Hold On! Gimme A Sec

The casting rumors for Spider-Man: No Way Home have gotten out of hand

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People obsessing over an upcoming Marvel film is nothing new — by the time you finish reading this, there will almost certainly be a dozen new YouTube uploads analysing the brand of coffee that appears in a single frame of a trailer — but the hype surrounding Spider-Man: No Way Home appears to be a little more… intense. Particularly in the way the Spider-Men are discussing it.

In an interview with Total Film earlier this week, star Tom Holland stated that the new film will be surprisingly dark.

“What people will be really surprised about is that it’s not fun, this film,” Holland said. “It’s dark and it’s sad, and it’s going to be really affecting.”

This is an odd way to promote a Spider-Man film, especially since Holland’s version of the character has always been a source of much-needed levity in the midst of a Marvel Cinematic Universe that is often deadly serious, despite constant wisecracks. But it makes sense: No Way Home is the conclusion of a trilogy, and no matter what Spidey’s plans are after it, endings are always a little sad.

Meanwhile, a Gizmodo blog post featuring a quote from former Spider-Man Andrew Garfield went viral after the headline read, “Money Is the Thing That Has Corrupted All of Us and Led to the Terrible Ecological Collapse That We Are All About to Die Under.” It was an excerpt from a Guardian profile in which Garfield mostly talks about his career in the abstract — he’s currently starring in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Jonathan Larson musical Tick, Tick… Boom! on Netflix — but he does mention that his time as Spider-Man broke him a little. (He also claims to be, sort of, joking about the ecological collapse.)

Tobey Maguire, who plays Spider-Man in the third film, isn’t giving interviews these days, but there are a lot of people on the internet trying to convince you that he is.

This is all a little out there, but No Way Home is bringing it up because of the latest MCU gimmick: the multiverse, a well-known science-fiction trope that asserts the existence of an infinite number of parallel realities, each one unique in its own way. In practise, expanding into a multiverse allows Marvel Studios to tell stand-alone stories separate from its decade-long ongoing narrative, removing any potential ramifications from one film or show by establishing that it takes place in a different universe. This hasn’t happened yet, but it could, especially since the 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse featured a diverse cast of Spider-People from various universes (not to mention a villain from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films in the No Way Home trailer), fans believe anything is possible.

Peni (Kimiko Glen), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) all turn in shock.

The current state of Spider-Man is, to put it bluntly, bizarre, a funhouse-mirror distortion of the character to which everyone pays lip service but who is, in reality, nothing of the sort. Peter Parker went from an ordinary kid who idolized superheroes to a man with multiple million-dollar AI killsuits and the keys to a high-tech superweapon over the course of two MCU films. Parker has evolved from an aspirational fan (you may be down on your luck, but if you’re responsible and never give up, you can be extraordinary) to a corporate exercise (come see all your toys in one movie!).

Andrew Garfield has become perhaps the most valuable voice in the entire scenario, articulating the conflict between what a character means to adore fans (which he memorably displayed at a convention not long after he was cast in 2011) and what they mean to the corporations that own them — and how this ultimately suffocates art and meaning.

Anything isn’t possible, contrary to what the No Way Home hype would have you believe. Contracts, lawyers, and corporate executives with brands to protect govern big franchise movies, in addition to the actual human beings who aren’t just corporate puppets willing to put on a suit (or have their face digitally edited into one) at the drop of a hat. Whatever happens in No Way Home, even if it’s fantastic — and it very well could be — will be the result of careful negotiations between dozens of stakeholders, all of whom are more intertwined than usual thanks to the cinematic universe’s unique interconnectedness. And as those interested parties expand in power and profitability, the more risk-averse — and therefore, less human — they are prone to become.

The multiverse, in other words, isn’t as big as you might think. But it may be big enough for Peter Parker to get lost.

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