Spiderman has earned his title as the face of Marvel Comics. He, alongside the X-Men, saved them in the early 90s when the company filed for bankruptcy, and his first feature film appearance began what became a twenty-year domination of superhero movies in Hollywood.
A bold and complex hero, Spiderman has brought enormous success and credibility to Marvel; but the upcoming reboot Spiderman: Homecoming is not without criticism, with many questioning the real need for a reboot merely three years after the polarising Amazing Spiderman 2. In an increasingly saturated market in which the standard of a solid superhero movie has never been higher, is there still a place for Spidey on the big screen?
Spiderman 2 is often ranked as one of the best comic book adaptations, with an impressive 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But as the series has continued, the perceived quality of the films has decreased. I was more pleased with Andrew Garfield than Tobey Maguire, the former of whom I thought bore the most physical and characteristic similarities to Peter Parker; audiences were not as impressed, with AS2 becoming the least financially successful in the franchise. It has the lowest box office numbers out of the five films; and while it is difficult to criticise a taking of $708,982,323 in worldwide ticket sales, it demonstrates perhaps a lack of interest in comparison to the $890,871,626 taken by Spiderman 3.
Spiderman is no longer the major player in Marvel in the way Batman is to DC; between the release of Sam Raimi and Marc Webb’s films, heroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor entered the public consciousness and even since then Guardians of the Galaxy have been thrown in the mix. In an arguably over-saturated market, Spidey may be too familiar or overdone to stand out from the crowd.
One criticism lies in the casting of Tom Holland and the inclusion of Peter Parker at all given Marvel’s other Spiderman character Miles Morales has never had an onscreen portrayal. It would have been exciting to see Morales, who is mixed-race, see his origin and character development on the big screen. While we are assured he is getting an animated feature treatment, I’m sure I’m not the only fan disappointed in seeing the same “With great power comes great responsibility” origin again. And don’t get me started on Spider-Gwen. What could have been…
The franchise may also have been hindered by licensing rights, with Marvel owning the film rights to its most successful characters but Sony owning Spiderman. Most likely following AS2, Sony decided to become more generous with who can do what with Spidey. In December 2014, Sony and Marvel were revealed to have had discussions about allowing Spider-Man to appear in Captain America: Civil War while having control of the film rights remaining with Sony.
However, in 2015, Sony and announced that Spider-Man would appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the character appearing in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film as well as a Spider-Man film. Sony Pictures will continue to own, finance, distribute, and exercise final creative control over the Spider-Man films. So expect to see Spidey a lot more now the two parties have come to an agreement.
While the franchise may have benefited from an extended break from cinematic Spidey, I remain optimistic about Homecoming. Tom Holland is funny, likeable and captures the youth and exuberance of Peter Parker perfectly. Besides, with expectations so low, the filmmakers could well feel liberated to make the Spidey film they (and the fans) really want.
Granted this reboot feels redundant given both the recent Marc Webb outings and the already crowded superhero movie arena, but Spiderman’s story will always be important regardless of the medium.
Spiderman is a powerful symbol for the underdog, channelling his vulnerability and human flaws into being a complex, irreverent hero which makes for compelling reading. Fans continue to appreciate the most enduring character in comic book canon in all his glory; time will tell if Homecoming will appease the naysayers.
Spider Man: Homecoming is in UK cinemas on 7 July.