Spider-Man's Small Role in 'Civil War' Really Mattered

Diving deep into the wallcrawler's Marvel Cinematic Universe debut 


Spider-Man has officially entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After five solo adventures over 15 years, your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler has finally been allowed to link up with the rest of his comic book brethren. The Civil War tie-in is the product of a deal struck by Sony, which controls the big screen rights to the character, and Disney, which has turned the second tier characters which Marvel hadn’t leased out into new icons in a thunderously successful run of superhero flicks. Now the Disney-owned company gets to use Spidey in its films, starting with Captain America: Civil War, in exchange for its creative input into the Sony solo flicks, which are being rebooted yet again.

Spider-Man has long been Marvel’s most popular hero, making his absence from the films inspired by the comic books increasingly conspicuous. Civil War, the major crossover comic event that provides the source material for Marvel’s new film, features Spider-Man in a prominent role, making the blockbuster an obvious point of entry for a new big screen webslinger. Consider it the best commercial possible for the next Sony solo film, which just happens to hit theaters next year.

But by necessity, Spidey’s role in Captain America: Civil War is much different than what’s laid out in the comic book text. Here’s how the new Spider-Man is used in the film, and how that might impact Spider-Man: Homecoming, the upcoming Sony reboot.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Two underwhelming outings starring Andrew Garfield convinced Sony to link up with the multi-billion dollar Marvel Studios machine, which helped cast the newest Peter Parker. The part went to Tom Holland, the 19-year-old British actor who starred in the 2012 tsunami drama The Impossible and actually looks like a teenager (Garfield was very obviously in his late 20s when he played the role).

How directors Joe and Anthony Russo (with deep input from Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige) would decide to introduce the latest iteration of Spider-Man has been the subject of intense fan speculation. It seemed all along that this would not be another origin story. How would they have room for that in such a super-sized flick? And while there was the possibility that they could bring in a mid-career Spider-Man into the fold, Holland’s casting made that seem unlikely.

According to screenwriters Steve McFeely and Chris Markus, an origin story was a dealbreaker. “We would not have included Spider-Man if we had to show him getting bitten by a radioactive spider,” Markus told The Hollywood Reporter. “The whole movie is long enough as it is without adding that. The mantra for us was to bring in characters when the story needed them.”

Midway through the Civil War movie, Tony Stark heads to Queens to get a closer look at a curious dynamo from Queens, who has started to make waves in the local news. Tony charms Peter’s Aunt May, whom he notes is ludicrously young to be the aunt of a teenager (a joke about the fact that she’s played by Marisa Tomei), and then greets a starstruck and very confused Peter, who walks in the door after an afternoon of dumpster diving.

During a brief conversation in Peter’s room, we learn that he has already been bitten by the radioactive spider, and, as he strongly hints, lost his Uncle Ben. Guilt-ridden, hes been fighting local crime, creating a buzz around New York about the strange dude in red and blue pajamas. His bedroom is filled with vintage electronics that he’s scavenged from dumpsters and used for very advanced DIY tech projects.

Tony offers to take him under his wing and appeals to their similarities: They’re both science wizzes and orphans who want to help protect the world. Also helpful in his efforts to draft Peter is the gift Tony brings him: a Spider-Man costume. This reworks the Spidey legend in a big way — in the comics and previous movies, he made his own threads — and also nods to the way Tony gets Peter to join up with him in the Civil War comic arc (though on the page, Peter got some sweet super-powered, bullet-proof duds).

As has been made clear in several different trailers and TV spots, Spider-Man gets thrown right into the deep end, as he swings into action during the big, bruising battle royale between the warring factions of the Avengers. Though he’s fighting on Team Iron Man, Parker is pretty in the dark about the political issues at play, and thus finds himself starstruck at all the superheroes lined up before him — even the ones he’s supposed to be fighting.

The superheroes are equally impressed by Spidey’s particular set of skills, including his use of homemade webbing (an important point for traditionalists). His cameo is action-packed but relatively short, leaving lots of room for potential plots in Homecoming.

It wouldnt make a ton of sense to go back in time for the new film, especially not with the excellent reviews Civil War received for its handling of the wallcrawler. Plus, as Markus pointed out, there have already been five Spider-Man movies, so the origin story is pretty established.

The Homecoming comic book, published in 1984, features Spider-Man coming back to New York after spending some time with the Avengers. That makes it a pretty good jumping off point for the Homecoming movie, even if the source material was published two decades before the Civil War arc. In the book, Spider-Man brings the black symbiote costume back to the city; that symbiote eventually clings to Eddie Brock and becomes Venom; that would make for a solid choice for the first villain in the new Spidey franchise, as he was absent from the brief Garfield run.

Tony Stark will be making an appearance in Homecoming, though how deeply he will be involved obviously remains to be seen. But unlike in the Civil War comic, Spider-Man doesn’t defect to the side of Captain America in Friday’s movie, making his collaboration with Iron Man way more likely than any sort of fractious relationship.

At the same time, Peter doesn’t exactly make enemies with Team Cap, either, so there’s plenty of room for appearances by other heroes not aligned with Stark and his loyalists. But for the most part, even without an origin story, Homecoming is going to have to do the heavy work of re-establishing a whole new group of characters without going overboard in the way the Garfield Spider-Man films, which were so desperate to create its own “cinematic universe,” ended up doing. Expect some reference to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but a lot more time to be spent in Queens.

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