The Future of Spider-Man at the Movies

By  · Published on May 6th, 2016

A Spectacular, Speculative Dive Into Peter Parker’s Future on the Big Screen.

As most of you who would be reading this already know, Sony officially announced the John Watts-helmed reboot of their oft-troubled Spider-Man franchise at Cinema Con in Las Vegas in mid-April. The much-anticipated film is titled Spider-Man: Homecoming, and with that title announcement comes the expected flood of questions and, naturally, no real answers other than a few named cast members and some comments from the filmmakers about the tone of the film. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man made his debut in this weekend’s Captain America: Civil War, giving us an idea of which version of Peter Parker we’ll be getting in Homecoming but providing nothing in the way of what we might be seeing from him in the future. Since we know little else, let’s engage in some irresponsible guesswork.

What does Homecoming mean?

First, that title: Homecoming. It’s been previously talked about on this site that this is obviously at least a partial reference to the return of Spider-Man to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe so that I won’t go into that here. Since we know we’re dealing with a young Peter Parker, another easy association to make is with the annual high school homecoming dance, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if that event were a set piece for the movie. The filmmakers have referenced John Hughes as an inspiration for the tone of the film, and from that standpoint, it’s not hard to imagine a climactic battle between Spidey and the film’s (yet unnamed) villain that our hero is desperate to wrap up to avoid standing up his homecoming date. Or perhaps the climactic battle might even occur at the dance itself, with the villain crashing the school dance in pursuit of Parker.

But as much as it’s easy to associate homecoming with the relatively simpler days of our high school lives, the term homecoming is also frequently used in a much more somber context. A soldier’s homecoming from war for instance; we could very well be looking at a plot in which our hero has to face the ramifications of his involvement with the Avengers in Civil War. A theme explored in most iterations of Spider-Man, and especially in the more recent Ultimate Spider-Man line, is the constant battle Spidey has to wage for his reputation; while always heroic in the eyes of the reader, he’s constantly vacillating between hero and villain from the perspective of his city and the world at large.

Marvel Comics

The Villain

Speaking of heroes and villains and everything in between, the Homecoming title could also be a reference to whoever ends up being the villain of this movie. Many of Spider-Man’s greatest foes have been his proverbial chickens coming home to roost: the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, Carnage (in some story lines). All of those villains are after Spider-Man for personal reasons, especially in the Ultimate Spider-Man (USM) continuity. The Venom angle is especially interesting; many people have already noted that the issue that introduced Spider-Man’s sinister black symbiote suit was called “Homecoming.” The introduction of the black suit led to the eventual introduction of Venom, arguably one of the greater villains of Spider-Man comic book lore. While I hope that, assuming this newest installment is on the mark and well received, the symbiote/Venom storyline is eventually explored, I don’t think it’s at all likely he’ll be the first villain they tackle.

Here’s where I see as the greatest predicament for screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein with this installment: nearly all of the best Spider-Man villains have already been used, and a lot of them not that long ago. One of the biggest knocks on Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 was the rushed introduction of far too many villains (Electro, Green Goblin, and Rhino), including one in literally the last scene of the movie.

In similar fashion, Sam Raimi’s much maligned Spider-Man 3 took two great Spider-Man villains (Sandman and Venom) and did a terrible mess of a job with them. Herein lies the problem for Watts and company: they probably want to keep the villain count low to avoid the Webb problem, and they most assuredly want the villain to seem faithful to the version we know and love/hate from the comics. But do they want to reuse a villain that audiences have seen (with often questionable execution) in relatively recent films?

For instance, I love Green Goblin as much as I’d assume most Spidey fans do: he’s a dangerous and formidable foe for Spider-Man, and he has a fascinating, complicated relationship with Peter Parker as a person that adds an extra level of complexity to their encounters. The problem? We’ve already seen him. Twice. And the last time we saw him he was murdering the most charming and redeeming part of a reboot that seemed unfortunately doomed from the start. Frankly, I don’t know if Watts wants to touch that, and I think the same argument can be made for the other villains previously showcased onscreen with Spider-Man.

Personally, I think Mysterio would be a lot of fun to see on screen for the quasi-psychedelic feel he could lend to his scenes, but there has been nothing to hint even that he might show up. Rumors have floated Vulture as a potential villain, rumors that seem to be based primarily on the filmmakers at one time being in talks with Michael Keaton (Batman, Birdman, Vulture…get it?) for a villain role in the film. Keaton is now reportedly out, but I‘m still betting on Vulture as the baddie in this one. He’s one of the oldest Spider-Man villains and a member of the Sinister Six. He also flies, and with Robert Downey, Jr. already confirmed to be appearing as Iron Man, it provides an easy set up for a climactic aerial battle over New York. The Russo brothers did a fantastic job capturing Spider-Man’s web-slinging action in Civil War. Assuming that Watts and company are going to use a similar visual style for the action scenes in Homecoming, Vulture would be a natural fit.

The Women of Spider-Man

Lastly, but just as (if not more) importantly, I would be remiss not to bring up the subject of the women of Spider-Man: Homecoming. First, I love the casting of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. I’m a huge fan of the USM version of Aunt May, who for those unfamiliar was younger, a bit tougher, and not afraid to give Peter hell if the situation called for it. After the few minutes of screen time she got in Civil War, she already had me totally convinced that she’s perfect for the role. The other women who have been cast so far are much more of a question mark. Singer/voice actor Zendaya has been cast in an unnamed role that the director has only confirmed is (a) not Peter’s love interest, (b) will play a significant role in future Spider-Man films, and (c) is playing a character named Michelle, which I would guess is most likely a working name being used to hide an obvious giveaway. Laura Harrier, an actress without any previous major film roles, has also been cast, but only in a role so far described as another classmate. If you’re hoping for Gwen or MJ (who I’d especially love to see again), hope is not lost, but there’s no one on the cast list yet that fits the bill.

Bold Predictions

Now that all that’s been said, here are a few irresponsible predictions for what we will see in Spider-Man: Homecoming:

1. Robert Downey Jr’s appearance will be more than a cameo, but I don’t think this will feel like a “team-up” movie. He’ll make an appearance early (I’m thinking something similar to the USM sequence where Peter spends most of the issue trying to get downtown to stop a baddie, only to arrive and find that Iron Man has already taken care of it, a sequence that screams “John Hughes does a superhero movie”), and then reappear for the climactic showdown with the villain.

2. Nick Fury will be in this movie. It may be brief, just for a lecture, or a “stay out of this, kid” type scene, but I think he shows up.

3. Mary Jane will make an appearance. She and Peter may not be together at this point, but I think she’ll be around, and frankly I’d really like to see this franchise breathe life into a character that, in my opinion, wasn’t adapted well in the Raimi films. For all their flaws, the Webb movies nailed it with Gwen Stacy, and I’d love to see MJ get the same treatment.

4. Homecoming won’t necessarily follow any particular storyline we’ve had in Spider-Man comics before, but I think it will take its inspiration from the Ultimate universe. Having seen Civil War, the Peter Parker we meet there fits the bill of the one from the pages of USM. The humor and high school drama of the series fits the bill for the tone the filmmakers have described (there’s literally an issue of USM that’s basically The Breakfast Club in 20 pages), and there is an element of family, relationships, and the ramifications of being a super hero on those things that, if done correctly, could provide some powerful emotional content to this movie that we haven’t necessarily had with previous versions of on-screen Spider-Man. USM also offers the option of continuity; if Tom Holland ages out of the role or decides to move on, we could potentially see the passing of the web shooters to Miles Morales.

Those are all the thoughts I have on this one for now, though I’m sure I’ll have much more as more casting announcements are made and the movie moves into the production phase. But as for now, I’m tentatively quite excited about this latest entry, and I hope other Spider-Man fans are as well.

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