The Spider-Brand Has Never Been Stronger, and ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Flaunts That Fact

It takes quite a while before Peter Parker (Tom Holland) swings into action in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Even when he gets around to it, he does so covertly, without the trademark red-and-blue spandex.

And yet, despite this purposeful, arguably necessary lull that is Far From Home’s first act, the main takeaway from the second Spider-Man solo outing is that The Spider-Brand is at the strongest it’s ever been in the nearly six decades the character’s existed. By far.

The premise, as the title and all the trailers have gone out of their way to point out, takes Peter out of New York City, replacing Manhattan’s skyscrapers with the archaic decor of a handful of European cities. In itself, that’s a risky endeavor. Spider-Man is synonymous with NYC, and has prominently factored into every previous on-screen iteration of the character, from Sam Raimi’s 2002 debut all the way up until last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Still, Far From Home hits on all the familiar Spider-Man beats, from a brief nod to his Uncle Ben to his blossoming love affair with MJ (Zendaya), all hovering around Peter’s constant struggle to manage a balance between his superhero and civilian identities. It also manages to do this in the confines of the standard MCU formula, while doing some pretty efficient exposition on how life resumed after the events of Avengers: Endgame.

While Far From Home does manage to work in a few gratuitous shots of Spidey webslinging across the New York skyline, leading up to one of the best post-credits scenes in the MCU’s history, it uses the sequence to flaunt the character’s pop culture zenith. Because there’s one thing that your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler has over his the rest of the MCU characters: leverage.

Spidey’s now up to his fifth MCU appearance, including Captain America: Civil War, the most recent two Avengers outings, and his two solo films. However, the screen rights to the character are owned by Sony, which has its own tumultuous history with the Webhead.

When Raimi first brought Spider-Man to the big screen in 2002, he did so with a genuine earnestness not seen since Christopher Reeves donned Superman’s red cape in the late 1970s. That carried through with Spider-Man 2 in 2004, but by 2007’s Spider-Man 3 the cracks started to show. Sure, the studio shoehorned Venom into an overcrowded story, but Raimi also retconned the whole “who killed Uncle Ben” storyline from the first film. Which… why?

Anyway, after Raimi’s planned Spider-Man 4 fell apart, Sony rebooted the franchise with Andrew Garfield donning the tights in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. By the time a sequel came about two years later, it was clear that Sony was trying to emulate the success of the MCU, which had just started to cash in big time after the success of The Avengers in 2012. It teased countless characters, crossovers, and spinoffs, to the point it was less a film franchise and more a feature-length marketing presentation. Then, after the middling response to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it was all scrapped — including a third Spidey movie, leaving the trilogy permanently unresolved.

The following year, Sony did the unthinkable. It ‘loaned’ the character to Disney, which meant that Spidey gets to fight alongside the Avengers in the MCU, while both studios get to reap in the profits.

With that agreement coming up on five years, things have started to change at Sony. After spending years in various stages of development, they released Venom last October. Not only did it center on a key Spider-Man villain with nary a mention of New York’s most neurotic superhero, it ended up becoming hit, and an R-rated one at that. Then, just two months later, it unleashed Into the Spider-Verse, a film that dove face-first into the character’s own convoluted mythology, and parlayed its success all the way through to the Academy Awards.

Which brings us back to Far From Home.

The sequel is littered with moments that can only be interpreted as Sony’s flexing with the character. Spidey texts and takes selfies while web-slinging, which is ripped directly from Marvel’s Spider-Man that came out on the PS4 earlier this year. And, incidentally, saw a stronger release than many of Webhead’s box-office outings. Then, it what can only be described as pitch-perfect corporate synergy, Sony announced that the new suits from Far From Home would be available in the game as part of a free update.

They also dabbled in some stunt casting, getting J.K. Simmons to reprise the character of the brash anti-Spider-Man advocate J. Jonah Jameson. But, instead of putting him behind a desk as editor-in-chief of The Daily Bugle, they make him a conspiratorial talk-show host — another nod to the PS4 game. It’s also a daring example of stunt-casting, one where Sony actually acknowledges some of the previous continuities, albeit coyly.

Moreover, Sony is moving forward with Venom 2, as well as Morbius, The Living Vampire, further anchoring its second attempt at a cinematic sandbox of its very own. Additionally, Into the Spider-Verse is due for a cascade sequels and spinoffs on the large and small screen, all of which are free from the confines of Disney’s overarching rule.

So, while Far From Home is an MCU film, the character at the center of all of it still belongs to Sony (at least when he’s rendered on screen), and the studio isn’t exactly being subtle about it. And after consistently fucking up the character for the past 15 (!) years, Spider-Man is more beloved, and profitable, than ever.

Given that Far From Home makes Spider-Man the heir-apparent to the legacy of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), and seems to position the character as the new heart of the mega-franchise, Sony’s also laying a lot of concurrent groundwork for an separate world where he can exist. And, as Spidey’s stock continues to rise, it’ll be interesting to see where this joint-custody arrangement between Sony and Disney takes him.

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