One of the many objectives of this summer’s Captain America: Civil War was to introduce viewers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Your Friendly Neighborhood, Spider-Man. By all accounts, youngster Tom Holland won over many in the role, capturing both the youthful exuberance and emotional vulnerabilities that make Peter Parker a beloved figure in comics lore. After stealing just about every scene he was in, the actor is now preparing to headline his own solo vehicle, Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film is set to be directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car) and is slated for a July 2017 release.
So far, quite an impressive cast has been assembled for Homecoming. Joining Holland are his Civil War co-stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei, as well as fan-favorite Michael Keaton in a mystery villain role. In supporting roles are names such as Zendaya, Tony Revolori, and Laura Harrier. As it turns out, there are still some parts to be filled, with Watts finding another one of Peter’s high school classmates.
In a report from Heroic Hollywood (which was corroborated by Deadline), 14-year old Michael Barbieri is joining the latest Spidey flick as “one of Peter Parker’s friends.” The teenager is obviously an up-and-comer in the industry due to his age, but he has been putting together a fairly impressive résumé thus far. He made a name for himself in the Sundance hit Little Men, and was cast as Timmy in the upcoming Dark Tower adaptation. Landing a spot in a Marvel film is just another notch on his belt as he builds a career.
Casting someone who is just a high school freshman in real life is further indication that Watts intends to do something different with his Spider-Man standalone. The previous big screen iterations of the character first showed Peter at the tail end of his high school career before he ventured off into adulthood, but Kevin Feige has said he wants to embrace a classic John Hughes teen comedy vibe with Homecoming. Holland was cast specifically because they wanted to portray a younger version of Spider-Man at the beginning, having the actor mature and grow over time. Marvel is always planning ahead, and they undoubtedly want to keep a marketable character like the Web Head around for a while; through Phase 4 and beyond.
As for who Barbieri will play, Comic Book is hearing from their sources that it is a new character that doesn’t appear in the comics, though the role is based on Ganke from the Ultimate Spider-Man line. For those not in the know, Ganke is the best friend of Miles Morales (who became Spider-Man after Peter Parker) and is defined by his love of superheroes and “unwavering optimism.” Those traits are expected to carry over into Barbieri’s character, though it remains to be seen how he factors into the plot. Whatever the case, it should prove to be a refreshing change-of-pace from Harry Osborn, who has been covered thoroughly in the prior live-action Spider-Man movies.
While Barbieri’s part may not be the meatiest in Homecoming when it’s all said and done, it’s still a welcome development that illustrates Marvel’s commitment to mixing things up with their slate. They’ve done a very good job so far of blending multiple genres and tones to give each installment its own unique feel. For instance, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a grounded political thriller, while Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the space opera sensibilities of something like Star Wars. A superhero movie inspired by the works of Hughes is something inherently new, and is an ideal way of combatting potential comic book fatigue.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.