Marvel fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when Spider-Man returned to the MCU, but the character still has a few kinks that need ironing out. After a pair of middling The Amazing Spider-Man movies starring Andrew Garfield, Sony elected to throw their lot in with Marvel and embark on joint production for a new version of the iconic superhero, this time starring Tom Holland as the web-slinger. Since Holland's debut in Captain America: Civil War, MCU Spidey has been a resounding success, starring in two solo ventures and the last two Avengers installments.
Shortly after the theatrical run of Spider-Man: Far From Home, however, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's usual air of stability and harmony came crashing down, as Disney shifted the terms of their deal with Sony, forcing the two studios into a stalemate. Sony vowed to carry on with the same cast, Tom Holland put a brave face on having half of Peter Parker's characterization suddenly ripped from underneath him and the comic world united in uproar - a fervor magnified by Spider-Man: Far From Home's cliffhanger ending.
After a passionate, angry response from fans, Disney were eventually able to reach an amicable agreement with Sony for Spider-Man to continue as part of the MCU. A third Spider-Man solo movie has been penciled in for 2021 as part of Phase 4, and Tom Holland is free to appear in other franchise entries. The status quo is restored, and fans are overjoyed. But while Spider-Man's return to the MCU is undoubtedly a good thing for both the character and the franchise, it doesn't cover up the issues that remain with this iteration of the hero.
Spider-Man's MCU Future
The short-term future of Spider-Man in the MCU has been assured, but what exactly does that entail? A third entry in the Spider-Man: Homecoming series has been confirmed for July 16th, 2021. Tom Holland will likely also feature in another Avengers-style team-up, although the exact nature of that offering has yet to be confirmed. A straight-up Avengers 5 is entirely possible, but there are rumors of a Secret Wars storyline in the works that would pit the various heroes and villains of the Marvel world against each other in an environment dedicated to battle. As is common in the MCU, post-credits appearances and brief cameos are always on the cards.
Following that, Spider-Man's long-term tenure in the MCU remains unclear. Reports have emerged suggesting the current agreement between Disney and Sony is a temporary one that will allow Marvel to write Peter Parker out of their franchise and tie up all of his remaining plot holes. Other sources are suggesting that Disney might dip into its considerable pockets and attempt to buy the rights to Spidey outright. As demonstrated by Spider-Man's rapid removal and return to the Marvel fold, things can change very quickly in the superhero movie business.
MCU Spider-Man's Biggest Flaw
Tom Holland is a revelation as Spider-Man and even better in the role of Peter Parker, making a strong case for being considered the best live-action version of the hero. Alas, one nagging criticism has followed the character, first coming to light following the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming and gaining momentum after this year's sequel, Spider-Man: Far From Home - that the MCU's Peter Parker is too reliant on Tony Stark.
In a stroke of genius, Marvel replaced Peter Parker's tired Uncle Ben component with Robert Downey Jr.'s well-established Tony Stark. This not only provided a fresher father figure to the teenage superhero, but also immediately integrated Spidey into the wider MCU. But what began as a positive addition to Peter's character soon became a dependence, later evolving into a weakness. Ever since his creation at the legendary hands of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man has been one of comic books' most relatable heroes. Moving away from the billionaire playboy stylings of a Stark or a Bruce Wayne and the otherworldly, god-like abilities of Superman or Thor, Peter Parker becomes a superhero by accident. The Spider-Man character is also relatively unique in the sense that Peter is forced to balance his personal life in New York with his superhero persona far more delicately than most Marvel or DC figures.
In the MCU, however, Spider-Man's "friendly neighborhood" spirit and DIY ethic has been hampered by his ongoing connection to Tony Stark. The founding Avenger provided Peter with his first proper costume and has continued to offer upgrades, including the Iron Spider outfit seen in Avengers: Infinity War. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the scene where Peter Parker builds his final Spider-suit is intended to be symbolic of him moving out from the shadow of Tony Stark, but the costume's construction takes place on Tony Stark's plane...with Tony Stark's equipment...paid for by Tony Stark's money.
The result of this Stark influence is another out-of-reach superhero, far less down to Earth and relatable than Peter's comic counterpart, and this removes one of the character's most unique and interesting traits.
How Marvel Can Fix Spider-Man
If Spider-Man: Far From Home really had been Tom Holland's swansong as part of the MCU, many plot threads would've been left unresolved, including the fate of the EDITH A.I. system and the public reveal of Peter Parker as the web-slinger. But fans would've also been deprived of seeing MCU Spidey stand on his own two feet and evolve into his own person, truly breaking free of Iron Man's shadow. Even though Tony Stark had already died by the time of Spider-Man: Far From Home, the film was very much dominated by his legacy and Peter Parker in particular was left reeling from his mentor's demise.
While this made perfect sense in the context of Avengers: Endgame, it also meant that, yet again, Peter's arc was dominated by Tony Stark instead of his own personal motivations and ideas. The MCU hasn't quite got around to digging into what Tom Holland's Spider-Man looks like without any Stark influence at play.
Despite rumors that Iron Man will make a surprise appearance in the upcoming Black Widow movie, Marvel's Phase 4 looks set to bid farewell to the original cast of Avengers, Tony Stark included. By the time Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 rolls around in 2021, the franchise would've long moved on and Peter Parker should be a definitively self-sufficient superhero. The first step in this process would be to have Peter build his own hi-tech suit out of his own apartment or bedroom (depending on when in the timeline the third movie is set), signalling to viewers that he's now entirely independent and thereby restoring the character's DIY ethos from the comics. The other vital step would be to remove any Stark remnants from the 2021 film's plot. As much as Jon Favreau's presence in Spider-Man: Far From Home was appreciated, having Happy Hogan dig Peter's friends out of trouble instead of leaving it to Spidey himself paints the MCU web-slinger as a hero in training.
The other key step in bringing Spider-Man out of the MCU's Stark shadow is altering his standing in the Avengers, or whatever superhero team comes next in the franchise. Peter was a "call-up" in Captain America: Civil War, an unwanted participant in Avengers: Infinity War and just about a proper Avenger after his resurrection in Avengers: Endgame. The next time viewers see Spidey as part of a team-up, he needs to have a senior standing, despite his tender age. No other hero calls Spider-Man up for action, he's first on the scene, recruiting others for the task at hand. This shift would indicate beyond doubt that Spider-Man is no longer Tony Stark's pet project and is a fully-fledged superhero in his own right - something that's only possible because Tom Holland has been allowed to continue his Spider-Man journey in the MCU.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021) release date: Jul 16, 2021