This has been a big, weird, transitional year for Spider-Man movie fans. Last May, they were waiting for the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man – directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield – to hit theaters. Sony was expecting to launch its own shared universe, with Spider-Man spinoffs that included Sinister Six, Venom, and an untitled all-female superhero movie. Then, when ASM2 released to worse reviews/box office returns than any previous Spider-Man film, all those plans went off the rails. It didn’t help that Sony Pictures had a rough year generally, one that culminated in an unfortunate hacking scandal that aired all the company’s embarrassing business.
By the time 2015 started, Sony was looking to make bold moves with their company, and one of those moves included teaming up with Marvel to introduce an ALL-NEW Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first in Captain America: Civil War and then in his own film. Now, some five months later, 19-year-old Tom Holland (Wolf Hall) has been cast in the role.
Here’s what we know about the standalone film so far: it won’t include an origin story (thank the lord) and it will feature a very young Peter Parker in high school. There are other rumors floating around about Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) appearing in the film to recruit Spider-Man for The Avengers, but nothing has been confirmed on that front. However, now that Kevin Feige is starting to do press for the soon-to-be-released Ant-Man, we can probably expect some new information to be revealed here and there.
Case in point: Devin Faraci of Birth.Movies.Death recently talked to Kevin Feige about whether or not we’d see the “soap opera aspect” of Spider-Man in the upcoming movie, to which Feige said:
It’s the soap opera in high school, and those supporting characters, that are interesting. Just as we hadn’t seen a heist movie in a long time, or a shrinking movie in a long time, we haven’t seen a John Hughes movie in a long time. Not that we can make a John Hughes movie – only John Hughes could – but we’re inspired by him, and merging that with the superhero genre in a way we haven’t done before excites us.
Faraci points this out, but it’s worth repeating – the “soap opera aspect” of Spider-Man was incredibly vital to the character and the comics as they were originally conceived. Even Bryan Bendis’ Ultimate reboot was, first and foremost, a soap opera. In fact, the soap opera stuff was such a big deal for Marvel Comics that they (rather clumsily) retconned Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane out of existence just so he could return to life as a single man. And yet, it’s probably fair to say that none of the Spider-Man movies have felt much like a soap opera. I love Spider-Man 2, but even it is far more concerned with Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus than the personal drama between Peter Parker, his aunt, his friends, and his multiple love interests. But that’s the sort of thing that makes Spider-Man so interesting! It’s like how none of the Batman movies have depicted him as an actual detective, despite the fact that that’s his main thing – he’s the world’s greatest detective!
Hearing that Kevin Feige wants to turn to John Hughes for inspiration is music to my ears. That’s the kind of point of view that the last two movies were sorely missing. Does anyone care about the mysterious secret of Peter Parker’s parents? No, not a single person. Does anyone want Peter Parker’s origin to be changed so he has special spider DNA from the get-go? No, that pretty much ruins his everyman status. I’d even wager that people don’t care about big computer-generated super battles with multiple effects-heavy villains unless there’s enough personal drama to back all that up.
Spider-Man, in concept, has a lot in common with 1980s teen dramedies like the ones John Hughes was known for making. It’s about the social hierarchy of high school. It’s about coming of age and falling in love and friendship. It’s about bullies who aren’t black-and-white evil, but are a little more interesting and complicated. That’s what I want to see in a high school-set Spider-Man movie, and then, in between scenes of high schoolers being high schoolers, Spidey can punch as many animal-themed supervillains as he wants.
Will it be enough to put the box office over the top in a way that the last film didn’t? I think so. Then again, I think just seeing a Spider-Man movie trailer that says “from the studio that brought you The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy” will do that.