The recent trailer for Doctor Strange notwithstanding, Marvel Studios seems to be planning to make a move away from superhero origin story movies by introducing characters in team-up films before audiences meet them in standalone features. In Captain America: Civil War, for example, the established team of Avengers are joined by newcomers Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) as the teams face off against one another in a superhero-on-superhero brawl.
Unlike the Avengers' battles against the Chitauri or Ultron, however, this fight has the added complication of friendship; these superheroes don't really want to hurt each other, after all, so Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) can't just order Vision (Paul Bettany) to blast Captain America (Chris Evans) and his fellow dissidents to pieces.
Tony's need to pull his punches a little is ultimately what leads him to seek out one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, according to co-director Joe Russo. Speaking at the UK press conference for Captain America: Civil War, Russo explained why Iron Man feels driven to seek out Spider-Man and his particular skills to help in the fight against Captain America's team.
"Look, there's a certain narcissism to the character and Tony doesn't want to lose this fight, and at the same time I think he also sees Spider-Man as the greatest living non-lethal weapon. If you're going out to capture a bunch of people who you don't necessarily want to hurt, you couldn't ask for a better character than Spider-Man to take with you.
"He does show up and illustrate that Spider-Man, he knows how powerful he is. In a video we see Spider-Man stopping a car moving 40 miles an hour, where he catches it and puts it back on the ground, so I think he believes that he's taking with him perhaps one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe, and I think he feels like the kid will be well-protected under his tutelage. You also find out in that sequence, when things go wrong the kid says, 'What do I do?' and Tony says, 'Keep your distance, web 'em up.' So he's obviously mentored the kid for what's about to go down."
"It's still very irresponsible," joked fellow director Anthony Russo.
The beginning of the mentor-protegé relationship between Iron Man and Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War is all the more important now that we know Downey will be starring in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first solo outing for Holland's version of the character. From Spider-Man's first reveal in one of the trailers for Civil War, it was clear that Iron Man offers a bit of a helping hand when it comes to designing Spider-Man's costume, and it wouldn't be surprising if the science-loving Peter Parker comes to regard Tony Stark as a bit of a father figure.
One interesting aspect of Holland's Spider-Man is that he's the youngest version of Peter Parker so far - not only in terms of the actor's age, but also because Marvel seems very interested in having a kid superhero in the MCU. Both previous big screen Spider-Man incarnations have started out as high schoolers, but were on the tail end of their school careers when audiences met them. In the case of Holland's Spider-Man, Marvel may intend to keep him in school for a while. Let's hope his superhero exploits leave time for homework.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – 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.