venom movie or a Sinister Six movie and more, and I’m sure there are some spin-offs already in development should this next movie knock it out of the park. However, it’s important that the studio takes the time to worry about the still untitled 2017 reboot before turning their attention towards the future.

What It Means Moving Forward

Disney’s Bob Iger has made it clear that this is only the beginning of the MCU, provided us movie goers continue to give them hundreds of millions of our money each time they release a film. For all the reasons stated before (multiple productions, combining studios, etc), 2016 will be the year I think we look back on as the critical point for Marvel. So far they have done a pretty great job at making us care about all the characters that we have met. Captain America: Civil War is the perfect example of this. For every person I see siding with Team Cap, there are equally as many people standing firm with Team Iron Man.

As long as Marvel keeps making movies that feature characters we have come to know and love, have stories that expand the universe, and continue to test and change the genre of each movie, Marvel should continue to be the premiere cinematic universe. This is where the partnership with Sony for the Spider-Man universe should help keep Marvel fresh and give them an avenue to bring in some more recognizable villains. Should they not do this and fall victim to following a formula, the MCU could fall apart faster than Quicksilver could say “You didn’t see that coming?”

Ultimately, Marvel could burn themselves out internally or stretch themselves too thin with so many projects in the works. Feige in particular will be busier than I can fathom. Assuming that they have covered their bases, and so far they have given me very little reason to think they haven’t, 2016 will certainly test the Marvel empire. But if they can remain calm, on track, and prepared, I expect Marvel to come out of the year with the world in their hands, waiting for whatever else they have in store.

For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the addition of the fan-favorite Spider-Man could very well serve as a new jolt of inspiration to continue building this massive cinematic world that Marvel Studios has crafted over the past eight years. It’s just a matter of whether or not they have creative control of the character within this world, or Sony does. Either way, there’s no denying that Spider-Man will play a large role in the MCU going forward, and his debut in this year’s Captain America: Civil War is only the beginning of what is yet to come.