The Marvel Cinematic Universe just got bigger thanks to the groundbreaking deal that allows Marvel Studios to produce “Spider-Man” films in partnership with Sony Pictures, the studio that controls the wall-crawler’s film rights. This is indeed great news for fans dying to see Spider-Man side by side with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest of the Avengers. It seems fans are going to get the best of both worlds as Sony will continue to pursue side Spider-Man films like Drew Goodard’s much talked about “Sinister Six” spinoff and the “Venom” film connected to Alex Kurtzman while Marvel integrates Peter Parker into its shared cinematic universe. Spider-Man will make his Marvel Cinematic Universe in another Marvel film — with many speculating it will be in “Captain America: Civil War” considering the role Spider-Man played in the comic book version of “Civil War” — before his first Marvel Studios solo film debuts July 27, 2017.
Yet, in recent years, fans have sat through a few Spider-Man misfires following Sony’s relaunched film franchise, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which kicked off in 2012 and received a sequel in 2014. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were deeply praised by many fans and critics for their roles as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy and the films certainly looked spectacular, but both “Amazing Spider-Man” films underperformed at the box office and did not garner the same fan and critical love Marvel Studios films routinely receive. The new deal seems like a win-win for both studios, a chance to make a “Spider-Man” film for the ages. As for how they pull that…? Well, we have a few suggestions.
Focus on Humor
Spider-Man has long been one of Marvel’s most humorous heroes, always ready with a well-timed quip to go with his well-placed web. Being taken down by Spidey is like being taken down by a standup comedian with super powers, but recent films seem to have forgotten this, and while the “Amazing Spider-Man” films had their share of laughs, the extent and potency of Spider-Man’s humor was downplayed. This was also an issue in the more well-received Sam Raimi films as Spider-Man’s signature banter was mostly silenced. Marvel Studios films are known for their humor, something that makes one of Peter Parker’s most beloved traits feel right at home in the MCU.
Bring Back J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson
One of the key elements of the Spider-Man mythos noticeably absent from the “Amazing Spider-Man” films was the world of the Daily Bugle. The paper’s staff and setting is so vital to Peter as a character that the films seemed incomplete without them. The Bugle keeps Spider-Man connected to his city and allows for many diverse and fascinating supporting characters to be part of Peter and Spidey’s adventures. Of course, there is no Bugle without its publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. While Spider-Man will be recast for the new film, even director Marc Webb and company realized what a tall order it was to replace J.K. Simmons, who delivered three iconic performances in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy. In a recent interview on “The Howard Stern Show,” Simmons was asked about returning to play the flat-topped publisher of the Daily Bugle. Simmons replied, “I just heard that we… that’s a possibility,” bringing hope to fans everywhere that Simmons’ Jameson will live to bellow at his staffers once again. Fans want it, Simmons is open to it and hopefully Marvel and Sony are getting the contracts ready to bring Simmons back to the role that he made so great in the first set of “Spider-Man” films.
Tell Smaller Stories
Marvel certainly has some huge stories coming from “Age of Ultron” to “Civil War” to the coming “Infinity War.” These stories are massive in scope and will be epic in scale, but Marvel is also known for smaller, personal stories that make its characters relatable and would be perfect fodder for Marvel and Sony to explore. Spider-Man has that perfect balance between the bombastic epics of the Avengers and the small, street perspective of the coming Netflix series like “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage.” Spider-Man is Marvel’s everyman, and like in the comics he could be both the heart of the MCU and a relatable POV through which fans can enter and explore. Some of his greatest comic stories were not cosmic or even large in scope — stories like “The Death of Jean DeWolff,” “The Boy Who Collected Spider-Man” and “Kraven’s Last Hunt” were all smaller, more personal tales that cut to the core of what Spider-Man and Peter Parker are all about. The new “Spider-Man” could strike that balance between over-the-top super hero action and humanistic storytelling and give a whole new perspective to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
More Villains than the Osborns
Norman and Harry Osborn are both great villains, but they’ve been prominently featured across two iterations of the “Spider-Man” film franchise. It’s time to give the spotlight to the other great villains in Spidey’s rogues gallery. Sony’s “Sinister Six” spinoff — depending on whether it starts from scratch or pulls threads from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” — could set up some of the villains that could then potentially move over to Marvel and Sony’s co-production. Of course, the film has been delayed from its November 2016 release date, and may very well come out after the MCU “Spider-Man” movie. Spider-Man has arguably the richest and most diverse cast of villains of any Marvel hero, and it would be a wise decision to tap into that roster to bring new threats to the big screen for this new version of the franchise.
Bring in other Spideys
One of the most persistently talked about possible directions for Marvel and Sony is to bring in Miles Morales, the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man, as the MCU’s version of Spider-Man. That said, Miles and Peter Parker don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Perhaps young Miles could be inspired to take up the mantle of Spider-Man by a living Peter Parker and the studios would have not one but two Spider-Men at their disposal. Nor does the legacy of Spider-Man end with Peter and Miles, and Marvel and Sony could also explore Spider-Girl, Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman (wouldn’t that new costume look great on the big screen?), Silk or Spider-Gwen on film, via Netflix or on television. A veritable universe of Spider characters have just opened up to the brain trust at Marvel and should not be forgotten as a new era of Spider-Man begins.
Focus on Female Characters
Mary Jane Watson is almost as important to the narrative of Spider-Man as Peter Parker himself. Between Pepper Potts, Jane Foster and Peggy Carter, Marvel has done a great job populating its cinematic universe with deeply layered female characters that do far more than complement the male heroes, and Mary Jane is arguably the most important non-powered woman in the Marvel Universe. Despite the success “ASM” had with Gwen Stacy, getting Mary Jane right this time is crucial to provide all the inspiration this new Spider-Man needs. Or, perhaps Marvel and Sony could bring a new romantic figure into Peter’s life. Perhaps it is time for Carlie Cooper, Felicia Hardy or Betty Brant to take their place as Spidey’s big-screen love interest. At its heart, “Spider-Man” is a love story, and since Sony just told the tragic tale of Gwen Stacy, it could be MJ’s turn once again. Hopefully, fans will either hit the jackpot with a new MJ or experience a brand new lady love for Peter Parker.
Not Another origin
Spider-Man has one of the most iconic super hero origins, but fans have seen it — twice. A third rehash could prove disastrous. The good news is that Spider-Man’s origin is so entrenched that it could be told during a credits sequence or in a brief prologue, allowing the film to jump right into new territory. Uncle Ben’s message about power and responsibility should be felt in every minute of a “Spider-Man” film, but there’s no need to cover this well trod ground and his tragic death a third time. The same goes for that fateful spider bite. It’s time for Marvel and Sony to bring a fresh take to Spider-Man and his world to enter a new era of greatness.
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