For better or worse, each of the different “phases” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a goal for his various films to strive for. The first brought our disparate heroes together, while two and three showed them break and eventually reunite into a saga of infinite proportions. Because nothing could really withstand the force of a global pandemic, 2020 threw Marvel’s plans for Phase four out of the shadows, and in some cases, does not work. But if the current crop of content for 2021 and Spider-Man: No Way Home, in particular, Tell us anything, it’s that Phase Four is more interested in ironing out Marvel’s own ego than anything else.
No way home the latest trailer finally gave us our first right look at the different villains by Spider-Men earlier. The most curious of this insidious near-sextuplet are not classic enemies like Doc Ock and Green Goblin, but the bottom step of cinematic Spidey villains: Electro and Lizard from the short-lived Amazing duology, and Spider-Man 3s Sandman (and potentially New Goblin). With ex-spiders Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire might also be waiting behind the scenes so they can get in on some Keaton-like last hurray, it’s clear that the goal is to give the old villains and potential heroes a chance to “get it right.” Such a goal has loudly hovered over Marvel’s and Sony’s joint custody as a strange smell, and No way home represents the most naked attempt to date on this. And unlike comics, there is no real illusion of change, just a confidence bordering on direct arrogance that it can skate past by giving fans what they have been demanding and poorly photoshopped for three years.
With the world collectively saying “no thank you” to Fantastic 2, the two companies decided to start over with Holland as the “real” Spider-Man. “They can make Spider-Man right,said many back in 2015 when the deal was announced because he was finally “coming home.” That Marvel oversees its biggest A-lists was reason enough for fans to take the company’s side during 2019 fight for custody with Sony, so we have no more crossovers or references to other Avengers. (Remember, this came after success of both Spider verse and the original Married, and it’s now more fun since Gift 2 have done pretty good also.) And of course, the first two Home movies are solid and Holland is pretty good at them as both sides of Peter. But the highlights of these films can not hide how superficial the idea is that these films surpass their immediate predecessor. Two solo films and three crossovers constantly highlight how incredibly toothless this Peter is compared to those who came before him and even those he proud stands next to. Anything like character development or an overall statement about who Peter is – as has been given to his other trilogy veterans like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers – is nowhere to be found here.
In itself, it would be a bitter but acceptable pill to swallow, but it is part of a larger Marvel trend of over-correction to desperation. Wandavision needed to do the work to make that relationship feel real in a way that Infinity Saga certainly did not, but even in its best moments, Black widow feels like a late, awkward apology. Shang-Chi doing Mandarin there was a need for a tragic figure – who easily carries the whole film – and it was also to bring back Iron Man 3s false mandarin to mock, but to keep Trevor around for the rest of the film felt like a studio trying to get his cake and also eat it. Though well-meaning, these moments come out at best as silly or at worst unnecessarily self-righteous.
It’s all “for the fans”: a phrase that will wear its welcome long before Fantastic Four and mutants officially join the fight. Under the Marvel Studios banner, these reboots will not be able to help themselves repeat past events and reuse characters that were not so favored in Fox’s hands. Sure, you’ll finally get Doctor Doom the way you want, and Galactus is not a cloud again, but is it worth having to deal with any third go to Phoenix Saga? (If we are already tired of to see Waynes being shot, it must be close to second or third gradually.) Do you want these characters you grew up with to have a better hand, or do you just want to bring them forward without having to add warnings, like prequel era Star wars fans should make up until quite recently? When the studio is high on its own bullshit, it is often when it is worst and the two properties will see them so high that they will touch Mars.
There will definitely be fun seeing the three spiders and maybe others multiverse visitors fighting the beta version of Sinister Six. But at the moment, it does not feel that way No way home exists to further Peter’s story or even really celebrate Spider-Man’s story as a character. It feels more like Marvel rules Sony Marvel Studios get praise and worship for including these previously used characters and villains and not the company that happens to currently own the rights. And if they are to participate in a cock-measuring competition, the least they can do is have it behind closed doors.
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