Marvel is not messing about with Spider-Man. Few were expecting his appearance in Captain America: Civil War to be much more than a cameo, perhaps even a closing-credits scene in which he’s recruited by Iron Man for the Avengers’ next adventure. But last week’s final trailer for the Russo brothers’ upcoming superhero smackdown made it clear the studio has grander plans for the character.
Spiderman in civil war
There was Spidey, pinging Captain America’s shield out of Steve Rogers’ grasp as if it were nothing more than a frisbee. He’s only on screen for a matter of seconds, but it’s immediately clear this is a version of Spider-Man brimming with the arrogance of youth and not at all interested in respecting his superhero elders.
The response from fans has been sizeable, even if some were caught off-guard by the new Steve Ditko-inspired “smooth” suit. The promo has now been viewed the most times of any trailer since Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and with the hype surrounding Civil War increasingly stratospheric, it suddenly looks likely to behave more like an Avengers movie than a Captain America one at the box office.
The decision to allow Spidey to join the Marvel mob for the first time already looks vindicated, the fan fatigue which damaged both Amazing Spider-Man movies instantly jettisoned. You have to feel sorry for Andrew Garfield: an excellent Spidey unfortunate to be cast in a premature reboot, he never got this kind of chance.
Former cast members, including Garfield himself, are now lining up to kick Spider-Man’s previous incarnation while he’s down, but in truth it was studio politics that did for Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man films. With the rights to just one superhero, Sony was forced to roll out Spider-Man over and over again in excruciatingly similar movies. Imagine Marvel remaking 2008’s Iron Man now, with a new actor and a similarly pitched origin story – there would be an almighty fan revolt. That’s almost exactly what its rival did with 2002’s Spider-Man and 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, even regurgitating Uncle Ben’s death and the Flash Thompson fight scene.
Before Sony struck a deal last year to share Spidey with Marvel, it had tentative plans to plunge Peter Parker into a battle with supervillain ensemble the Sinister Six, which would at least have been a new direction. But how much easier, and fresher, for Spider-Man to take his rightful place among the Avengers, and begin an entirely new kind of adventure?
Even better, when audiences do eventually get bored again – and a new solo Spidey movie is expected as early as next year – Marvel has enough superheroes in its stable to give the wallcrawler a few years off. Something similar is already planned for Iron Man, who according to an interview with the Russo brothers in Forbes magazine is likely to be sidelined once his current story arc, as essayed by Robert Downey Jr, reaches its conclusion:
I think if and when he is done with the character I think you will find that Iron Man might disappear for a while. I think the only way that you could reboot that character is to give a generational gap that would allow another actor to at least have a chance to redefine that character without the enormous spectre of Robert hanging over it. There are so many characters in the Marvel universe that can pick up the ball and run with it through the next phase or two before you need to see Iron Man again.
The interview also hints at how hands-on Marvel were in the Spidey casting process. The Russos, who are also overseeing the next two Avengers movies, were able to screen-test British youngster Tom Holland alongside Downey Jr and Chris Evans (Captain America) to make sure the chemistry bubbled.
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn tweeted this week, after watching Civil War, that Holland will be to Spider-Man what “Downey is to Iron Man, Ledger was to the Joker, Pratt is to Star-Lord”
That’s some praise indeed, but all the signs are good. Spidey looks to be in his best shape since Spider-Man 2, and unlike in 2004 there are no signs of imminent departure into emo haircut territory.