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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Spider-Man: Homecoming News Roundup

Edited by Robert Beach 

We're a little over 2 weeks out from Captain America: Civil War’s premiere. The reviews are already trickling in with a resounding cry of “excellent” from pretty much all corners of the Internet. At this point, that’s honestly not that surprising; like it or not, Marvel Studios has become a cultural juggernaut, and Captain America is easily their flagship solo franchise.  

What’s more impressive are the reports that the new Marvel/Sony joint Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland and debuting in Civil War, is really damn excellent. This response and Internet reaction to Holland’s appearance in the film’s latest trailer has given Marvel enough of a high to release some major info about next year’s new Spider-Man movie entitled Spider-Man: Homecoming. 

First thing first: I love this logo design. I’ve been informed by folks on the twitters and graphic design friends of mine that this is bad logo design, but the experts are far off base on this one as far as I’m concerned. The color design on the “Spider-Man” title is a nice reworking of the standard yellow and red comic logo only without the bright garishness of the usual lemon yellow coloring.  

It reminds me a lot of the logo design from the ‘90s animated Spider-Man show, which of course I watched religiously as a youngster; it’s possible I’m being influenced by my own nostalgia on this one. I certainly like that this is the first Spider-Man film logo to include actual color instead of the standard metallic gradient that informed the Raimi films as well as the Amazing Spider-Man film series. 

I think people’s bigger complaint is the scribbled/spray paint design of the “Homecoming” logo, punctuated by a little Spidey face logo for the O. On the one hand, yes, replacing a logo letter with a symbol or letter is generally pretty cheesy and the mark of the uninspired and gimmicky; however, it can still work. I mean, most folks love Se7en, which swapped a 7 for a V, so it’s not like we haven’t already forgiven this decision on good movies before. 

It will be pretty disappointing if spray-painted Spidey face logos aren’t a big part of the character's spreading mythos or interpersonal relations come move time but it’s hardly cause to hit the panic button.  What’s more, the handwritten design of the “Homecoming” title makes a certain amount of complementary sense to the Spidey face logo letter replacement. They all feel a lot like something a teen would scribble in their notebook. 

Which leads us nicely into the next topic: the “Homecoming” subtitle.  Obviously, there’s the incredibly cheeky meta-joke of Marvel finally getting their Spider-Man license back and actually naming his return to the Marvel in-house production “Homecoming.” It's pretty funny in an insufferable kind of way.  Outside of that double meaning, "Homecoming" seems to imply a greater amount of importance being drawn from Spider-Man’s position as a high schooler. In case you don’t know, Homecoming Week is a week of big, enforced celebration and sports activities most high schools hold in their fall semester. 

A lot of folks have speculated this means the new Spider-Man movie will be somehow set in the midst of his homecoming week, which would provide a great 3rd act set piece if villains attacked the football game, but there is another possibility. Homecoming was also the title of the mid-‘80s Spider-Man arc that saw Spidey’s first Earth-based use of the black suit after acquiring it in the Secret Wars event comic. 

This could mean that the film will explore a different Spider-Man outfit, though I doubt they’d bring in the black suit so early. A much more likely series of events is that this film, or possibly Captain America: Civil War, will introduce the Iron Spider costume from the comics. 

For those not in the know, during the Civil War comic event Spider-Man sided with Iron Man, and as a result, Iron Man gave him a spiffy new Spider-Man costume with all kinds of technological enhancements referred to as the Iron Spider costume.  

A lot of folks are expecting it to appear in Captain America: Civil War, but I think if it shows up at all it’ll be here in Spider-Man: Homecoming. In fact, I’d say the Iron Spider is even more likely to appear now that Sony has decided to go solo with Venom.  Additionally, Marvel has confirmed other Marvel heroes will be in Spider-Man: Homecoming in some capacity, which makes a lot of sense. 

If Iron Man does win the Civil War, as a lot of people have speculated, then registration and organization would end up the heroic standards of the day. The movie would have to deal with Spider-Man obligations to the Avengers and their presence to aid him against any given bad guy. Conversely, if Captain America wins, which seems unlikely (whatever), there’s the question of whether or not all heroes are outlaws who meet in secret or the like. 

Speaking of bad guys, the duel, current rumors are that one of the villains will be the Vulture, who was originally intended to be the villain of Spider-Man 4, and Michael Keaton is in talks to play a villain. A lot of folks have jumped on these two facts to suggest Keaton is playing the Vulture, which would be a pretty cool role and a pretty funny jab at 2014’s Birdman. I see the logic behind this as Keaton’s an older actor who fits the Vulture’s overall design, though at the same time, he seems like a heavy talent to hang on a not terribly interesting or menacing bad guy. Vulture’s main power is essentially the same as the Falcon’s (flies). He’s hardly the bad guy who could threaten to lay waste to New York or even really a high school if we’re being honest. 

What’s more, Drew Goddard’s Sinister 6 movie is reportedly still in development and Vulture is a veteran member, making it seem way more like Spider-Man: Homecoming will be setting up that villain team rather than relying on Vulture to carry the film by himself.  Given that, the obvious suspect for Keaton’s villain would be Norman Osborn, but I really hope that’s not the case.  

We’ve already seen 2 “evil CEO" Norman Osborns in this series, and it’d be pretty dull to repeat that characterization a third time, especially if it turned out he was funding super villain experiments like Amazing Spider-Man 2 all over again. Personally, I hope Keaton is playing Hobgoblin as he’s my favorite Spider-Man bad guy. It’d be an interesting inversion of expectation, and it’d fit with the overall inspiration from the ‘90s animated series.

The final word on Spider-Man: Homecoming is that we’ve developed a pretty good sense of the supporting cast with Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, and Zendaya Coleman all playing supporting roles. 

Some names have been thrown around for Revolori and Coleman’s characters, but they’re very stock, generic names that feel like they’re there to mask who these folks are really playing. The obvious suspects from Peter’s collection of classmates are Flash Thompson, Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacey, and Harry Osborn.  The major theory is that Laura Harrier will be MJ but either actress would be a nice plus. It’d be pretty cool to see an interracial couple in a blockbuster Marvel movie after Fox’s was too afraid to present one in Fant4stic while Jessica Jones brazenly put its interracial couple front and center in intimate detail. 

However, as cool as it is to get these folks in supporting roles, it’s still pretty disappointing that the difference between the lead actors and the supporting actors is the same as the difference between the white actors and the actors of color. Marvel’s had a pretty consistent track record of filling up supporting roles with people of color who never get the spotlight, to the point it’s kind of a joke that literally every Marvel hero has 1 person of color friend (Tony and War Machine, Thor and Heimdall, Cap and Falcon, Ant-Man and Michael Penya etc.) 

When Marvel was still an independent studio and even a single flop could kill them, diversity split was understandable in phase 1. At this point, there’s really no excuse. It’s a lot like their problem with women being given bad-ass personal stories and great actresses before being pushed to the sidelines in other people’s movies, like Hope Pym in Ant-Man or Black Widow in everything. Marvel’s willing to promote movies that star space raccoons, tiny thieves that ride ants, and crippled alcoholics that learn reality-warping magic. Ask them for a movie starring a woman or an actor of color, and they suddenly get very, very risk averse. 

It’s especially disappointing in this context given Spider-Man’s recent history. In 2002, when Spider-Man broke onto the cultural mainstream, it was a huge deal. His initial film re-invigorated the comic book genre and catapulted Spider-Man into the position of cultural ambassador for the entire superhero genre. It placed him in the same position Superman held in 1978 and Batman in 1989.  Spidey spent the rest of the decade (up to 2007) as the dominating superhero force until the widespread distaste for Spider-Man 3 derailed that bandwagon. 

By the time Spider-Man made it back to theaters 5 years later, Iron Man and Batman were the new cultural ambassadors of the genre, and his movie ended up a blockbuster footnote. The 2014 Amazing Spider-Man 2 inspired such a tepid response it got beat by Neighbors, an R-rated mature comedy in its 2nd week. Despite that complete cultural implosion, the Spider-Man brand has still consistently made money. 

Spider-Man 3 is still on the highest-grossing films of all time list, and both Amazing Spider-Man movies ended up in the top 20 highest grossing films of their respective year. What all this has more or less proved is you’re almost guaranteed a degree of profit simply by making a Spider-Man movie. That impenetrable brand status is a great foundation to build a more diverse film on top of, like The Force Awakens did. 

Hell, just last year far less untarnished franchises like Mad Max and Rocky were willing to take far riskier casting decisions than Spider-Man. In a world with such diverse big hits as Creed, Fury Road, and Force Awakens, playing it safe with Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like a pretty disappointing and regressive decision from Disney/Marvel.

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