There have been 5 Spider-Man movies since 2002, and they’ve grossed a combined $1.5 billion domestically and $3.96 billion worldwide. That’s more than the combined worldwide gross ($3.81 billion) of the nine X-Men movies, including Deadpool, which have come out since 2000. There have also been three animated Spider-Man TV shows since 2002, with the most recent of the bunch, Ultimate Spider-Man, currently still airing new episodes on DisneyXD. Lastly, as of 2014 Spider-Man was easily the most lucrative superhero in the world in terms of licensing, earning more per year than Batman, Superman and the Avengers combined.
So when Marvel Studios and Sony say that the next live-action Spider-Man movie, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, will skip the standard origin story they’re making a fairly safe bet that by this point everyone pretty much gets it. Bit by spider. Crawls up walls. Watches his uncle die. Cries. Great power and all that.
Yet it’s still a bold move. Characters like Spider-Man, Superman and Batman have been in so many movies and TV shows that it kind of feels like we grow up knowing their origin stories, as if they are etched into some textbook we all have to read in school as kids. However, while Man of Steel may have severely tweaked the more familiar story from the comics and prior movies/TV shows it was still ultimately another Superman origin story. Batman v Superman was bolder in its depiction of a fully formed, near retirement-age Batman, yet the opening minutes were still devoted to another “death of Bruce’s parents” sequence [see: Batman in ’89, Batman Begins in ’05, Gotham in ’14, BvS in ’16]. The LEGO Movie Batman may get to wave all that away jokingly (“Darkness! No Parents!”), but the live action version is still stuck watching his parents die.
However, the version of Spider-Man we will meet in Captain America: Civil War already has his powers and costume, and he’s already lost his parents and Uncle Ben. Uproxx recently talked to Civil War‘s screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to discuss the tricky balance they had to walk.
“It’s a gift,” says Markus, “with everyone sick of him being introduced, you very nearly don’t have to introduce him.”
“It’s almost a cheat,” adds McFeely. “Everyone has seen one of the five other movies that have come in the last decade. So we kind of lean into that and make a nice character scene with a stumbling kid – who is actually a kid! – who you get one vague little reference about something in his past that must be haunting him as he’s sitting on the bed there. Then everyone fills in the blanks themselves.”
Was there a debate on the slippery slope between too much information we’ve all heard before, versus not enough information for a potential new viewer? “If it was something we felt wasn’t pertinent to the story we were telling in this movie,” says Markus, “it got cut.” He continues, “Tony hearing Peter’s reasoning for being a hero is important to Tony for his evolution as a hero.”
McFeely adds, “You should be able to listen to that conversation as if it were to apply to Tony and have it resonate.”
Markus also adds, “The whole scene is as important for Tony as it is for getting Spider-Man into the movie.”
Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6. Spider-Man: Homecoming is due July 7, 2017. According to The Hollywood Reporter, talks have begun with Michael Keaton to play the villain, possibly the Vulture, possibly someone else. Keaton as the Vulture? Oh, the internet’s inevitable Birdman memes will be everywhere.