Despite a global pandemic and naysayers, Spider-Man: No Way Home (NWH) defied expectations and is a mammoth box office hit. With the success comes discussion over what lies ahead for future Spider-Man films and the ramifications of the events of NWH. Be aware the following will include spoilers about Spider-Man: No Way Home and related films.
The Complex Film Web
Spider-Man’s film history and its development has always been rocky. Before the first Spider-Man in 2002, it took years and armies of lawyers to develop a Spider-Man film thanks to the Marvel Comics superhero’s complex film rights. As it now stands Sony Pictures holds the film rights to Spider-Man, not The Walt Disney Company or Marvel Studios. While Sony had great success with the early Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man films, they struggled with their rebooted film duology, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The film studio tried to start their own film universe based on Spider-Man and related property to rival Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But those films were not as successful as the Raimi films nor were they well received. This forced Sony to scuttle further planned films and work with Marvel Studios to integrate the superhero into the MCU. This paid off tremendously as the MCU Spider-Man films were beloved and very profitable.
The partnership between Sony and Disney hit a large hurdle in 2019 shortly after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, a film which ended on a cliffhanger. The two companies could not come to terms and Sony took back the film rights, effectively ending all appearances by Spider-Man in the MCU. After some time, cooler heads prevailed and Spidey was allowed to have at least one more appearance in the MCU, which was Spider-Man: No Way Home, a film that celebrated all the Spider-Man live-action films as the actors who performed Spider-Man in the older films, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprised their iconic roles. Many theorized that based on the film’s plot line dealing with alternate realities that the superhero would transition away from the MCU and into his own reality that was populated by other characters such as Venom and Morbius.
Across a Multiverse
According to executives from both film companies, Spider-Man will remain in the MCU for the time being. Producer Amy Pascal even went as far as to announce that a new MCU Spider-Man was in development and perhaps more. He is also supposed to appear in one other MCU film as a feature character like he did in Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films. It would be terrific if he could show up in the MCU reboot of the Fantastic Four since the two properties have a shared early history and the director of the MCU Spider-Man films, Jon Watts, has been selected to direct the FF reboot.
Spider-Man remaining in the MCU is welcome news for fans who love the MCU version of Spider-Man. No one can say for certain if this actually happens, but given the huge success of the MCU Spider-Man films, it would be in the best interests of both film studios to continue the arrangement. On the other hand, if this does not come to pass, at least the cliffhanger was resolved and the last film in the trilogy brought this Spidey’s story to a conclusion and a new chapter in his life.
Supposing Spider-Man were to remain in the MCU what would he face next? One clue is the alien symbiote that created Venom. At the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Venom was transported to the MCU, however he did not play a vital role in NWH. Instead, Venom and his host Eddie Brock hung out in a bar in Mexico and was transported back to his own reality in a mid-credit scene in NWH. The scene was quite funny, but some were disappointed that Venom did not help out the Spider-Men or join the Sinister Six. But a small fragment of the symbiote was left behind in the MCU. So this could be what Peter faces next.
As to how this fragment remained while everyone else not part of the MCU were transported back to their own realities, well, because plot holes. On that note, where were the other characters from other realities that knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man, such as the Raimi version of Venom, or the Harry Osborns in the other films or Peter’s love interests? The real-world answer is that having them show up would have made the film too crowded. It already had the two previous versions of Spider-Man and the main villains from those films, plus the Venom and Matt Murdock appearances. It is possible they arrived much later in NWH and were quickly whisked back before they could do anything. Or maybe they were about to come through in the scene near the end where the dimensional rift threatened to rip open wider. In that moment, audiences could make out the forms of other Spider-Man villains like Kraven the Hunter and Scorpion, so other characters who knew Spider-Man’s secret identity were bound to come through, also.
For now, it seems as if Venom will have his own universe that is populated by at least one other Spider-Man villain, Morbius. There are hints that this universe is part of the film universe of The Amazing Spider-Man films. These include the font for the Daily Bugle newspaper seen in Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Morbius is similar to that seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Another is the Oscorp Building featured in those films turned up in a recent trailer for Morbius. That film references Venom and the trailers featured Michael Keaton as presumably the Vulture, an MCU Spider-Man villain. How can this be? Simple, this version of the version is similar to the MCU version seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The way that actor J.K. Simmons reprised his role as J. Jonah Jameson in NWH being that he played the same character in the Raimi Spider-Man films also applies in this case with the Vulture. In other words, his appearance in Morbius does not mean the film takes place in the MCU. As to the apprent absence of Spider-Man in the Venom films to date (post-credits scenes aside), well, they could have taken place before The Amazing Spider-Man films.
There are plans to create a film based on Kraven the Hunter with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the famous Spidey villain. This film could be interesting, but would feel hollow without Spider-Man’s presence. More than Venom or Morbius, Kraven was driven and defined by Spider-Man. He was obssessed by besting his ultimate prey in the comic books. This culminated in the classic story line “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and it is hard to imagine such a story being filmed without Spider-Man. If the Kraven film takes place in The Amazing Spider-Man films perhaps it can include Andrew Garfield’s version of Spider-Man.
The Garfield Redemption
One pleasant surprise with Spider-Man: No Way Home was with how Andrew Garfield stole the movie with his sensitive portrayal of Spider-Man. Ever since he was cast to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Garfield has shown a great passion for the character and this was reflected in his performances. Even though the Garfield Spider-Man films were flawed he was the best part about them. He seemed the most comic accurate with Spidey’s snarky attitude and loner status, even by his lanky build and the way he moved. It is sad that unlike Tobey Maguire or Tom Holland, he was never given the chance to do a third film in his series and his duology feels incomplete. The last we saw of his Spider-Man before NWH, he was in deep grief over the death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy. In NWH, the Garfield Peter admitted that even though in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 he supposedly overcame his despair and resumed his crime fighting, he never got over her death. He also admitted to becoming darker and it was implied he became more violent and had given up his civilian life.
The Andrew Garfield Spider-Man experienced his own redemptive sub plot in Spider-Man: No Way Home in that he learns to accept his strengths thanks to encouraging words from the Maguire Spider-Man. Even more cathartic for him, in a crucial moment he is able to save MJ, the girlfriend of the Holland Spider-Man, when she nearly fell to her death. The look of joy and disbelief in his teary eyes just said it all. Additionally, he and the Maguire Spider-Man served as the older mentor roles that the Holland Spider-Man needed. Only they could identify with his rage and grief after his Aunt May was killed.
More than anything, Garfield proved, when lined up with his colleagues, that he is arguably the best incarnation of Spider-Man, even though Maguire and Holland are great in their roles. Garfield has indicated a willingness to reprise the role in the future, so the ball is in Sony’s court. The demand is there and rising among fans who recognize how great Garfield was and the incomplete nature of his films. What is fueling speculation and demand for a continuation are rumors that Sony is interested in doing a third solo Spider-Man film with Garfield, but this is just hearsay at the moment. Of course, the argument about potential confusion over multiple Spider-Men is valid, but the Distinguished Competition has shown that doing multiple variations of a superhero at the same time can be done as seen with Batman, Superman and the Flash.
What would a third film be about? The villain is not that important. Finish up that Sinister Six storyline set up at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, unless they were taken care of already offscreen, just get better writers and/or directors. If they can figure out how to improve the original storyline, do a variation of the Gwen Stacy clone/Jackal saga. More importantly, it should be a film about healing and moving on with Peter accepting that Gwen is gone and starting relationship with a girl he happens to hit the jackpot with: Mary Jane Watson. This would be a fitting way of concluding this version of Spider-Man.
Even if Sony decides against a conclusion to The Amazing Spider-Man trilogy, this version of Spidey can appear in the Kraven the Hunter film or the third Venom film. Tom Hardy has expressed his desire to have Venom going toe to toe against Spider-Man, and physically, Garfield is a better match with Hardy than Holland, who looks too young.
The way Spider-Man: No Way Home ended was actually clever since it was ambiguous while being a satisfying conclusion the MCU Spider-Man trilogy. It was left open that Spider-Man could continue to exist in the MCU but not as integrated or if Sony were to produce non-MCU Spider-Man films using Tom Holland, the actor who currently plays Spider-Man, then the absence of other superheroes could be easily interpreted as Parker had transitioned to his own separate reality.
The film’s ending feels so poignant because of the situation Peter was left in because he had to face the consequences of his decisions. Unlike many heroes, Spider-Man/Peter Parker is burdened with making difficult choices and they’re not always the right ones. In NWH, Peter learns hard and brutal lessons about trying to have it both ways. He didn’t want the hassle of being publicly known as Spider-Man but his interference corrupted Doctor Strange’s spell which caused villains from other realities to enter the MCU and wreck havoc. What was worse is that shortly after the foes appeared they were captured and Doctor Strange came up with the means to return them to their own realities. However, Peter in his hubris felt he could cure the villains and would not let Strange return the villains. These foes then escaped, caused a lot of damage, and injured and killed several people, including Aunt May. Her death was his darkest moment and gave some reason to believe his Uncle Ben never died or even existed because of how he felt so guilty. Thankfully, the other two Spider-Men entered the MCU and helped Peter emotionally based on their experiences.
By the end of the film, the rift threatened to burst even wider. Spider-Man realized it was his fault all this was happening, which was why he asked Doctor Strange to modify the spell so that everyone forgot about him. After the dimensional rift was closed, Peter quickly learned that no one, not even his girlfriend and his best friend, knew who he was. This left him as he is in the comic books: a solo superhero who operates by himself and relying only on his ingenuity and bravado. In many ways, the MCU Spider-Man trilogy served as an expanded origin story because the Spider-Man we were left with at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home more accurately reflected the comic book version. This pleased many fans who felt the MCU version was too reliant on Tony Stark’s technology and was too enamored with Stark and the other MCU heroes. Now, Peter is forced to live by himself in a lonely lifestyle and fashion his own Spider-Man suit, which happens to look nearly identical to that in the comics. Despite these setbacks, Peter will continue to carry on the good fight as seen in the film’s final moments when Spidey swings off into the snowy New York City landscape during the holidays without any support. Spider-Man does this because he is a true hero.
Spider-Man No Way Home may actually end up being even bigger than Endgame in many respects. The film bridged so many eras and narrative threads, and was brilliant fun as well. Its a masterclass in how to make a great superhero movie.
Indeed! NWH proved it is possible to pull off a Spider-Man film with many characters and elements while being entertaining and insightful. I cannot wait to see what happens next.