Spider-Man : Homecoming is the reboot of Spider-Man following the replacement of Andrew Garfield by Tom Holland as the titular character. The film is directed by Jon Watts, whose previous work includes the thriller Cop Car starring Kevin Bacon.
I have yet to see Cop Car, but the film’s trailer showed a brooding figure that recycled many parts of the classic 1995 film Night of the Hunter, where two children are plunged into the adult world, hunted by a monster posing as an authority figure.
Homecoming’s trailer does follow the more light hearted approach of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange. Although Holland may only be known through Cop Car, he does have experience in comedy, having directed episodes of satirical show The Onion News Network in 2011.
I do have my concerns with Spider-Man: Homecoming following Doctor Strange, where Disney slotted a lesser known character into the Avengers-Marvel ensemble. The character of Spider-Man has far more clout in pop culture than Doctor Strange, due to the Spider-Man cartoons and the Spider-Man films by Sam Raimi in the 2000’s. The biggest issue with Doctor Strange was that the film pursued both comedy and serious drama in an origin story. The combination of the three elements shaped Doctor Strange into a rushed introduction of a character on Disney-Marvel’s course to greater and bigger films.
Spider-Man: Homecoming may suffer from the same issues as Doctor Strange in that both characters arrived late to The Avengers film group. Plus Spider-Man and Doctor Strange have not received the slower pace of a Netflix series. Therefore they have to quickly catch up with the wide audience appeal of more established Avengers characters such as Iron Man or Captain America. Doctor Strange did feel like a rushed attempt as mentioned above, and Spider Man: Homecoming may share this flaw.
The replacement of Andrew Garfield by the younger Holland for the Spider-Man reboot, alongside the injection of ‘Homecoming’ into the title, is a ploy to grab audiences in middle-school and below.
The Homecoming teaser trailer supports my theory about Disney’s current strategy towards the film market. Disney appears to be dividing Star Wars and Marvel into two streams, with the first stream adopting a gritty tone, counterbalanced by a second stream of action films designed for families and children.
Captain America: Civil War is far more brooding in comparison to the earlier Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. On the other hand, Guardians of the Guardians of the Galaxy reels in the laughs and is being followed by a sequel and Doctor Strange, which was funny in parts. Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year was a rehash of A New Hope for a newer and younger audience.
It is not coincidental that Rogue One is arriving between The Force Awakens and Star Wars Episode 8. Trailers for Rogue One infer a darker tone than The Force Awakens. While the protagonists of the main Star Wars series so far are teenagers trapped on backwaters who dream of adventure, Jyn Erso, the lead of Rogue One is a criminal on the fringes of the galaxy. Her criminal record is gleefully announced at the beginning of the Rogue One trailer, stressing how different and mature this spin off will be.
If Disney’s strategy is to partition Marvel and Star Wars between older and younger audiences through films ranging in maturity of content, then I think that is clever. The strategy does risk a potential overlap where both strands try to entertain different audiences with distinct tastes depending on age, but the films end up not satisfying both.
Disney could succeed, but there must be consistency, particularly with the films designed for older audiences . The Dark Knight series was about a superhero that attained critical and commercial success, while containing darker themes such as the human condition, nihilism and redemption. Disney just needs to take a risk and really step outside its comfort zone of entertaining children, teenagers and families. Otherwise, the I.P conveyer belt will become lacklustre.