The Internet lost its collective mind earlier this year when Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures announced a new alliance, finally bringing your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man into the larger MCU family. This is fairly exciting news. As fun as it’s been to watch how the world of The Avengers has unfolded over the past seven years, the absence of Spider-Man within the Avengers team has been felt by fans the world over – especially in the face of Sony’s recent attempts to reboot the character with the now-canned Amazing Spider-Man series.
With the announcement that Spider-Man will be brought into the larger world of the MCU, starting with next year’s Captain America: Civil War, came the news that Spidey would also be getting a new series of movies – completely separate from either of his two previous endeavors – this time starring Tom Holland as a young Peter Parker learning to balance adolescence with his newfound superhero abilities. The film is a surefire commercial success, yet you can’t help but wonder if Marvel is missing out on a bigger story-telling opportunity.
There can be no doubt that Spider-Man is a massive moneymaker. Even without direct involvement of Marvel Studios – which has evolved over the last few years into a multi-billion dollar money printing enterprise – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 made a fairly respectable $708 million worldwide. The reunification of Spider-Man and Marvel is sure to make somewhere in the vicinity of every available dollar in the world – or at the very least the rough equivalent of the GDP of a small, Eastern European country. But would (or could) the Spider-Man story be better served by a Netflix program?
Here are our reasons Why Spider-Man Could Be A Great Netflix Show:
The Infrastructure Already Exists
Marvel’s marriage with Netflix has already been a wild success. Daredevil was a strong reintroduction to the character after most of the world had largely written off the concept – after the poorly-received 2003 Ben Affleck movie. As solid as the Netflix series is – and popular, being one of the most watched shows Netflix had to offer this year – it was only the first chapter. Next month sees the premiere of Jessica Jones, which by all appearances could prove to be as good (if not better) than Daredevil. Next year, along with season two of Daredevil, we get Luke Cage, after he debuts on Jessica Jones; after that, the stage is set for the introduction of Iron Fist, which all culminates in the crossover team-up, The Defenders.
The common thread running through all of these series is the setting: New York City – and, as readers of the comics and watchers of the films already know, Spider-Man is a New York City based superhero. As tantalizing as the prospect of an MCU Spider-Man movie clearly is, especially as it pertains to the eventual team up with The Avengers, seeing a world where Spider-Man interacts with Daredevil and the Punisher and Luke Cage is tantalizing too – especially when you consider the fact that Spidey often faces down the same villains and the same local problems that these characters face in the comics (see, for example, Kingpin).
Given all the ground work that’s been laid already, Spider-Man’s inclusion in the Netflix corner of the MCU makes sense. Nobody’s saying that we couldn’t eventually see Spider-Man team up with The Avengers in other movies. In fact, that would be amazing because…
It Would Further Legitimize the Netflix Corner of the MCU
The MCU thrives on interconnectedness. Part of the fun of seeing a new Marvel movie or watching a new Marvel show is looking for Easter eggs and call backs to earlier entries as well as hints of what is to come. They’ve done what no studio has been able to do – in that they’ve created an intricate tapestry woven from the threads of otherwise standalone works. So far, however, the connections between the Netflix series and the larger MCU have been little more than a few throwaway lines about the Battle of New York and a brief reference to Carl Creel, a.k.a. The Absorbing Man, who was introduced in season two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
While there’s already a precedent for characters jumping from movies to TV and from TV to movies within the MCU – Agent Coulson, Peggy Carter, Lady Sif, and Nick Fury among them – so far that has yet to happen with the Netflix series. While there remains at least a fair possibility that we’ll eventually see Daredevil or Luke Cage or Iron Fist fight along with The Avengers, especially in Infinity War, Spider-Man would be a great standard by which to set the precedent for future Netflix/MCU cross-over.
This would be a positively groundbreaking move that would firmly solidify Netflix’s larger standing within the MCU. The quality of the Netflix shows is legitimization alone but Spider-Man would create an even stronger tie – making the TV shows must-see events for everyone (rather than something cool for Marvel super fans and TV drama bingers).
Their Plans Sound Better As a TV Series
Admittedly, exact plans for the new Spider-Man reboot are being kept firmly under lock and key. However, what we do know is that the new series plans to explore Spidey’s roots as a teenage superhero trying to balance high school life with crime fighting life. As a movie series, this concept has the potential to get really old very quick. However, as a TV series, there’s a lot of room to work with – and it might just be truly amazing (pun intended).
In the right hands, it could recall Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a series that, arguably better than any other series before or since, successfully navigated from high school to college to adulthood in a way that allowed both the series and its characters to grow naturally. In another sense, it could also mirror the trajectory of Smallville, differing only in the fact that it would allow viewers to actually see their superhero in full-costumed action – in a slightly more grounded world as well.
While it seems somewhat silly, part of the appeal of Spider-Man, especially in the early years of the comics, was watching the character develop through arcs that challenged Peter Parker (and Spider-Man) from adolescence into adulthood. A TV series could allow this aspect of the character’s growth to be explored in greater depth, giving us a nuanced and balance look at his high school drama and his superhero action in the context of longer arcs – as opposed to condensing a single year of high school into two hour segments. We could watch Mary Jane and Peter come together over time, making us fall in love with the idea of their falling in love one year, only to throw a wrench into that machine with Gwen Stacy the next. We could see Peter Parker’s rivalries with Flash Thompson affect Spider-Man’s problems with Dr. Octopus on an existential level, offering a sense of long term parallels between Parker’s dual identities.
Seeing a slow progression of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man would make for a more rewarding narrative experience and give the creators a chance to flesh out meaningful arcs that are true to the spirit and history of the characters that make up Spider-Man canon. Whereas seeing four movies about Spider-Man’s high school career sounds like it might get tedious, a Netflix series could draw in audiences and give us the slow build and eventual payoff that makes comics so much fun.
It Would Give the Villains a Chance to Shine
Along the same lines, one of the main problems that the Spider-Man movies haven’t quite figured out is how to handle the development of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. The truth of comics is that a hero is only as good as the villains they face, and in the comics, Spider-Man has some truly fascinating villains. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 handled Green Goblin and Doc Ock well enough, but the rest of the movies have had trouble finding a real pathos for their villains.
The easiest example of this is Spider-Man 3 – a film that struggled under the weight of all the characters Sony packed in. The symbiote, Sandman, New-Goblin, Venom – pressure to include so many characters resulted in a rift between Raimi and Sony, and overall underwhelming reception, it resulted in an entire reboot (more on this in a moment). But picture that arc played out over 12-13 episodes. Imagine if the story had been explored in “season 3” instead of “part 3.”
The mess of Spider-Man 3 was in trying to cram all of those ideas into a two-and-a-half hour movie. Over a period of several episodes, each individual mini-arc – Peter Parker and the symbiote, Sandman, New-Goblin, Venom – would have allowed more the time to develop into something meaningful and poignant, rather than feeling like producers threw a whole bunch of characters into the film simply to sell merchandise. A Netflix show would allow villains, and their respective affect on Spider-Man, to play out over time rather than forcing all the development into a single film.
High school senior Peter Parker could have an internship with Dr. Connors, who turns into the Lizard next season; Spidey’s confrontation with Brock one season could lead to Carnage two years later. The villains would get the chance to evolve over time and the writers could then better parallel the stories to reflect larger themes – which is something the movies have never quite figured out how to accomplish. Which brings us to the next point…
NEXT PAGE: Were the Spider-Man Movies Actually Amazing?
Many of the Movies Have Been Disappointments
The latest reboot of Spider-Man, rumored to be titled The Spectacular Spider-Man, is currently set for release in July 2017. At that point, it’ll be the sixth Spider-Man movie in 15 years. As it now stands, Spider-Man’s record of quality movies for many fans stands at 2 (in some cases, 3) out of 5, giving the movies a 40-60% success rate at getting things right.
Raimi’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 are widely-acclaimed works of superhero cinema that helped kick off the current renaissance of comic book movies (even if they both feel a bit dated today). Every film released since then has been met with mixed response. Let’s face it, Spider-Man’s cinematic brand isn’t in the best shape, right now.
While it’s true that Spider-Man’s larger recognition among casual fans and viewers will make it more likely to be a financial success than a cinematic Daredevil reboot might have been, the fact remains that the brand is a little tainted. Any new Spider-Man movie will have to overcome a few doubts about its quality (separate from The Avengers team-up) that might, at this point, be so ingrained in the collective consciousness that high-flying CGI web-slinging, alone, may never be enough to wow moviegoers.
Also consider that the reboot is being written by the same screenwriting team that brought us The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and the Vacation reboot. Is that the best team to tell a great Spider-Man story?
No doubt, there’s no reason to think that Spider-Man will come to Netflix, the rights alone are complicated, but the best way to destroy expectations is to subvert them – and bringing Spider-Man to Netflix before The Avengers would subvert just about every expectation we have for the franchise. In the same way that the small screen helped clean the slate for Daredevil, a Spider-Man TV show would allow Marvel to start fresh with Spidey – without having to worry about expectations for a new movie. Seeing Spider-Man with The Avengers will definitely add buzz for this version of the Wall Crawler but is an immediate role in the MCU setting the character up for longterm success – as a platform for great Spider-Man stories?
Not to mention, the Marvel Phase 3 slate is so full (Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and so on) that adding Spider-Man to the mix could make Spidey seem like an also-ran – an afterthought.
What we want to see, and what the character deserves, is a live action Spider-Man that’s every bit as nuanced and exciting and, well, spectacular as the Spider-Man comics. As awesome as it will be to see the hero return for a solo adventure in 2017, is it the best plan? Yes, the 2017 reboot will make a lot of money but from a fan perspective, having Peter Parker build his cred alongside Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, and the rest of The Defenders – only to team-up with The Avengers a few years later, could ultimately be an even more rewarding experience.
Agree/disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.
Daredevil Season 1 is currently available on Netflix. Jessica Jones will be made available starting November 20th, 2015, followed by Luke Cage Season 1 and Daredevil Season 2 (a.k.a. Daredevil V Punisher) in 2016. Iron Fist and The Defenders will arrive sometime thereafter.