How Spider-Man: Homecoming Solved The Origin Story
If a new version of Batman after Nolan’s version seem like a rush, then Sony’s Spider-Man was traveling at the speed of light. The announcement of yet another reboot of the webslinger meant a third version of the hero within a single decade – leading many to downright beg Marvel to use their new creative control to spare fans from having to wacth Uncle Ben die all over again. As with Batfleck, the justifications were obvious: everyone knows the story, it’s wasting time retreading the same ground, and fans care more about seeing Spider-Man as Spider-Man than the radioactive spider that bit him.
Those hopes were rewarded when it was revealed that Homecoming would begin after Uncle Ben’s death (even now, a scene of an elderly man shot to death on the street would stand out in Disney’s MCU tone). And in the end, Marvel and Sony agreed with the audience that Peter Parker’s origin story wouldn’t bring much to his first solo film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. The film instead followed Peter’s first steps into the superhero community, and eventual recruitment onto the Avengers roster. When pressed about the genetically modified spider that gave Peter his powers, the young hero tells his friend that “the spider is dead, Ned.”
At best, a wink to the fans who all know Spidey’s origin from the previous movies or comics… at worst, a wry suggestion that the outlandishness of the origin is being left behind in this modern incarnation.
The fans and casual moviegoers may have gotten their wish, seeing Homecoming “get to the good part” – even better, actually START there in Captain America: Civil War – and spare them a recycled origin almost always the same in structure. But given the heroes’ similarities, the choice to re-purpose Bruce Wayne’s trauma to explore something new means some questions can be posed, to better appreciate the growing genre of superhero adventures:
Could Homecoming have done something new with Peter Parker’s origin? Could that re-imagining have enriched his story throughout the film? Is this new Spider-Man’s motivation lesser for having left it out? If the easiest way to avoid comparisons between this Spider-Man and those who came before was to simply omit a portion of the story, was the loss worth it?
There’s no right answer and quite frankly, fans of the MCU may not care (or even deem a modern, realistic take on Peter’s origin too “dark” for the MCU anyway). And there’s always the chance to see the origin incorporated into Peter’s story in later films. But it’s hard to ignore the division now evident between the hero Peter Parker has become, and the death and tragedy fundamental (traditionally) to that transformation.
When comparing that to Zack Snyder and DC’s solution – re-framing an origin story everyone knows to emphasize a new theme, creating a genuinely new and faithful take on Batman – there’s no question DC took the more complicated, challenging route. The purpose may have been the same, as an attempt to cease comparisons between Ben Affleck Batman and Christian Bale’s takes on the Dark Knight.
If so, then the result was one of the few successes most Batman V Superman critics and fans can agree on – without denying the fans any part of the story.
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