Not many big-screen superheroes receive a satisfying multi-film narrative arc like Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: from shady weapons trader to dangerous overreacher to selfless leader of mankind. In Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which is generally regarded as one of the worst superhero films of all time, Christopher Reeve’s Superman was last seen displacing the ludicrous enemy Nuclear Man.

Fans feared they’d never see Michael Keaton’s Batman again after he exiled Danny DeVito’s Penguin in Batman Returns and failed miserably to hook up with Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. (In Andy Muschietti’s The Flash, Keaton will reprise his role as the caped crusader.) On the opposite side of the DC/Marvel split, the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home has the opportunity to give two wallcrawlers the send-off they deserve.

Andrew Garfield, actor of The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel, battled Jimmy Fallon this week to persuade him that a picture of him and Tobey Maguire (star of three previous Spider-Man films) taken on the set of No Way Home was a hoax.

Given that two of the main villains from the previous films, Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, are confirmed to return, it’s possible that at least three Spider-Men from different universes will swing through the skyscrapers of Manhattan this time around – possibly as a result of Doctor Strange’s meddlings.

This would never have been conceivable before the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or should it be Multiverse? ), with its network of interconnected stories. If studios paid attention to the connective fibers between films, the outcome was usually nothing more than a tease for the next installment in the last frame of the film.

Alexander and Ilya Salkind, the producers of the first three Superman films, allegedly promised to consider funding part four only if Superman III earned at least $40 million; as of now, Marvel has seven more films on its schedule beyond No Way Home, and that’s just the ones we know about.

As easy as it may seem, seeing a story with a tidy beginning, middle, and conclusion brings a basic pleasure to comic-book movie lovers. The Marvel approach isn’t the only one that works; Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which was created in a totally different way, is another excellent example.

However, the MCU has grown so all-powerful that it highlights past planning errors.

It’s the difference between Ralph Bakshi’s unfinished Lord of the Rings trilogy and Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy. Industry insiders may be aware of Bakshi’s difficulties; moviegoers, on the other hand, are more concerned with the sinking sensation that comes with seeing a tale that doesn’t convey the whole narrative.

At least when it comes to the Garfield and Maguire incarnations of Spider-Man, No Way Home and Marvel have an opportunity to correct this. If they do it right, we may even walk out of the theater believing we can finally see Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 without getting the heebee jeebees — the two terrible sequels that did for each actor.

Garfield’s version is probably the most in need of a rewrite. At the time, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was unjustly chastised for having too many complex subplots, with director Marc Webb receiving little credit for attempting to take the narrative forward from the previous film’s weak rehash.

Given Emma Stone’s great connection with Garfield, he definitely shouldn’t have murdered off Gwen Stacy. Webb, on the other hand, gave us a fascinating, deep, sensual wallcrawler to contrast with Sam Raimi’s goofy-geek version.

Garfield was a great Spider-Man in a couple of mediocre movies, and Stacy’s murder at the hands of Electro must give his version plenty of motivation to pursue vengeance.

We were left wondering why we loved Maguire’s Spidey in the first place after seeing Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. One of the strangest scenes in comic-book movie history is Peter Parker’s bizarre emo-Travolta stroll across Manhattan.

If No Way Home could erase those memories from our collective consciousnesses, or at the very least let us view them through a more acceptable prism, it would be a really remarkable achievement. If it isn’t feasible, both previous Spideys may have to give up their lives for the greater good.

There’s nothing like a noble death to make everyone forget your previous mistakes, as Tony Stark learned in Avengers: Endgame.

Thanks to Ben Child at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.


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