This was not the column we were going to bring you last night. That’s a good thing. Firstly because that column is slightly more timely next month and secondly because it’s been confirmed that Spider-Man is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The geek internet is in the process of melting down. So, this month I’m going to tell you why this is important, what’s going to happen and what the problems could be.
Why This Is Important
This panel pretty much sums it up.
Less charmingly facetious…ly, it’s an enormous deal three different ways. Firstly this is a precedent setter, where characters controlled by two different studios are going to appear in the same fictional universe. It’s not entirely unprecedented, sure, but it’s also very rare.
Secondly, well, money. I don’t want to be the kind of entertainment journalist that obsesses over Box Office but Marvel are riding a wave of consistent, and huge, success in theaters. Sony also have some superhero movies.
Joking aside, the Spider-Man movies have done massively well. However they have been critically savaged and that, combined with the near total hack of Sony’s files from last year, has put the studio in quite the bind. Multiple iterations of Spider-Man spinoffs have been floated and quietly wandered off and the franchise is, if not moribund, then certainly not in high gear. This shakes things up.
That leads to the third positive here; this is a legitimate event. This feels big. Again, part of that is the two financial juggernauts. But combine that with fan nostalgia and you’ve got a recipe for success that may just be bulletproof. There’s a huge groundswell of fans who are already viewing this as Spider-Man coming home and it’s easy to see why. The Marvel universe is split into three on the big screen; Fox have the X-Men and Fantastic Four, Sony have Spider-Man and Marvel have everyone else. This feels a little more complete. The idea of completion is one of the engines that drives comic fandom so appealing to it is a smart move.
What’s Going to Happen
Here’s what the Marvel Phase III release slate looked like yesterday;
And here’s what it looks like now:
May 6 – Captain America: Civil War
November 4–Doctor Strange
May 5th–Guardians of the Galaxy 2
July 17th–Spider-Man movie
November 3rd–Thor: Ragnarok
May 4th–The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1
July 6th–Black Panther
November 2nd–Captain Marvel
May 3rd–The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2
That’s some pretty seismic repositioning, especially for the poor Inhumans movie, which gets punted a full year. We’ll get to what that might mean shortly.
Now the scheduling is laid out, what happens next is easy. In fact, here’s Marvel to tell us:
‘Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.”
So that’s a new Spider-Man movie and a guest appearance in another movie prior to that. Go Team Spidey! Webby high fives for everyone, right?!
In the immortal words of Weird Al Yankovic, enh, not so much.
Let’s deal with the biggie first; people are bored of origin stories. The biggest fear about Peter Parker stepping across to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is we’ll be subjected to his origin story for the third time on screen in under two decades. Trust me, the moment Uncle Ben is announced as being cast for that Spider-Man movie? The ennui wave will be visible from space
Then there’s the question no one at either studio wants to answer;
Does it have to be Peter?
I’m not saying Pete’s not earned his chance to stand with the Avengers, he has. I am saying that by putting him there you play into the biggest problem Marvel have; diversity.
By the time Captain Marvel comes out in 2018 it will have taken twenty movies and a full decade for a Marvel film featuring a female lead to make it to theatres. That’s indefensible and made even more so by the fact a treatment for a Black Widow movie existed before the original Iron Man. Throw in Scarlet Johanson’s continued box office success in female led action movies and it’s even more mystifying. Black Panther fares precisely one movie better, arriving in the slot before Widow. Every other Marvel movie lead is white and most of them are male.
Now you could argue that’s just a function of the subject matter. And it is. It’s the most boring function of the subject matter. The success of Kamala Khan, Ms Marvel, is proof that the audience for non-white Marvel characters isn’t just out there it’s actively growing. With that in mind, Miles Morales, the African-American/Hispanic Spider-Man introduced a few years ago is surely a much more interesting choice. There’s even the perfect casting ready to go. He’s played the role before too, as Black Youth Project reported.
Photo copyright Black Youth Project
Despite this, he’s, odds are, not going to be Spider-Man this time around. An event this big will mean the studios will want to play it safe and safe is spelt ‘Parker’. Next time may very well be different but it’s way too early to be sure. So, let’s assume its Peter for now.
The Wall Street Journal are reporting that the character will first appear in Captain America 3: Civil War. And that’s potentially not good news. The movie’s based on a comic storyline where, following a disaster that kills hundreds of people, Iron Man champions the idea of superheroes going public and registering with the government. Spider-Man is his big prestige test case. Captain America opposes him, battle lines are drawn, people get punched a lot, several people die for a while. The usual.
I can see why Spider-Man’s being looked at to appear in this movie, because he’s a part of the comic. The problem is, putting Spider-Man in theredamages his arrival and the movie he arrives in. Especially as prior to this Civil War has been hinted at as being a clash over the fate of Bucky, Captain America’s old partner turned cryonically frozen amnesiac assassin.
That works perfectly because the quest to redeem Bucky powers a good chunk of the Captain America movies. Likewise the revelation that he killed Tony Stark’s parents pushes him way outside his comfort zone and puts the two characters on a very personal and emotional collision course. Throw in Spider-Man and it diminishes both him and the plot. A civil war where everyone loses and Peter goes back to swinging through his own, oddly quiet, version of New York would certainly put a dent in that much sought after good will.
His presence also means the Inhumans plot line plays out a full year later which may have serious effects on Agents of SHIELD given how much their arc plots seem to be built around that. Also, with three of the five planned Marvel Netflix shows still in pre-production it’s a fair bet he’ll be at least mentioned in passing there too. Then there’s just how much two way traffic there’s going to be. Will Spider-Man move into Avengers Tower? Will Stark Industries stage a hostile buyout of Oscorp? Will Spider-Man be in Infinity War? It’s very early days and speculation is rife but we do know that cross-pollination between the two franchises is being looked at. After all, no one wants to leave money on the table and it’s so much easier to pick up with web shooters. Just don’t ask whether they should be mechanical or biological…
Regardless of how you feel about it, this is massive news. Whether it’s Peter Parker, Miles Morales or someone else altogether , Spider-Man coming home is going to change things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever. Now all we have to do is wait and see what happens next.
But first, some music! Take it away boys!