After very nearly not happening at all, the next Spider-Man movie between Marvel and Sony is shaping up to be something utterly unbelievable. We don't really know quite what to expect, but after teasing and then tossing aside the multiverse concept in Spider-Man: Far From Home, it looked like the next film was going to go all in on a live-action Spider-Verse, with several actors from previous Spider-Man franchises apparently set to either reprise their actual roles from those films or perhaps play a new version of the same character. There were even reports that previous Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield could be appearing in the new movie.
However, recent comments by the current Spider-Man, Tom Holland, have pretty definitively put this idea to rest. Whatever the hell is happening in the next Spider-Man movie doesn't seem like it will include these previous versions of Spider-Man. And I, for one, am very glad this is the case. While other films may have shown that making a Spider-Verse movie is possible and can be successful, that doesn't mean it was the right call here.
Marvel Fan Service Should Be A Bonus, Not Core To The Plot
Both of the recent Tom Holland led Spider-Man movies have been solid films, and the second left us with a tease of an ending and an excellent cameo of J.K. Simmons playing J. Jonah Jameson, as he did back in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. It was a great appearance, as I can't imagine any other actor who could do a better job, but it was made clear at the time that this was a new JJ who just happened to be played by the same actor, not the same character from the earlier films.
It seems that this is the plan when it comes to Jamie Foxx's Electro and Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus as well. Other potential appearances by others from previous Spidey franchises have been rumored as well. It's certainly an interesting decision to bring back so many actors from the previous franchises, but if Marvel is happy with them and thinks there's simply nobody better to play these roles, that's fine. The movie gets great actors and fans get a little something of an Easter egg. It's a reference to those earlier films that those in the know will get, and those that don't won't notice. Basically, is should not detract from the experience for those who don't know the earlier films.
Because, to be sure, there are a lot of people who won't know the other movies, and they shouldn't have to. The first big screen Spider-Man adventure came out in 2002. There are going to be people driving to see the new movie who weren't when the first one came out. Sure, a lot of those people, if they're fans of comic book movies, will have seen it, but it shouldn't be required viewing. Bringing in the actors who played Spider-Man to play their specific versions of the character again brings a ton of baggage from both franchises that this one simply doesn't need.
We Already Have Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Part of the reason that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse worked so well was because all of it was new. The Peter Parker in that film was the boilerplate character that everybody knows whether you've ever read a Spider-Man comic book or not. The rest were introduced to the audience in ways that didn't expect that you knew who Spider-Gwen was, for example. If you were familiar with the history of Gwen Stacy, great, more fun for you, but there was no expectation there. Everything that needed explaining was explained.
I think the Spider-verse concept just works better in animation and should be left there. Animation makes suspension of disbelief a bit easier, the format can just do more than live action because it's less real. More importantly, Into the Spider-Verse got there first and we simply don't need every Spider-Man movie to be about multiple webheads jumping through parallel universes. One is probably enough and the one that we got was really good. Let's let that animated take on the franchise expand on the Spider-Verse and do new and interesting things with it.
If both the animated and live-action Spider-Man franchises go all in on the Spider-Verse, then there's no room for much else, and no big screen stories outside of that concept. Then, both sides of the franchise become less fresh and interesting as a result. One is going to feel like a cheap copy of the other.
Spider-Man 3 Doesn't Need Tobey Maguire Or Andrew Garfield To Be Good
Spider-Man has been at his best when it's about Peter Parker (or Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield) struggling to find the balance between his great powers and his great responsibility, between being Peter and being Spider-Man. The set up at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home indicates this will become that much more difficult because Spider-Man is no longer seen as the hero he once was. Instead, he's been accused of murder and so simply being Spider-Man has become much more difficult. How can he be the hero he needs to be when nobody wants him to be it? That's an incredibly compelling hook for a story. It's also a classic aspect of the Spider-Man character, and it's one that simply doesn't need other Spider-Men (Spider-Mans?) showing up to confuse things.
As a pure fan of Spider-Man, I won't deny there's a part of me that would love to see these worlds collide. And maybe they still will somewhere down the road, but when it comes to the current Spider-Man franchise, I would hate to see it go off in this direction because we'd likely lose something in the process. The new movie would become about the gimmick and not the story, and the story itself would likely suffer.
In the end, I want good stories, and good Spider-Man stories. If we were to get a live-action Spider-Verse, and it works, I'll happily admit I was wrong here, but the whole thing just feels like an exercise that has significantly more down side than up side. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man didn't end on the highest note, and The Amazing Spider-Man never got a real ending at all, but adding them to the current franchise doesn't really fix those problems, it's just going to create new ones.