And we have our Spider-man. Earlier this week Sony revealed that they had signed Tom Holland to play the webbed superhero, set to appear in next year’s Captain America: Civil War and a future movie reboot. Furthermore, contrary to previous reports, Drew Goddard will not be directing the 2017 film, with Jon Watts picking up the credit. Now our speculation can turn to who will be playing the supporting roles and what the costume will look like for the new series.
Both Holland and Watts are unknowns. I had expected the actor to be unestablished given that they were looking for young actors so that their Peter Parker could feasibly look like he went to high school. In that regard, they’ve certainly succeeded. Holland looks young despite being 19 and will only be a month shy of his 20th birthday when Civil War hits cinemas. Holland is best known for Spanish disaster film, Lo Imposible, also featuring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, but he also has a few films coming out this year which will certainly benefit from his new found name recognition.
Watts is also known well by only one film, Cop Car, an indie thriller about two joyriders being chased by a rogue sheriff, played by Kevin Bacon, looking particularly ridiculous with a mustache. Horror fans might know Watts for Clown, which saw limited release and is probably only well known for the story that Eli Roth joined the production after writers Watts and Christopher D. Ford were gutsy enough to release a fake trailer announcing that Roth was already producing. It’s nice to know that Watts won’t be scared to do something different with the new Spider-Man, provided Sony give him enough space to work. Interestingly, one of Holland’s upcoming films, Backcountry, is a Canadian horror movie, so he and Watts should get on like a house on fire.
The idea of Watts bringing some of that horror and thriller experience is really intriguing. A Kafkaesque approach to Spider-Man would be totally refreshing and stand out from the Sam Rami and Mark Webb movies. At the time Raimi’s films were some of the best superhero movies we’d ever seen but then The Dark Knight came out and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe took over. Looking back, It’s disappointing that Raimi, with his expertise and background, didn’t do more with the Spider-Man films. The films drew too much from his love of slapstick than the cult horror to the point where even when the films needed to go dark it felt corny and false.
Regardless of the direction that Watts and Sony decided to pursue, almost every fan on the planet will be glad to know that there will be no origin story. The film will start out after the fact, with Parker already web slinging and stringing up criminals. This is good news because audiences really don’t need to see another thirty minutes of set up that is essentially the same as the previous two films. Even Amazing Spider-Man’s injection of family history didn’t really change the basic story from ‘man gets bit by spider, develops powers’. This is clearly Marvel’s influence on Sony, as they followed the same trend with Warmachine and The Hulk. In both cases Terrence Howard and Edward Norton were replaced with Don Cheadle and Mark Ruffalo and everyone acted like it had always been that way.
Origin story or not though, this film is still likely to splinter the already divided fan base. Now, on top of the Raimi Vs. Webb arguments and Tobey Maguire vs. Andrew Garfield disagreements, there will be a new sect that will support Holland and Watts and will criticise the other adaptations. It’s not even down to the fact that this is a reboot, it’s because of how soon the change has coming after the previous series. People will still pay to see the movie but they run the risk of viewers finding it trite and uninspired simply because they’ve seen other versions of this exact character in this world so recently. That’s why Watts needs to be bold with his direction and story.
That’s not to say that people will story arguing if the film is good. To this day, despite there being a thirteen age gap and The Dark Knight being heralded as one the best films of the superhero genre, fans still disagree over whether Tim Burton’s films were the best or if Nolan’s films live up to their hype. But you don’t see fans arguing that they should have kept Michael Keaton around because it’s just not practical for Keaton to be running around in the cape and cowl these days, even if Birdman shows that he’s still a damn fine actor.But at least if Watts does something like make a dark, creepy battle of wits between Spider-Man and Mysterio people can’t complain it was too similar to previous outings of the character.
What I’m not looking forward to is the continued high school setting. The choice of younger actor was partly tied to the setting but I feel like we’ve seen enough of Peter Parker in high school. Even if it didn’t come up much in the previous films, Maguire and Garfield’s characters both went to high school, fought with bully Flash Thompson and were attracted to the popular girl. I don’t know what more there is to explore in those settings so while I’m fine so far with a Spider-Man who is still in high school, I don’t particularly want to see more of the character in that environment.
There’s lots of potential for new creative direction with the casting of Tom Holland and Jon Watts. I can’t honestly say that they were my first choice but I look forward to seeing what they bring to the table. Admittedly, if this were just Sony’s decision I might be a bit wary but given that Marvel were involved and Marvel’s track record of signing relatively unknown actors who wind up being brilliant, I’m content with these choices. Now, who should play Aunt May?