When the news of Disney and Sony’s alleged divorce broke, I was fairly ambivalent.
After all, Spidey had a great run in the Avengers, and Far From Home ended on a really interesting cliffhanger that didn’t require any connection to the MCU, whatsoever.
But it seems that Spider-Man is far too lucrative to be pried away from Mickey’s gloved hands; the two studios recently reached an agreement, with Marvel’s Kevin Feige to produce the third Spider-Man film, officially completing the Homecoming trilogy, and Peter Parker to put in one more appearance in a future, unnamed, Marvel movie.
Feige also made a vague allusion to the possibility of cinematic universe collision:
“Spider-Man is a powerful icon and hero whose story crosses all ages and audiences around the globe. He also happens to be the only hero with the superpower to cross cinematic universes, so as Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse you never know what surprises the future might hold.”
Not sure how to interpret that; might Tom Holland’s Spider-Man cameo in the Spider-Verse, encountering Tom Hardy’s wonderfully weird version of Venom? It’s much too early to speculate, but personally, I’m fairly disappointed that Spidey is staying in the MCU.
As much as I loved the way that Marvel fleshed-out their world by placing young Peter Parker in the ruins of “Avengers 9/11,” turning the character into a superhero fanboy and forging a beautiful father/son dynamic with Iron Man, it feels as though that chapter is over.
Marvel’s reinvention of Spider-Man was clever and unique, and exactly what was needed after the dreadful Amazing Spider-Man 2. But Holland’s Spider-Man lacks the “everyman” quality so vital to the character.
What makes Spider-Man so uniquely appealing, and relatable, is his constant struggle; the Sam Raimi trilogy is still the purest incarnation of Peter Parker, in the sense that he was always the underdog. Penniless, forced to deliver pizzas, even assisting J. Jonah Jameson’s propaganda campaign against him, Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker was the definition of downtrodden. But he put that mask on and strived to make a difference despite his chronic exhaustion, despite the fact that the rent was late, his wallet empty, and his personal life on the brink of collapse.
Maguire’s Spider-Man was far closer to the modern millennial/zoomer reality, a hellscape of dead-end jobs, unpaid internships, and sleep deprivation, even down to the bizarre hostility of the media.
In contrast, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is a trust-fund kid. He casually inherited a series of increasingly powerful suits, and eventually, even a global surveillance and drone-strike system. His friends and loved ones are all completely aware and accepting of his identity, and his commitment to heroism causes him no personal suffering whatsoever, other than the occasional bruise or nosebleed.
It’s just too easy for Holland’s Spider-Man to play the hero – he doesn’t need to sacrifice a single thing. And to me, the beauty of Spider-Man is the weight of his burden; while Thor, Doctor Strange and Captain America are sleek superhumans, Spider-Man is supposed to be one of us, struggling to survive the daily grind. No amount of meta superhero fandom and cutesy pop culture references can replace that.
Sony’s quality control, however, is wildly inconsistent. The studio destroyed their last live-action Peter Parker in their blind haste to copy Marvel’s success; there’s no guarantee that Spidey would return to his roots.
Then again, the animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was one of the greatest superhero films ever made, right up there with The Incredibles. Venom, on the other hand, was carried solely by Tom Hardy’s charisma; without Hardy’s intense commitment to the role, the film would have been infinitely forgettable.
So, I’m conflicted. Sony’s output is as consistent as a coin toss, while Marvel remains strong and steady, but constrained by the uniform tone of their cinematic universe. Marvel is unlikely to create something as boldly creative as Into The Spider-Verse, but they probably wouldn’t have released a turd in the wind like Venom either.
For better or worse, Peter Parker is staying put, and so is his identity as a rich kid with daddy issues. He’s far from the worst Spider-Man we’ve had, but he fails to embody the selfless sacrifice that defines Spider-Man.
At least J.K. Simmons is playing J. Jonah Jameson again; maybe he’ll manage to make Peter Parker’s life a living nightmare, as it should be.
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