Everyone has their favorite version of Spider-Man. Some people like Spider-Man 2099; others enjoy Ultimate Spider-Man; while others still have a soft spot in their hearts for more obscure versions like Spider-Man Noir or 1602 (remember that?). There are a ton of alternate versions of the iconic webhead who exist within Marvel's extended multiverse of infinite storytelling.
In 2014, Marvel took advantage of Spider-Man's enduring popularity by putting him (and all his disparate alternate universe counterparts) front and center in Spider-Verse, a months-long comic book event which took every Spider-Man across cartoons, comics, and beyond, and put them all together in one epic story.
On film, there haven't been quite as many versions of New York City's famed webslinger as in the comics, but few properties can be rebooted twice and still remain as spectacularly successful as this character has, and the excellent box office performance for Spider-Man: Homecoming proves his enduring popularity. In the past decade, three actors have been associated with the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and it's time to bring them all together for a once-in-a-lifetime cinematic event. Sony/Marvel Should Make A Spider-Verse Movie.
Parker, Parker, and Parker
Fifteen years ago, Spider-Man made his cinematic debut with the eponymous Spider-Man, directed by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) and starring Tobey Maguire. The film was an instant smash hit and, along with 2000's X-Men, is credited with jumpstarting the modern superhero craze which continues to this day. All told, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy brought in nearly $2.5 billion dollars worldwide.
The story goes that Raimi, Maguire, and all the rest were willing to commit to Spider-Man 4, but Raimi wanted more time to work on the story, as he was unsatisfied with its current progress and Sony's expectations of a rapid turnaround. In a stunning move, the studio opted to reboot. They ditched Raimi and Maguire, and enlisted director Marc Webb and star Andrew Garfield for The Amazing Spider-Man. Critically and commercially, it wasn't as successful as the best of the Raimi movies, but it was enough to move forward with a sequel... Which infamously crashed and burned with critics; combined with its relatively tepid commercial response ($700 million is nothing to scoff at, but Sony was shooting for a cool billion, and ASM2 just didn't pass muster) and it was the deathblow for the ill-fated reboot series.
Just two years after 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a re-rebooted version of Spider-Man made his debut in Captain America: Civil War. This time, Spider-Man was not a stand-alone hero in his own self-contained little world; he was part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This came about as the result of a complex deal between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, allowing for the character to be shared across the two studios. After stealing his scenes in Civil War, he was given his own stand-alone film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was one of this summer's biggest box office hits. With appearances in Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel already booked and a Homecoming follow-up slated for 2019, it's safe to say that Tom Holland will be Spider-Man for the foreseeable future.
Maguire And Garfield Are Still Relevant
Go to any internet message board, podcast, or comments section (including, surely, the one in this very story), and ask: "Maguire, Garfield, or Holland?" The response will be massive. People are passionate about their love for Sam Raimi's iconic originals; they insist that Garfield was never given the chance he deserved; and the optimism around Holland is downright palpable. All three have a devoted fandom, and there are elements from each which deserve to come back again.
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy is still exceptionally popular. Spider-Man 3 recently received an Editor's Cut re-release, indicating that audiences are still receptive to Maguire's original take on Peter Parker. It would be great to check in on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as Peter and Mary Jane, over ten years after Spider-Man 3's intimate ending.
While the Raimi films ended with what can be seen as a definitive conclusion, a specter of "unfinished business" looms over the Amazing series; ASM2 was intended to lead into a whole cinematic universe of spin-offs and tie-ins, but now it's just seen as an awkward case of "what could have been." Despite being "erased" by way of being rebooted, Andrew Garfield's version of Spider-Man deserves some form of closure. But how would Sony/Marvel justify returning to what can only be described as "erased timelines," since both series have been replaced with Tom Holland's MCU version of the web-slinger? The answer: Spider-Verse.
Sony/Marvel should made a movie version of Spider-Verse. They don't have to adapt the specific plot details of Morlun scouring the multiverse, hunting Spider-Men to consolidate his power. No, a Spider-Verse movie should be a more pragmatic adaptation, like Civil War. That movie took the comic's central idea, of Iron Man and Captain America having a fundamental disagreement which rips the Avengers apart, and built a new story around that premise. Spider-Verse should take the image of every Spider-Man crossing dimensions to do battle with a common foe. In this case, rather than using comic book and animated versions of the character, the movie should star Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland.
As the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe grows with otherworldly elements of Doctor Strange, Thor, and even The Defenders (the secret to eternal life comes in the form of ground-up dragon bones? Yes please!), the prospect of alternate realities and dimension hopping becomes less of a pipe dream and more of a logical next step for the series. Besides, they do it on The Flash all the time!
It's easy to see Tom Holland's Peter Parker meet up with Doctor Strange and accidentally conjure an opening to another dimension... Perhaps that of Andrew Garfield, several years after The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The legend goes that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was going to entail Spider-Man developing a serum to revive his dead friends and family. Is Gwen Stacey alive again? Is she Spider-Gwen? Is she infected by a Symbiote? The possibilities are endless.
Perhaps in his adventure across the multiverse, Tom Holland unleashed a dangerous inter-dimensional entity, and he can't return home until he stops the villain. This threat, whatever it may be, is too big for only two Spider-Men to fight, so they recruit one more: Tobey Maguire. This Spider-Man is older than his peers, more experienced, and has been a hero for a great many years. There's so much potential to explore what happened with this Spider-Man. Does he still work at the Daily Bugle? Is he still with Mary Jane? Is Aunt May still alive? Is he even Spider-Man anymore? Will Garfield and Holland have to convince him to come out of retirement, like an old gunslinger who has to draw his pistols one last time? Or is Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man still the personification of the joy that comes with fighting crime and helping people? Maybe he subverts the notion of being "old and jaded." Besides, Tobey himself is only 42 years old (he was 27 when the first Spider-Man came out) and about a decade older than his character, so his Spider-Man is still relatively youthful compared to the likes of Logan.
Are Venom And Silver & Black The First Steps?
In addition to the upcoming Homecoming sequel, Sony are currently in the midst of developing at least two movies starring Spider-Man characters: Venom and Silver & Black. One thing which remains unclear is whether or not the films are canon to the MCU. Sony has said that their films will be set within Marvel's larger playground, while Kevin Feige has insisted that it's not the case as of now, but that there is potential for deeper collaboration. These mixed messages suggest there may be more at play than the audience realizes.
What if Venom and Silver & Black are the first steps in establishing a Spider-Man Multiverse? Venom already appeared in Spider-Man 3, so what if Ruben Fleischer's take on the character is secretly set in the Amazing continuity? It's been said that Spider-Man will not appear in the film, but what if he does? What if, like in the surprise ending of M. Night Shyamalan's Split, the unexpected hero appears at the end, gathering info about Venom and Carnage, and he's played by Andrew Garfield? Likewise, what if Silver & Black is suddenly revealed to be set in the universe of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man universe when the two female anti-heroes find themselves doing battle with a Spider-Man who is clearly Tobey Maguire? Both movies could end with the same message, "Spider-Man will return," and subsequently lead into a Spider-Verse movie.
Think of how incredible it would be to see all three cinematic versions of Spider-Man sharing the screen and fighting common enemies from their own disparate universes, like Tom Hardy's Venom or Dane DeHaan's Green Goblin, or even The Sinister Six, as Homecoming hinted might be the next step for the MCU's version of the wall-crawler. All the while, the three heroes would poke at the subtle and profound differences between each other and their respective rogues galleries, while acknowledging that they are all still Spider-Men, and develop a bond over their shared experiences, such as the deaths of their Uncle Ben.
Could It Really Happen?
Is the MCU ready for such a meta movie, one which acknowledges the multiple reboots that led here? Absolutely. Spider-Man: Homecoming was incredibly self-aware and light-footed while still devoted to its fiction, and Deadpool pretty much knocked down the gates with regards to superhero fare taking itself too seriously.
The biggest obstacle would probably be the legal wrangling required to bring back Tobey and Andrew. It's known that Garfield, especially, didn't part with the series on the best of terms. He was not a fan of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which reportedly made it easier for Sony to hit the reboot button on the short-lived Amazing series. In fact, the stories go that he was going to be replaced anyway, whether the movies were rebooted or not.
However, as Baron Wolfgang von Strucker said (in a much more sinister context), "This is the age of miracles." Who could have predicted that Sony would be willing to share ownership of Spider-Man with Marvel Studios? Just a few years ago, the thought of Spider-Man in the MCU was as much of a pipe dream as the prospect of a Spider-Verse crossover film is today. It might take a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of finesse, but it could happen. If the script is right, and if the actors don't say "no," then why can't it happen? There's a lot of people who would pay a lot of money to see it happen, so make it happen!
Make It Happen
The time for being jaded and cynical about "what is possible" is in the past. Superhero movies are moving forward with bold decisions and breaking all the rules. Logan was an R-rated western epic right up there with Clint Eastwood's best; it just happened to star Hugh Jackman as Wolverine of the X-Men. Deadpool was a straight-up raunchy superhero comedy, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a grim take on the concept of Gods on Earth which, despite a critical drubbing, still managed to gross $873 million worldwide.
Even the existence and mainstream popularity of the MCU itself is nothing short of amazing. Marvel brought together its heroes for the unprecedented superhero smash-up that was The Avengers. Fast forward just a few years, and regular people actually know who Jessica Jones is. Ten years ago, nobody could have imagined that she would be a pop culture icon recognized and revered by more than just comic book aficionados.
Sony and Marvel agreed to share custody of Spider-Man for the benefit of audiences, and it paid off handsomely. Thor and The Incredible Hulk are teaming up for a sci-fi fantasy adventure in space! Groot and Rocket Raccoon are two of the most popular figures in pop culture, and "Come a Little Bit Closer" by Jay and the Americans was the undisputed song of the summer! That all comes from the MCU.
The next time someone says, "Nah, that will never happen," just think of all the crazy and unlikely things Marvel has done. Anything can happen in the MCU. In the realm of superhero cinema, this truly is the Age of Miracles, and a Spider-Verse movie could be the next epic event to remind audiences why superhero movies will always be special.
"Spider-Verse, starring Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield. Coming soon." Doesn't it just feel right?