Unless you’ve been cut off from the Web and/or television these last 48 hours, you have already heard that Spider-Man is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The collective joy of fandom over this news practically broke the internet. But being the Crusty Curmudgeon, my first reaction can never be 100% joy. The first thing to spring to my twisted mind, of course, is the potential for disaster.
Let’s go back a step.
The rumblings over the possibility of this happening got started several months back in the wake of the Sony hack. Leaked emails revealed the studio’s disappointment with the box office performance of Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as revealing talks with Marvel over bringing Spidey into the MCU as a result of this disappointment.
Now do I feel any sense of vindication over the revelation that ASM2 was/is viewed by Sony as a disappointment? Of course I do. I composed a 20,000 word doctoral thesis on precisely why the source material for the movie was terrible. So why, then, am I not more happy about this turn of events? Shouldn’t I be glad the creative team that decided to adapt that terrible story is now out?
Well yes, I’m glad they’re out—and not just because I didn’t care for their work, but also because their plans for the future didn’t impress me much, either. But that doesn’t mean the Marvel guys are going to do any better. I believe, in fact, that there is a chance that they could wind up doing worse. We’ve already had the first danger sign of this possibility with the confirmation of Spidey’s involvement in the Captain America: Civil War movie.
For those not already in the know, Civil War was one of those shit comics crossover events that Marvel put out back in 2006. It involved Spidey unmasking and revealing his identity to the world. Which, as we all know, is an action completely out of character for Spider-Man, as well as being just plain stupid. Even the io9 article I linked above notes that “it seems like it would be an equally terrible idea for Marvel to include this moment in a live-action film as it was for the comics.” Also, if they did this, Spidey’s storyline would shanghai the film. As they’ve already got Iron Man set to play a big role, that wouldn’t leave much room for Captain America—y’know, the titular star of the show.
Adding to my case of how shitty an idea this was, Marvel retconned the whole thing almost immediately. In hindsight, it would appear they only did this storyline in the first place because they knew they were just going to wipe it all out afterward anyway.
So it would seem likely they’re not going to go with the full storyline in the film. Likely… but still not completely out of the realm of possibility. It’s a testament to just how bad the idea is that the merest possibility of it making the screen scares the living hell out of me.
There’s also the issue of fans drinking the Marvel Kool-Aid here as well. Let’s not pretend everything Marvel Studios has done is perfect. They hit it out of the park with Avengers, yes; and Iron Man, Winter Soldier, and Guardians were all really good. But the first Cap movie, the two Iron Man follow-ups, the two Thor movies, and Incredible Hulk were merely good/okay.
On the flipside, Marvel Studios would not exist today if not for the original success of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises put out by Fox and Sony, respectively, near the turn of the millennium. So it’s not as if other studios are incapable of getting it right on their own.
The bottom line is that this will likely be good news for the immediate future, and in the long term we’ll just have to wait and see. I will say that having done Winter Soldier with Cap last time and now following up with Civil War is a troubling trend. These were bad storylines in the comics, as anyone with a scintilla of taste would agree. They managed to clean up many of the problematic elements in adapting Soldier; and maybe they’ll do the same with Civil War, but it’s still the poorest source material you could possibly draw from and they’re playing with fire every time they go this route. If I could offer any advice to the powers in charge, it would be this: Hew as closely as possible to Lee, Kirby, & Ditko. They’ve already done the work for you and they’re almost impossible to screw up.