HISTORY OF THE SPIDER-MAN FILM (AND TV SERIES): The Watt/MCU Era

Over the past few days, in honor of Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s release, we have traced the circuitous path Spider-Man took from the comic book page to screen both small and big. This draws on this site’s HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM feature that ran from 2011 to 2016, with new and updated information for your enjoyment.

The turmoil over the way Sony screwed up their relationship with Sam Raimi and the way they squandered the reboot franchise had Spider-Man fans saying about how much they wished Marvel Studios could take over the character. Marvel Studios had been producing their own films for a while, and had done so well that they were bought up by Disney. They had a string of films starring Marvel characters that stayed true to the spirit of the comics. Marvel Studios doing a Spider-Man film seemed like a can’t miss proposition.

However, Sony owned the rights to Spidey in perpetuity. Back in its bankruptcy days, Marvel Comics signed away the film rights to the biggest properties to Sony and Fox with deals in place that the studios would own those rights as long as they made a film every 5-6 years. That seems like they were being taken advantage of, and they were, but back then they were mainly worried about keeping the lights on. The idea that they would one day own their own their own film studio was the furthest to their mind. So, it seemed that Spider-Man was stuck in Sony’s web, and nothing short of Disney buying out the studio would free it. And there was no way they would do that, right?

Unbeknownst to all those fans wishing Sony would give Spidey back to Marvel, talks were already afoot between Sony and Marvel Studios to share the character. Discussions began in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2015 when a deal would be finalized. Sony would still own the rights, finance and distribute the Spider-Man film. Marvel would be in charge of the creative with Sony having final say in the character.

Since this was a new arrangement, this meant a new actor playing Spider-Man. Marvel decided to go with a little known actor for the role–the biggest name in the mix was Asa Butterfield. They settled on Tom Holland, who was known for 2012’s The Impossible. At 19, he was the youngest actor cast for the role.

Marvel decided not to have the new Spider-Man debut in his new movie first. Instead, he would debut in Captain America: Civil War. Even though that film was jammed packed with characters–almost every hero that made Earth their home was in the film–and also introduced Black Panther into the MCU too, Spider-Man made a splash in the film. It showed us that the new Spidey would have a mentor ship with Tony Stark and be more of the wise-cracking Spidey we have come to know in the comics. The film also introduced us to a newer, younger Aunt May, portrayed by Marisa Tomei.

Holland made his film debut as Spider-Man in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. The movie shows just how deep the comic book cast is. The film chose a  character inspired by Liz Allen as a romantic partner for Peter, Allan was a character from the early days of the comic book and was  just making her debut in the film franchises.

The Vulture finally makes his Spidey film debut after almost making appearance in Sam Raimi’s aborted fourth film. Portrayed by former Batman Michael Keaton, the film version of Adrian Toomes takes a different approach to crime than the comic book version. Instead of a simple bank robber, Toomes is a man who had his business taken away from him by the government who starts selling scavenged alien weapons to criminals to support his family. That makes him a more complex villain, which makes him a better villain.

The one thing missing from this version is attention given to the death of Uncle Ben. It was one of the flaw I found in the film when I reviewed it. Yes, they were probably right to not rehash the entire origin for the third time. But the death of Uncle Ben, and the effect it has on Peter, is an important part of his character. Having it downplayed as much as it was here was, in my opinion, a mistake.

As has become a trend with superhero media, the new movie also brought a new animated series with it. Spider-Man debuted on Disney XD August 19, 2017 and ran for three seasons.

Unlike other cartoons we’ve covered, this one did not tie into the film’s continuity. It did adapt notable comic book storylines such as Spider-Island and Superior Spider-Man.

Holland’s Spider-Man would appear again in Avengers: Infinity War, where he would fall victim to the ‘Finger Snap of Doom”, and then again in Avengers: Endgame, where he would return to life. But, in between the two films, Spider-Man almost lost to Marvel Cinematic Universe forever.

In 2019, the Spider-Man sharing agreement was coming to an end. Disney wanted to improve to a more 50/50 split of costs and revenue. Sony wanted to keep the agreement the way it was, with Marvel only getting 5% of the profits. By August 2019, the parties seemed resigned to letting the agreement come to an end.

One of the films that might have helped Sony think they needed Marvel any more was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The animated film was in the works since 2014 and finally hit theaters in December 14, 2018. The film featured on Miles Morales as Spider-Man, who has to deal with Spider-Men, Women and Pigs from other dimension who come to his home world when a collider malfunctions.

The film was nothing short of brilliant. It was inventive in its animated style and delivered a lot of heart and a lot of power. It right full won the Best Animated Film Golden Globe and Academy Award. The first of two sequels will arrive in theaters in 2022.

However, while Into the Spider-Verse did prove that Sony could make a great Spider-Man film on their own, potential disaster was averted in September of 2019 and the studios agreed to let Marvel make a third Spider-Man film and an appearance in another movie.

But before that could we could get to that, we would get Spider-Man:Far From Home. The film focuses on Peter adjusting to the loss of his mentor Tony Stark. When Nick Fury comes along to get Spider-Man’s help fighting some Elemental beasts, he meets a new hero named Mysterio. However, Mysterio is not what he seems, and the trust Peter puts into him will have disastrous consequences.

The one thing I found funny was how convenient it was Spidey’s entire supporting cast also got dusted and were gone for four years–Ned, MJ, Aunt May, Happy. No awkward moments of having your teenage crush now being old enough to drink.

That film ended on a cliffhanger with Peter accused of murder and his secret identity being revealed. That cliffhanger will be resolved this week with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Peter goes to Doctor Strange to help put those cats back into the bag. However, the spell goes horribly wrong, and now every single Spider-Man film will part of the MCU.

I have to admit, I am not a fan of the “Spider-Man accused of murder, secret identity plotline.” Yes, Spider-Man works best when he is put through the wringer, but certain creator feel that the bigger the wringer is, the better the story will be. This isn’t always the case (see the comic book story lines “The Second Clone Saga,” “The Other,” “Sins Past” and “One More Day,” just to name a few). And, personally, I can think iof numerous ways that this could be fixed without ever involving Doctor Strange. I mean, after all, this was a S.H.I.E.L.D. operation, right? And Nick Fury should have been informed of what was happening to Peter.  Couldn’t they do something?

However, another part of me doesn’t really care about all of that. No Way Home looks epic, a film that will shape the MCU for years to come. It should be a blast. And with the recent announcement that Sony intends to continue its partnership with Marvel for at least three more Spider-Man films, the blasts should keep on coming for years to come.

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About William Gatevackes 1981 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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