I went to see Spider-Man Homecoming yesterday, the sixth outing of the popular comic character since its big screen debut in 2002. It is also the third rebooting of the character, marking three incarnations in fifteen years. When a failing Marvel comics sold the rights to some of their characters, before Marvel Studios became established as the connected cinematic juggernaut it is today. Bryan Singer’s X-men, released in 2000, kicked off the boon for comic book movies. The rights to the X-men were and remain owned by Twentieth Century Fox.
Sony Pictures, who had acquired the rights to the Spiderman, followed suit in 2002 with the release of Spider-Man, starring man-cum-boy, Tobey Maguire. A massive hit for Sony, two sequels were released before Marvel joined the film party with the movie that rejuvenated not only Marvel but also the career of Robert Downey Jr with the release of 2008’s Iron Man.
With Iron Man doing gross receipts of over half a billion dollars, Marvel knew they had struck gold. Superheroes were popular, unfortunately for Marvel, one of their best-known characters was still owned by Sony. Sony, no mugs themselves when it comes to films, rebooted the property, this time with Andrew Garfield taking the lead. Though hated by comic geeks and some film fans for being a lazy reboot, the film grossed three-quarters of a billion dollars.
As the Marvel juggernaut gathered pace, they had the foresight to connect all of their stories, with even some television crossover. As all comic characters, both DC and Marvel, have extensive histories and a rabid knowledgeable fanbase, faithful adaption of the characters is quite important. Along with fully rounded characters, there are the well-known story arcs and the many nemeses that are synonymous with each hero.
Anybody who knows anything about films knows that there was always going to be some artistic licence. Bryan Singer not only ignored the costumes of the comics – rightly – he also decided to change the ages and appearances and belatedly the characters of some of the protagonist/antagonist. Wrong.
Still, it would be an extravagant waste of time to recreate a moving version of a comic book story. The ego that is Zack Snyder did that with Watchmen, a near three-hour recreation of the comic. It looked good as his films generally do, but once one had read the comic was pretty pointless.
Marvel decided they wanted an overall story arc, one that would connect all of their films. They decided to go with Civil War. Now whereas Watchmen suffered from comparison with the comic because Civil War was across several titles it does not have the same problem, especially as Marvel have not recreated those stories, they have just taken the overall premise of the Civil War story and used it as the anchor for their films.
Back to Spider-Man. Spider-Man is an integral character in the Civil War story. Though in the comics he is older – in the new film he is a school boy – Marvel obviously felt it was necessary to try and bring the popular web-slinging hero into the fold.
So after Sony’s fifth effort, we have a sixth and third reboot with Tom Holland taking on the mantle of bringing Peter Parker and his alter-ego to life for the big screen. It has to be said the seamless way in which Marvel has integrated Spider-Man into their cinematic universe is a testament to their vision and forward thinking. Spider-Man Homecoming is every bit as slick as you would expect. You can check out a review here.
What I will say is it is noticeable, visually speaking, that this incarnation of Spider-Man is a Marvel one. The colour palette is definitely all MCU, with the best villain thus far of all the Marvel films, suffering from the muddy blacks that are the trademark of Marvel films. Apparently, Spider-Man is going to be the character that takes us, the audience, into phase four of the Marvel master plan. As it was with Iron Man, utilising the heads up display in Tony Stark’s futuristic combat suit, Marvel has anticipated how to fill the void left by the inevitable departure of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and given Spider-Man a hi-tech, talking suit, courtesy of Tony Stark.
The superhero genre has been strong for almost two decades now and shows no sign of slowing down. It will be interesting to see where the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes after the completion of phase four. Spider-Man Homecoming is a great start.