What happens when an IP tries to imitate its past? The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes inspiration from the past and the future.
Phase four has driven us towards the multiverse with hiccups and missteps. Loki did it one way, Doctor Strange another. Ultimately there should be an internal logic that makes sense throughout the films. You could get into that, but it would defeat the purpose of entertainment.
So who is your favourite Live-Action Spiderman? Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire told a different story. One where every swing of the wall-crawler across New York City was the first of its kind on a large screen. Exciting, impactful and full of emotion. But after a few days of reading other people’s opinions on Twitter, Rotten Tomatoes and whatnot, I feel like people have this incredible recency bias that compels them to rate the latest adventure as the best. I feel like over time, as we move away from this initial hype, it will come down as a very derivative movie relying heavily on what came before. I mean, think about it. In terms of Peter’s story, he is often secondary to other characters on screen doing the cool stuff. First, J. Jonah Jameson reveals his identity to the world, then MIT decides to not take them in for their undergraduate programme. Then Doctor Strange casts the spell that breaks reality. Then Aunt May convinces Peter to try to cure the previous generations villains. Then previous Spider-Men take all the applause as they appear in a muddled way due to nostalgia, then Willem Dafoe stops Peter from trying to save MJ which gives Andrew Garfield some closure. The point is, what incredible thing did Tom Holland’s Peter Parker do? Nothing but be a passive protagonist.
It did feel like a fan made this film. It broke box office records, but I think it will not stay in the lexicon for any of its current moments. All the cheer and excitement was to see the previous two SpiderMen come back to dawn their costumes. Another point of frustration is that they underplay so many of the seemingly unbelievable events with a silly joke. No one would behave like that if an actual person from another universe visited.
Perhaps they don’t believe in their verisimilitude. The MCU-Sony Spiderman films have not been my favourites. That’s because I have felt the first iterations to be good enough and definitive. For example, if you admire a word, dream about how you’d feel if you too had tiny spikes in your hand that make you crawl on walls, then someone would come and say that look, that thing you loved is now something else, something new, you’d feel weirded out as well. Cinema greats like Martin Scorcese and others who have raised concerns about Marvel movies do have a point when they say that these kinds of films are not cinema. They feel like theme park rides where they don’t seem to have any relatable consequences as any threat could be CGI’d away instantly.
Their stakes don’t seem high enough for the main characters, even though the world around them is folding onto itself in the mirror dimension. With a great past comes a mediocre imitative present but a hopeful future.