How SPIDER-MAN In The Marvel Cinematic Universe Makes No Sense
Marvel Comics’ ‘Civil War’ storyline is a massive comic book event that occured between 2006 and 2007 that redefined the Marvel comics universe. That storyline is now being adapted into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe in the upcoming movie ‘Captain America: Civil War’. One key character was crucial to the comic book storyline, however until recently the movie rights to that character belonged to a different company than Marvel’s own Studios.
However, inadvertently due to some some devastating acts of cyber terrorism, an agreement has been reached where Spider-Man, owned by Sony Pictures, will definitely make an appearance in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, and somehow, be a part of the MCU. Recent news even confirming the actor playing the new Spider-Man being Tom Holland and the future solo film of the hero to be directed by Jon Watts. But how exactly Spider-Man will fit into the landscape of the current version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, seems a bit more complicated. Read on for my thoughts on how Spider-Man in the MCU doesn’t seem to make much sense.
It’s fairly obvious that while thinking out loud, I’m going to refer to the comics’ storyline and quite possibly events from the more recent ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ (my full Review can be found here) as well as the TV show ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ So if you don’t want SPOILERS for any of those, read on at your own discretion from here on out.
Comic Book Civil War
So let’s first quickly recap the significance of Spider-Man in the comics storyline ‘Civil War’. ‘Civil War’ occurs within the Marvel Universe due to conflicting ideologies between Captain America & Tony Stark. After an incident of uncontrolled superhero devastation, the political climate shifts wanting to hold superheroes responsible for their actions by unmasking and having them register their true identities with the government. Stark, being opportunistic and a visionary, sides with the government, eventually hunting down those who refuse to abide by this new law. Captain America, being morally virtutious, considers this to go against peoples’ basic freedoms, and goes against the government and thus becomes a fugitive. The entire Marvel Universe splits right in two, with super heroes and villains fighting side by side based on their outlook of this issue. Spider-Man became the poster boy for Tony Stark’s war when he was convinced to reveal his identity and register himself, after years of being a superhero in anonymity. So obviously a movie adaptation of ‘Civil War’ is impossible without Spider-Man… or is it?
Spider-Man was an existing character who’s been a masked hero for years in the comic book universe, at the time of the ‘Civil War’ storyline. The young hero’s scrappy determination also makes him much respected among the older heroes. So this made his joining either side of the fight, especially exposing his identity, a big shock for the world. But, as has been established already, the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man will be a teenager who will have just become a superhero. As far as can be seen all the way until the most recent MCU movie, there has been no mention of the character in this universe. So the effect of a masked kid whom no one knows about, having done nothing of note, unmasking in public, will not have the same impact as it did in the comics.
Now there are, of course, ways to incorporate the new character into the existing MCU. He can easily be portrayed as a young and idealistic new hero who looks up to both Avengers, maybe even holding them as the reason why he put on a mask in the first place. After being exposed to both conflicting ideologies, this young Spider-Man would eventually have to choose between his own personal heroes, mirroring the struggle of the audience as well. Spider-Man’s growth as a true hero can be shown within the course of the film as he shifts his devotion from the slick and cool Iron Man, to the virtuous Captain America. This also allows the character to be established within this movie, before branching out into his own with Sony, as is the plan. However, all this could have also been achieved by yet another existing character that already has an established backstory within the MCU that can easily be adapted to fit the role Spider-Man plays in the comics.
A War Needs A Soldier
With Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier current missing within the MCU, it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch to have him fill the role of Spider-Man’s within the ‘Civil War’ Storyline. To support his Superhero Registration Act, Tony Stark could have found Bucky, and been working with the best psychiatric doctors (maybe even an appearance from an ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ character?) to reprogram and bring his memories back in order to make Bucky the face of his stance on the ‘superhero problem’. Bucky’s past as a H.Y.D.R.A. Agent can be modified for the public to more fall in line with the Superhero Registration Act. Stark could spin his origin story as having been a victim of H.Y.D.R.A., who then carried out his patriotic duty all these years by fighting for his country as a government sanctioned superhero. This manipulation of his best friend by Stark would give Captain America an even more personal reason to oppose this law. Sebastian Stan could also, finally get a prominent focus in the MCU as his character could then go on the same journey of self actualization and regaining of his memories, realizing that Stark is manipulating him, similar to how H.Y.D.R.A. did, and eventually joining Captain America by the third act of the movie.
How Is It A War?
The comics’ ‘Civil War’ pitted thousands of characters from the entire Marvel line, against each other in a historic event. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has not even a fraction of that number of characters who can be considered ‘super powered’. The sum total of powered people, or ‘enhanced’ as ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ introduced, currently in the MCU is 5. (Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hulk, Captain America & Thor.) 6 if you count Daredevil in the TV Universe. And speaking of TV, ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ actually introduces a lot more people with powers known as Inhumans, (of which Scarlet Witch is a part), however the movies thus far haven’t even referenced or explained that connection. So unless ‘Captain America: Civil War’ opens with the sudden exposition of the world having exponentially more enhanced people than we were previously led to believe, how can this be anything close to a ‘war’?
Even if Stark and the other non-powered heroes such as Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon & War Machine go up against the rest in a 5 on 5 battle, how is that anything more than a fight within the Avengers, variations of which we’ve already seen. There is a huge disconnect between the scale of the ‘Civil War’ storyline in the comics, and how that can be adequately adapted into the film. ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Inhumans storyline dealt with this exact same threat, however, there doesn’t seem to be an apparent connection between the show or movies, apart from certain guest appearances, or throwaway references from one to the other.
‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’
One of the ways that the MCU can suddenly become populated with enough powered people for a battle between to be anything short of a bar brawl, can be found within the release date of ‘Captain America: Civil War’. The movie opens almost exactly a year after ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ on May 6th, 2016. This means that Season 3 of ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ will have an entire season to deal with a powered people population in the MCU that can directly lead into ‘Captain America: Civil War’. If so, then it would be the first time that the TV & Movie universes would be directly linked together, as a storyline set up over the course of a season in the show, culminating in an explosive feature film.
If not however, then ‘Captain America: Civil War’, already under the risk of having way too many characters packed into the movie, will also run the risk of being overrun with establishing exposition, explanation and the weight of all these moving pieces may cause the film to collapse in on itself.
‘Captain America: Civil War’ releases May 6th, 2016. And the film stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Elizabeth Olson, Scarlet Johansson, Paul Bethany, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, & Don Cheadle.