Big news today then, in the world of Super Hero Movies with the (oddly timed) announcement that Sony and Marvel had struck a deal to share custody of Spider-Man and not only that but he is scheduled to turn up in “Captain America: Civil War” before appearing in another solo movie. It’s great news, news that we’ve always hoped for. So why aren’t I jumping for joy?
First off, I still think it’s a weird thing to highjack one franchise’s sequel to introduce a whole bunch of other characters. Sure, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” brought in The Falcon, but that’s hardly the same as bringing in a hugely popular character from another franchise and debuting a much hyped new character in Black Panther. Add Spider-Man to the mix and you start to wonder whether Captain America’s name even belongs in the title. I felt sorry for Henry Cavill (who, like Andrew Garfield, gave a great performance as the hero in an otherwise mediocre and flawed movie) when his Superman sequel was shanghaied first into a Batman vehicle and then into a DC Universe launch pad for half a dozen other franchises. I, and many others, have been very vocal about how likely it is that the film will collapse under the weight of its own exposition (and gritty dark tone) but the news that Marvel are basically doing the exact same thing has been met with almost universal approval.
Now I’ve been accused more than once of being a biased Marvel fan boy, in fact as io9.com commentator Kuatto memorably put it I “might want to wipe that Marvel residue off my lips” but Civil War hoovering up other heroes to bulk itself up is, to me, doing a disservice to the main character and poses risks to Marvel’s carefully laid, and to date wildly successful plans. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want Marvel to fall flat on its ass. I don’t want DC to, either come to that. I hope each of them gets it right and makes fantastic movies of these beloved characters. You can bet DC won’t be cheered by this news and you have to start to wonder if their decision to shift the release date of “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” to avoid a clash with “Captain America: Civil War” was prompted by the first whispers of the Spider-Man deal.
Although it has a ton of flaws, I actually quite enjoyed “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and for all the things it gets wrong, it gets a lot right too. I like Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man/ Peter Parker and the costume was, by the sequel, spot on – especially the eyes. Moreover, the fight and action sequences were the first time I think they captured Spidey’s acrobatic combat style of the comics and fully brought it to life. From clambering over, under and around the Lizard to swinging through the city of New York, it looked fantastic. With this deal, it seems like they’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. By all means, boot Avi Arad out of the door – he’s been a dead weight on Spider-Man for years now, stretching back to “Spider-Man 3”. But free of studio interference (don’t forget, it was Sony’s desperation for some of that sweet, sweet shared universe dinero that saddled “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” with so much set-up and irrelevance), I still believe Garfield and director Marc Webb can deliver a truly amazing Spider-Man movie. For those celebrating the influence Marvel will now be able to exert, bear in mind Sony still control the franchise and exercise final say in any Spider-Man movies.
It’s no exaggeration to say Spider-Man is a huge figure in the Marvel Universe, arguably the most recognisable and popular character in the entire pantheon and his presence is going to distort and change plans from here on out. It’s pretty clear that Spidey’s absence was hugely beneficial to the MCU that we know and love now, forcing Marvel to go for ‘second tier’ characters, it rehabilitated on-screen Captain America and made Thor – and definitely Iron Man – mainstream superstars. We got an “Avengers” film and then “Guardians Of The Freakin’ Galaxy“!. You think all that would have happened if Marvel had Spider-Man from the get-go? No: we would have had six Spider-Man films by now and maybe one or two other heroes; certainly nowhere near the diversity we have now. Already the effects are being felt. With a Spider-Man solo movie coming in 2017, release dates for “Thor: Ragnarok”, “Black Panther”, “Captain Marvel” and “The Inhumans” have all been pushed back. Like a lead weight on a rubber sheet, Spidey will inevitably distort the MCU around him and that may or may not end up being a good thing. The preponderance of ‘team up’ movies reduces their uniqueness as big events and will only hasten the inevitable saturation point where the Super Hero movie market will implode.
I guess my main discomfort is that this exciting development – and it is an exciting and cool development – is overshadowing things that I was already excited about. Suddenly it feels like “Captain America 3” matters more than “Avengers: Age Of Ultron”, and a solo Spider-Man film completely obscures “Ant-Man”. There’s a great Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin ponders the effect of anticipation on enjoyment:
I guess, for me, I’m worried that Spider-Man is going to become that second bowl of cereal.