Spider-Man is getting his third shot at a movie franchise, although this time he'll be joined by many of his friends in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Tom Holland will don Spider-Man's red and blue tights in Spider-Man: Homecoming next summer.
Interviews with the cast and director suggest that Spider-Man: Homecoming will be totally different than past attempts at Spider-Man films, with a significantly younger and more diverse cast, and more of an emphasis on Peter Parker. But "different" isn't necessarily a key to success. Here are 5 suggestions on how to get the MCU's Spider-Man right:
The Supporting Cast Matters
One of the strongest aspects of the Spider-Man franchise is its large supporting cast. From Peter's classmates at Midtown High School to his co-workers at the Daily Bugle to his many paramours and romantic interests, Peter Parker has tons of friends and family, each of whom has their own unique story and personality. One of the previous franchises' biggest mistakes was shunting Spider-Man's supporting cast aside, turning them into glorified cameos and window dressing.
If Marvel and Sony want to create an accurate Spider-Man experience, they need to flesh out Peter Parker's friends and family and make them matter to the movie audience. Introducing Liz Allen or Flash Thompson might not impact the success or failure of Spider-Man: Homecoming, but seeing those characters grow up with Peter will give fans more reasons to come back for the sequels.
Look at the Harry Potter movies, which successfully juggled a cast of dozens of characters. Some of those characters (like Neville or the Weasleys) only had a few moments per movie, but fans cared about them and enjoyed watching them grow up alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Marvel and Sony have their own opportunity to create a cast that grows older with its fanbase, but it'll only work if viewers care about them.
Not Every Supervillain Needs a Connection to Spider-Man
Spider-Man has one of the best rogues galleries in comics, an eclectic mix of mad scientists, petty crooks with superpowers, and supervillains with tragic pasts. Unfortunately, previous movies changed many of these villains' origins so they had some sort of link to Spider-Man, presumably to give their fights a more personal stake. In fact, the only movie supervillain who DIDN'T have a weird tie to Spider-Man is the Rhino, and he might have been the best part of Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Some of Spider-Man's best villains are friends gone bad, but not every character needs a connection to Peter Parker to be effective. Making Sandman Uncle Ben's killer isn't a compelling story twist, it's just cheap drama that adds unnecessary angst to an already angsty character. Plus, it lessens the impact of villains who actually should have a tie to Spider-Man.
Rumors indicate that Spider-Man: Homecoming will pit Spider-Man against the Vulture, Shocker and the Tinkerer, none of whom should have any sort of personal connection to Peter Parker. Sometimes villains are just bad people, not messes that a hero has a personal obligation to clean up.
Give Spider-Man Other Heroes to Interact With
Previous Spider-Man movies were hampered somewhat by the fact that Spider-Man didn't have any other superheroes to interact with. Despite his longtime status as a "loner", Spider-Man actually has a ton of friends in the superhero community, and he's one of the most well connected characters in the Marvel Universe.
Adding Spider-Man to Captain America: Civil War instantly added a layer to Spider-Man we haven't seen before in movies; a Spidey that joked with other superheroes and got under their skin in a way that only Spider-Man could.
Spider-Man: Homecoming needs to show that it's firmly set in the Marvel Universe and emphasize Spider-Man's quiet connection to just about everyone in the superhero community. We don't need to see a dozen superheroes appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but it would be nice to see him turn to Tony Stark for tech help or bump into Dr. Strange while swinging through Greenwich Village.
Another advantage to having the new Spider-Man movies set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that future movies can bring in other teenaged Marvel heroes for Spider-Man to team up with. Watching Spider-Man try to teach another teenager how to be a hero (while still trying to learn himself) is an easy plot and a great way to introduce the likes of Ms. Marvel, Nova, or Squirrel Girl into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Both previous Spider-Man movie franchises suffered from an overdose of The Osborns, which is a bit ironic given Harry's original fate in the comics. Norman and Harry Osborn are important pieces of the Spider-Man mythos, but not so important that they had to be the focus of three different Spider-Man movies.
Because the Osborns played such a big role in past Spider-Man movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming and its sequels need to be Osborn-free, at least for a few movies. Using Harry Osborn will inevitably draw comparisons to how the past movie franchises attempted the Green Goblin storyline, and Marvel Studios should want their version to stand apart from past versions of the character.
Holding off on using the Osborns forces Marvel and Sony to develop other parts of Spider-Man's world and also makes their eventual appearance in the movie franchise that much more impactful. If Marvel really wants to use the Green Goblin in one of their movies, they could mimic the original Spider-Man comics, where Green Goblin fought Spider-Man for years before either Osborn was ever introduced.
Balance the Drama with the Humor
Spider-Man has always had plenty of drama in his life, even compared to the lives of other superheroes. If he wasn't struggling to pay the rent, Peter Parker was either forgetting about important meetings, or almost losing his job, or finding new and inventive ways to screw up with women. But there was always a level of humor to all that drama (especially when it came to Peter's love life), something that past Spider-Man movies seemed to forget at times.
Marvel and Sony need to remember that Peter Parker is more than just a black cloud of angst and drama. He's witty and goofy and good-hearted. He has a way of making the WORST first impressions with people, but always endears himself later on. Peter Parker is too smart for his own good, and not smart enough to see when a girl clearly has eyes for him. He simultaneously represents the best and worst of everyone's high school years.
Jon Watts has said multiple times that Spider-Man: Homecoming is a movie about the realities of high school, which means a lot of drama but also a lot of fun. Previous Spider-Man movies have gone a bit too heavy on the drama at times, so let's hope that Marvel and Sony let this Spider-Man lighten up.