In less than eight weeks, Marvel Studios will have reacquired the rights to all of the former Netflix properties as the two-year hold expires, with The Punisher and Jessica Jones both being canceled on February 18th of last year. Of course, Marvel got the rights back to Iron Fist months ago, but nobody seemed to care based on how painfully mediocre Danny Rand’s solo series turned out to be, with most of the speculation unsurprisingly focusing on Charlie Cox’s Daredevil.
Almost as soon as Netflix’s option expired, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen found himself linked to an R-rated miniseries, a guest stint on She-Hulk, a standalone movie and a supporting role in Spider-Man 3. There’s every chance that we won’t be seeing Cox at all, of course, but a new fan theory has put forward the idea of Tom Holland’s third outing as the web-slinger reintroducing the Defenders into the mix, just not the lineup that Netflix subscribers would be familiar with.
The street-level superhero team have been through multiple incarnations and roster changes in the comic books, with the original group comprising of Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor and Silver Surfer when they first joined forces in 1971. We already know that the Sorcerer Supreme is lending support in Spider-Man 3, so it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility to set up the vintage Defenders for his solo sequel that arrives just a few months later.
As ScreenRant explains:
It may be that the heroes who come together to defeat Spider-Man 3’s villain will be the MCU’s take on the Defenders. Among them could be Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, and possibly one or two more. It may be that they’ll meet through the multiverse, which is confirmed to play a big role in the story. Charlie Cox’s Daredevil may cross over from an alternate timeline and help the two in their mission. If Daredevil’s presence in the story is more than just a cameo, he could actively participate in the action. Having him on the MCU’s Defenders roster would be a good move, because even though Marvel may not want to draw too much from the Netflix show, throwing in Daredevil could please fans of Charlie Cox’s character.
Doctor Strange 2 can [then] expand on the team and make it look much more recognizable to those familiar with the 1970s and 1980s comics. Marvel already has Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in the MCU, which would make it easy for either to be added. Through the multiverse, Marvel could also incorporate long-time Doctor Strange ally and occasional Defenders leader Nighthawk. There’s a chance that Namor the Sub-Mariner could make an appearance as well. The Defenders may not get their own movie, but they may not need one if they get enough to do in Spider-Man 3 and Doctor Strange 2.
As fans will know, the original Defenders were hardly restricted to New York City, and frequently battled interdimensional or extraterrestrial threats. And if ScreenRant’s theory turns out to be on the money, then not only would this instantly establish them as a completely different entity to the Netflix version, but it also opens the door to multiple crossovers that would have seemed impossible prior to the impending introduction of the multiverse.