Spider-Man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe was one of the biggest stories of this year - something that legions of fans had waited for, ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe became a reality. After the lukewarm reception of Amazing Spider-Man 2 and increasing pressure for Marvel's flagship character to be able to play in the Avengers sandbox, Sony and Marvel Studios have worked out a studio-share deal that will see actor Tom Holland playing a high school-aged Peter Parker, appearing first in Captain America: Civil War before eventually starring in his own 2017 solo film.
In regards to that solo film, (rumored to be titled The Spectacular Spider-Man); Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently opened up a bit more about what the approach to a new Spider-Man solo movie will be, while continuing to sell fans on the idea of WHY Spidey needs to be in the MCU (as if they needed selling).
Feige sat down with IGN to talk about the Blu-ray release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron when the subject of MCU Spidey got brought up. Feige first took a moment to add to the growing chorus of filmmakers saying that Spider-Man belongs in the MCU:
"Making that agreement ... was great, and was really amazing, and on a personal level making these movies, it means a lot because I think we can do great things with Spider-Man... I think Spider-Man can serve great purpose in our universe and that's where he belongs. That was what was unique about him in the comics was not that he was the only superhero in the world; it's that he was a totally different kind of superhero when compared against all the other ones in the Marvel universe at the time."
However, many fans have been wondering how a major figure like Spider-Man can be retroactively added to an already-established MCU, when his superhero activities would almost surely have been noticed by other heroes, villains, or "enhanced human" policing agencies like S.H.I.E.L.D. There's already been plenty of speculation about high school Spider-Man donning a homemade costume and operating as an "urban legend" in the streets - much the same strategy that Batman V Superman is using to explain how Batman has been in operation for years within the DC Extended Universe, without becoming a public icon.
Whether the "urban legend" approach works or not as a cinematic retcon remains to be seen. However, according to Feige, the minds behind the MCU have been ready to incorporate Spider-Man for some time, and have always kept side doors and windows open, in order to keep continuity intact:
"This has been a dream of ours for a long time... We always had contingency plans, which we always do anyway. Are we going to be able to make another deal with this actor? If so, we're going to do this; if not, we're going to do this. If we get the rights to a certain character, that's great; we're going to do this. If not, we're going to do this. We always sort of operate under those various alternate timelines available and ready to shift if something happens."
Spider-Man becoming an ensemble player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one thing, but getting him a successful new standalone film feature is quite another. By now, the negative stigma hanging over the Spider-Man film franchise is palpable - hence why Sony was open to sharing him. With all the crossover connections already being planned, it's a legit worry that Spidey won't get his proper due as a solo character - one who is suddenly a smaller fish in a much bigger pond.
According to Feige, Marvel Studios isn't just concerned with making Spider-Man work on their turf; getting him a strong new solo film franchise is just as important: "...the most important thing as a standalone is relaunching Spider-Man in his own standalone movie with his own storylines that fits into this universe. That is job number one for us. ... The connectivity is great, but it doesn't drive the train."
The Ultimate Spider-Man animated series kicked off by incorporating Spider-Man into the animated cousin of the MCU. The premise was that Spidey, though operating fine as a solo act, needed to step up to a new level heroics, and mentors like Nick Fury and Tony Stark were the ones to help him do it. While not a hit with certain sectors of the hardcore fanbase, the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon nonetheless found a way to balance Spidey's smart-aleck irreverence and playful tone with the more fantastical and/or serious elements of the MCU.
While no one wants this new live-action film to be a cartoon in any sense (there's the upcoming Chris Miller and Phil Lord-scripted Spider-Man animated film filling that void), it's certainly a hope among fans that Vacation reboot writers Jon M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley mine the right amount of humor from the character. That same hope extends to newcomer film director Jon Watts (Onion New Network, Cop Car) having some inspired visual ideas for Spider-Man's world - better than Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 director Marc Webb's first-person POV.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man– July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.