Peter Parker is back at Marvel Studios. Well, kind of. As you more than likely heard by now, Sony and Marvel Studios have agreed to share the iconic hero. A new Spider-Man (which means a new actor and yes, it's still Peter Parker wearing the mask) will make his debut in a Marvel Studios movie, and then his solo projects (and possible spin-off movies) will be released by Sony. Those movies will be able to have cameos by Marvel Cinematic Universe characters and upcoming Marvel Studios movies can use Spidey as a cameo. Think about Spider-Man and Captain America taking on the Sinister Six. Or Spider-Man getting into a witty debate with Iron Man. Makes you all kinds of happy, doesn't it? Obviously, this is a big deal and it's one that's unlikely to happen with Fox in the near future because X-Men: Days of Future Past was a huge success for the studio. Maybe one day Wolverine and the rest of them will return to Marvel Studios, but that won't be soon, so for now, let's talk about Spider-Man's future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
After the Sony leak, just about everyone feels confident Spider-Man will make his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War. Will it be heavily inspired by the source material and the webhead will play a key role in the struggle between Iron Man and Captain America? We'll just have to wait to find out, but it seems safe to say this movie is going to be just loosely inspired by the comic event. While they'll do everything they can to celebrate Parker's first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's a few points making me feel like his role may not be as critical in the story as many of us are thinking it'll be.
This is Captain America's third movie, after all. It needs to deal with his supporting characters and villains (Black Widow, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Baron Zemo), focus on a huge conflict with Tony Stark, and this is apparently the movie that'll introduce T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther. Civil War already has a lot on its plate, doesn't it? Can they work in the wall-crawler and give him a memorable debut? Absolutely, but I'm left feeling skeptical that the narrative will depend on his role. And you know what? That's perfectly fine. Spider-Man coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is incredibly exciting, but he shouldn't be stealing Cap's spotlight while making his entrance.
Even if you enjoyed Sony's recent Spider-Man movies, you have to admit it felt like the studio was playing it very safe with them. All in all, they were fun but very familiar. Leaping back into the hero's origin story and then attempting to make it more complex (without making it more compelling) was a big mistake and it's one that they need to avoid making again. Sure, Peter Parker becomes a great hero because of his experiences, but that isn't something we need to see all over again. When Spider-Man does get his new solo movie, it can't revolve around his origin story. If it does, that would make it the third time we're witnessing a movie about Spidey's earlier years in less than two decades. Enough is enough; we're not talking about a lesser-known hero. Instead, do what The Incredible Hulk did: recap the lead's origin in the opening. It's a story a huge amount of moviegoers are familiar with and there really is no need to take yet another extended look at it or complicate it. Covering the basics during the opening credits is fine and then we can move forward with something new and refreshing. We don't want to see how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man all over again. We want to see a guy who does whatever a spider can. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one.)
The upcoming Spider-Man movie needs to keep it fun and embrace the hero. It should make us smile as we watch him flip across the rooftops and web-sling throughout the city. It should make us laugh as he cracks solid jokes during his encounters and it should be heartfelt as it deals with whoever his love interest may be. We've seen that adding too much to his story can make things convoluted and we've seen how rushed things can be when they desperately want to incorporate classic moments. Spider-Man's return needs to be something that'll make us laugh, cheer, and walk out of the theater feeling happy and thinking optimistically about what the next Spidey adventure will offer. Marvel Studios' focus on making audiences laugh sometimes gets in the way of a movie's tone, but that shouldn't be an issue with Spider-Man. A good Spidey movie needs to be funny and compelling. I have no reason to believe they can't accomplish that if they race past the origin and focus on Peter Parker already being a hero in New York.
We need a new villain. Make it clear or at least imply characters like Doctor Octopus, Venom, Green Goblin, Sandman and everyone else are still out there and we can look forward to a new take on each of them eventually, but give us something new and something captivating. Focus on one villain who has depth and can test Spidey's mental and physical capabilities. If they really want to, they can throw us a bone by having Spider-Man briefly stop a robbery that's being executed by someone like Shocker or Scorpion. That way it's not focusing on multiple villains; just offering one for a fun action scene and showing us they're out there and there could one day be a bigger story with them. As for who they could use as the main antagonist, I've been pretty vocal about Kraven the Hunter. If they skip an extended origin story, that means Spider-Man's already experienced, earned a following and he's doing what he does best. So, it's only natural that would attract the attention of a guy who is obsessed with taking down the biggest physical challenges the world has to offer. Focusing only on Spider-Man's story and Kraven's mission (while loosely teasing other characters and elements) would give them a great opportunity to give the hero and the villain more depth. "But it's too soon to kill Spider-Man!" Spider-Man wouldn't die (read the comic!), but to have him suffer that kind of a defeat and face that kind of villain would be a completely new -- and unexpected -- experience for many people. It can still be a blast and still offer just enough material to give the story more weight and a more powerful theme. I'd rather have one great story with Kraven than keeping him around just so he can keep losing with his fellow villains in the Sinister Six. There's certainly plenty of rogues out there who could fill his spot on the team. As for the demands for Carnage, that could be cool but it needs more buildup because of his origin. Don't worry, I'm sure they'll get there eventually. But hey, maybe they'll come out of the gate swinging and bring that dude out first. Who knows? All that really matters is whether they use the villain they choose well.
The main story shouldn't be crowded, but the world it takes place in most definitely should be. Embrace the bigger universe by unleashing a flood of easter eggs and teasers. You can tease the cinematic future without having it weigh down the narrative. Make us pay attention and generate a whole lot of blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments. It is possible to show all of the possibilities this world has without having it cut into the story and feeling forced! "Was that the guy who will become Prowler one day and was that a possible Silver Sable nod? Wait, did they just say Hammerhead's running a criminal organization? Did they seriously just tease the possibility of a team-up with Daredevil?" Spider-Man has a crowded mythos and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an evergrowing place. This should be a movie that tells a satisfying story while also making us beyond thrilled about what the sequel may offer. That's not really asking too much, is it?
Even though I enjoy the recent recent Spider-Man movies (yes, they're flawed but I think they're still entertaining!), Sony and Marvel Studios agreeing to share Spider-Man and his big world is terrific news. This is the chance to finally give us something new! We've seen Parker's origin and we've seen a slow expansion of his world, but this now gives us the chance to see Parker being thrown into a bigger universe and interacting with different heroes and villains on the big screen. Hopefully they've taken notice of what has and hasn't worked with the previous projects (e.g. unnecessary changes to origin; unfocused and crowded stories). Marvel Studios sure knows how to make movies cheerworthy and fun for viewers of any age and that's something that'll work especially well with Peter Parker. Now, the expansion of Parker's story and his supporting characters and villains are going to get the spotlight they deserve. Plus, the thought of this iconic hero interacting with the characters already in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is simply awesome. Welcome home, Spidey. Now we just have to wait and see who's cast as the new Spider-Man. Brace yourself for a flood of speculation and rumors until we receive the official word!