Point vs. Counterpoint

Counter-Point: Should Spiderman be in the MCU?

Storytelling has become a tool of corporate dominance. Today’s cultural icons do not grow and change in response to the concerns of their universe, but instead become warped by the paychecks that rule ours.

Nowhere is this more true than in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a massive sprawling mess of films that refuses to find a conclusion. Yes, Avengers: Endgame ended the arcs of several key characters, but the universe just keeps chugging along. Every end is a new beginning, every film is a hook into another. Perhaps there will never be a proper narrative end to the franchise, and it will instead hobble along for years to come until, at long last, it drops abruptly when audiences get sick of it.

This brings us to Spider-Man. Once the shining star of multiple film series, he has now become relegated to being a side-character in his own movies. His strength, web, and spider-sense (also called the Peter-tingle) are all playing second fiddle to the MCU Spider-Man’s most important power: being the protege of Tony Stark. It was an interesting take on the character the first time we saw it.  As well, Far From Home was good as far as MCU entries go. But one cannot escape the feeling that these movies are more about fleshing out the kinks in the military industrial complex than about telling the story of a boy who has the powers of a spider.

Is that the Spider-Man that people want to see, indefinitely? A mere insect, sorry, an arachnid, pushed around by forces too grand for him to comprehend? A boy physically stronger than a hundred men, but who must live forever in the shadow of aliens and robot-men? A tiny cog in the perpetual motion engine we call the Marvel Universe?

Or perhaps what they would prefer, is a Spider-Man who fills the role vacated by Tony Stark. The one who holds the keys to power, who negotiates with the most powerful tights-wearers in the galaxy, who extends his reach to the entire globe? A commander of drone armies and massive hoards of gold? If that’s what people want to see, it is worth asking why Spider-Man is the most entertaining choice for any of that. If Spider-Man actually fills Tony Starks shoes, then would he even have time left for web-slinging, train-stopping, or Peter-tingling?

That’s the dilemma of keeping Spider-Man in the MCU. Either he becomes a global force to reckon with, or he must live under the rule of those who do. So long as he’s in the MCU, we can have a dozen movies of Spider-Man being Iron Man’s protege, Spider-Man being a SHIELD associate, Spider-Man being ignored by the powers that be, but we can’t have a Spider-Man story actually focused on Spider-Man actually doing things a spider can.

In comparison, during the Sam Raimi movies, Spider-Man was the focus of the series. He had no higher authority to appeal to, instead he was the one and only person who could save the day. And he didn’t have drones or super-suits or the like, he had to depend on the actual spider-powers. During Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales had to collaborate with others closely to accomplish anything. However, his collaborators were all either Spider-Men, Spider-Women, Spider-Creatures or firmly rooted in the Spider-Man mythos. Miles might have been upstaged, but only by others of his kind.

Speaking of the Spider-Verse, that’s the obvious ticket out of the MCU from a plot perspective. How else could he escape all the rogues who will surely be tailing him after Far From Home? If Spider-Man stayed in the MCU, he could presumably get a private jet to one of the many alien planets in the MCU’s scope. Without the resources of SHIELD to assist him, Spider-Man will need a less intuitive route to safety, perhaps even across dimensions.
The final reason that Spider-Man should leave the MCU is that he will finally be able to face off Venom, properly. In Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, Venom was just one villain of many. In the MCU, writers were firmly committed to avoiding the villains that appeared in previous Spider-Man movies. But we now finally have a situation where someone could get a movie entirely focused on the conflict between Venom and Spider-Man. Whether or not the Venom solo movie would be part of such a continuity is anyone’s guess.

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