Friday, 6 March 2015

Fallout: Marvel Civil War

Last month it was announced that Spider-Man will be incorporated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is apparently supposed to appear in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. I love Spider-Man. He's been my favourite superhero since I've been aware superheroes were a thing that exists.

I've written about how all of Spider-Man's villains are animal based and why The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of the Failed Franchise could have been the best Spider-Man movie ever if they had only let it be a Sipder-Man movie. Instead they used the movie to try to set up a dozen spin-off movies with a bazillion sub-plots and constant winks to the audience just in case they didn't catch the split-second shot of Doctor Octopus' tentacle arms.

"This never would have happen if we didn't have to have that subplot about your comb-over. I hope you're happy."

And while I love Spider-Man, to be honest, I've never really seen him as "team hero". Like, it makes sense to have him interact with the other members in the Marvel universe and to do team ups with Daredevil or the Fantastic Four on occasion, but I never really saw him as a member of a team. This is not to say I don't think her deserves to be on a team like the Avengers or that he can't do well within a team context since with the right writer he definitely can.

For example, I liked him as a member of the Avengers during Brian Michael Bendis run on the comic, since Bendis really understands the voice of Spider-Man and he interjected some needed wise-cracks and levity into a pretty serious team. However, I suppose I see Spider-Man as primarily a solitary superhero, far more so than Batman, who despite his reputation as a loner has a whole Bat-family of sidekicks and supporting characters.

The Batcave gets quite crowded during family gatherings.

A large part of the appeal of Spider-Man is due to the fact that he's a bit of an outsider, often considered a menace by the city he protects, not working in any official capacity with limited resources. Meanwhile more respected heroes like Iron Man and Captain America have either all the money or the backing of S.H.I.E.L.D behind them.

Even the X-Men, although considered outcasts themselves, have the financial resources of Professor X at their disposal, live together in a mansion, and have a freaking jet to take them where they need to be. Spidey can barely afford the thread needed to fix his costume when he tears it fighting Doctor Octopus.

Spider-Man was always a hero who seemed ideally suited to face dilemmas or adversity on his own. His best stories were always those which pitted him against a single villain who threatened the lives of his loved ones and had them face off in an intimate one-on-one climax. The Death of Gwen Stacy storyline with the Green Goblin comes to mind.

It's also why I would say that Venom so quickly became one of Spider-Man's greatest enemies. A villain with the same powers as Spider-Man but stronger and with the knowledge of his secret identity, knowing just how to get target those Spidet-Man loved if he so wished. He essentially is the perfect Spider-Man villain in a sense, since their encounters, rather than being epic sprawling tales, were rather quite insular and contained to just the two of them.

Also having Venom as Spider-Man's dark opposite helps too.

Now, how this relates to Spider-Man being injected into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that after two solo franchises, he is suddenly going to be put into a superhero megafranchise that specialises in grand big epic stories with multiple superheros, alien invasions, objects of unlimited power, and climatic battles that often level cities. And while in the comics, Spider-Man is allowed to have his own street level adventures within that universe, this new cinematic Spider-Man hasn't yet.

This creates a situation where it seems as though Marvel and Sony might try to shoehorn Spidey into movies he was never planned to be in. If Spider-Man is going to be in the new Captain America movie and possibly have a pivotal role in the story like he did in the Civil War storyline in the comic, how much weight would he even have?

We haven't spent two or three movies getting to know the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man, so aside from the "holy shit, Spider-Man is chilling with the Avengers!!!" geek out moment, I don't know his presence would add any dramatic tension to the story since we just don't know the dude.

"Sorry, who are you again? Arachno-boy?" - Iron Man

Also, it raises some puzzling questions, like if this isn't an origin story (and please, sweet merciful Buddha, don't let it be a origin story), how long has Spider-Man been operating? For years? If so, what the hell was he doing when aliens attack New York? If he's new, then same thing I said above, he doesn't really add to the story unless he's already been established which they can't do since that would mean giving him a solo movie... which is only going to come out after Captain America: Civil War.

I actually thought the upcoming movie version of Marvel's Civil War storyline was gonna be so much better precisely because Spider-Man wasn't going to be in it. Although, Spider-Man injected a much needed every-man perspective on the event, his flip flopping between the two sides was kinda dumb, especially in light of the fact he flip flopped to the wrong side since Iron Man was right.

Here he is being right as he punches Captain America in the face.

There is also the concern that having Spider-Man in the movie will introduce secret identities to the Marvel Cinematic universe. I hope that's not the case because that would be stupid. Now, I'm not usually so blunt in my analysis or opinions but I really don't think that would be a smart idea. Only kinda sorta because the fact superheroes don't have secret identities and everyone knows Tony Stark is Iron Man in the movies makes way more sense than having secret identities, like I've talked about before.

And the fact that in the comic book Civil War, Spidey revealed his secret identity to the world was not a good move, especially when you consider that it lead to one of the worst creative decisions ever made for Spider-Man. I'm of course referring to that time he gave up his marriage to Mary-Jane in order save his dying Aunt May's life, in a deal which also had the bonus effect of having his secret identity restored. A deal he made with the devil*... yeah, that was a terrible decision.

Bad Spider-Man, bad. No life-long happiness with your wife for you.

Taking out the secret identity element of the story means it could focus more on issues of liberty vs security, sorta like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did, since in all honesty, of course superheroes should be registered. It's not really a debate about whether they should be but rather how and whether that registration could jeopardise their heroics by putting them on a database, stifling their ability to do good with legal bureaucracy and due process.

But let's back track to the point about Spider-Man revealing his secret identity only to make a deal with the devil to then reverse that decision. Remember how not smart that was? Well, that is the problem with the Civil War crossover, most of the things that happened in the story line, like with most huge comic books crossover events, were immediately reversed after the event itself ended.

Spider-Man got his secret identity back but lost his marriage since apparently he is not allowed to grow as a character but has to be a perpetually angsty single guy. However, Iron Man was set up as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D for a while before he had to go on the run when Norman "I'm the freaking Green Goblin and batshit crazy" Osborn took over S.H.I.E.L.D because comic book logic.

Aside from the fact that his grin screams evil, how could you ever trust a man with hair like that?

While Iron Man is on the lamb, in an actually fantastic storyline by Matt Fraction, he steadily deletes his memories to avoid Norman Osborn getting the information of other superheros' secret identities if he gets caught. He can do this since at this point he has merged with his tech so much that his brain is essentially a computer and he can deleting his memories like deleting a file on your laptop because comic book logic.

In a lovely touch, as he deletes his mind files, his brain increasingly loses intelligence and he has to downgrade his armour since he's no longer smart enough to use the more advanced technology. He eventually ends up in his original suit once his Trash Bin is nearly full and he had dumb down to the point where he couldn't use digital anymore.

Well, the retro look is in this year.

Of course, by the end of that story arc, after his memory has been deleted, he luckily had his memories stored but not the events of Civil War, which means that Iron Man can't remember ever being the bad guy in a massive crossover event. Essentially, the crossover event was so bad, Iron Man literally wiped it from his mind.

And that's the problem with comics and crossover events which are poorly thought out or don't resonate with the fans, they are just retconned out and there are very little to no lasting consequences. However, Marvel has shown they are wiling to have some lasting consequences and actually shake up things in their cinematic universe.

This was evident at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, where S.H.I.E.L.D was dismantled after the events of that movie. That was a significant consequence which has wider ramifications for the following movies in the franchise which seems to be felt in the anticipated Avengers movie judging by the lack of S.H.I.E.L.D in the trailer and the fact that Nick Fury says something like there's only them left while giving an overly motivational speech that was overly motivational.

"I'm sick of these motherfucking villains on this motherfucking planet"

Which is a very good thing. There need to be consequences for the actions taken by the hero or the events of the film otherwise it cheapens the dramatic impetus of the story and undermines those actions. That's because if they have no consequence, they have no weight and ultimately don't matter. Also, if there are no consequences for what the hero does, they can never learn and grow from them therefore having no character development, remaining in stasis, which gets boring.

On the note of character, can we spare a moment to shed a tear for the departure of Andrew Garfield? Like I've written before, I loved Garfield as Spider-Man, for although he was a little bit of a creeper and somewhat of a dick, he nailed the voice of Spider-Man like very few have.

Aw, yeah. A geeky science major who's endearingly awkward and rather handsome yet still somehow an outsider?
Nailed it.

People tend to forget that Peter Parker can be a bit of an asshole and rather selfish at times, but Garfield realised that aspect of Peter and brought it to his performance while his Spider-Man cracked with the wise just like he should. Now, while I thought Toby Maguire made a decent Spider-Man but a better Peter Parker, Garfield embodied both. He really was Spider-Man.

So here's to poor Andrew Garfield. I always thought he was a great Spider-Man in not very good Spider-Man movies. Hopefully, his loss won't be in vain and Spidey will be awesome in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


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