Could the real heroes of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” be … corporate lawyers?
Sure looks that way.
After 2014’s critically reviled “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” underperformed at the box office, Sony, which controls the rights to Spidey, swallowed its pride and went (wall?) crawling to a rival studio.
The result, as detailed in June by the Los Angeles Times, was an unprecedented and headline-grabbing partnership with Marvel that allowed it to produce the next Spider-Man film in exchange for a flat fee. Sony keeps the box-office profits and Marvel (owned by Disney) benefits on the merchandising end.
Those benefiting the most may well be the fans.
By all accounts, “Homecoming” is Spider-Man done right. Finally. This is the lovable hero that first burst out of the four-color pages of Marvel Comics in 1962 and became a global icon.
Sony stumbled for years, seemingly unable to successfully exploit one of its most valuable properties. But Marvel Studios seemed to capture what makes its character great.
One of its most satisfying tweaks was to make Spider-Man alter ego Peter Parker younger. In “Homecoming,” he’s 15 — and actor Tom Holland, who’s 21, actually looks it. (Previous Spidey Andrew Garfield was in his late 20s.)
From its inception, Spider-Man has always been the story of an underdog, struggling to fit in at school and wrestling with his newfound abilities.
“We want to play with Spider-Man in the high-school years because frankly there’ve been five Spider-Man films and the amazing thing about it is … there are so many things from the comics that haven’t been done yet,” Marvel chief Kevin Feige told Collider in 2015.
As Feige suggests, Marvel’s stewardship also brings a newfound faithfulness to the vision of Spider-Man creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko — which sometimes got lost in the Sony movies, with their head-scratching subplots about Peter’s missing parents and revised character origins.
Longtime followers will recognize not just characters and a tone that’s straight from the Marvel comics, but a few specific moments: The scene in which Spidey strains to extricate himself from a rubble pile pays homage to a Ditko sequence in 1966’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” No. 33 that’s among the most famous in comic-book history.
“Homecoming” also benefits from another strength: At last, Spidey interacts with other Marvel heroes.
Spider-Man’s Marvel debut in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War” proved that the character is so much more appealing when playing and wisecracking with others. Having Iron Man mentor him provides many of the more entertaining moments in “Homecoming.”
The film promises to make a mint this weekend, which may inspire other studios that aren’t making the most of their Marvel properties to strike a similar deal.
Say, who was it that guest-starred in the very first issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man”? It was the Fantastic Four, currently controlled by Fox.