Spider-Man swings from skyscraper to skyscraper, pirouetting and somersaulting across the skyline like a whirling dervish in zero gravity. He makes a sharp left and eventually slides through his Queens bedroom window before removing his mask and settling down into Peter Parker mode.
But who is it beneath the red and blue suit? In the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s likely that Tom Holland will continue for some time to come, which has left rival studio Sony (which owns the big-screen rights to Spidey) with a longstanding problem: its superhero flicks set in the world of Spider-Man, such as the Tom Hardy-led Venom movies and the forthcoming Jared Leto film Morbius, are much weakened by the fact that the wallcrawler can’t actually turn up.
In comic-book terms, this is a bit like making a movie about Gotham City and leaving out Batman. In Venom’s case it is particularly ridiculous, because Spidey was intimately involved with the origin of the toothy antihero in the comics.
Fortunately for Sony, it’s also a problem that the recent Spider-Man: No Way Home appears to have solved, at least in part. That movie is set in the MCU and features the friendly neighbourhood Holland as the webslinger. But it also brings back various Spider-Men and their supervillain counterparts from previous Sony movies, as a result of Doctor Strange accidentally ushering in the multiverse with a spell aimed at restoring Spidey’s secret identity.
Now some fans are calling for those returning Spider-Men, played by Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man and its two sequels) and Andrew Garfield (the two Amazing Spider-Man films) to be given their own future spin-offs. Frankly, it is hard to see why this shouldn’t happen: the move would suit Sony, which would get to add its own Spider-Man to existing projects while still benefiting from the success of Holland in the MCU. Audiences might get a little confused for a while, but only if they have not seen No Way Home; given the film’s huge box office success and the fact it will presumably make its way to streaming services at some point, that may not be an issue for long.
There are already rumours circling that Garfield and Maguire could team up for a Sony-led buddy movie titled Spider-Men – which sounds like a bit of a retread of No Way Home’s plotline – as well as suggestions that Maguire could appear in the forthcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a move that would require reshoots. Given the latter film is being directed by Sam Raimi, who made the first three Spider-Man films, and the huge hype generated by No Way Home after it was leaked that the movie would bring back past Spideys, the studio would be well advised to get working on the reshoots now.
Would Garfield and Maguire want to return? The very fact that both were convinced to appear in No Way Home suggests they felt they had unfinished business. At 46, Maguire would be playing a very different version of the wallcrawler to the one we’ve come to know and love on the big screen (Garfield isn’t much younger, at a baby-faced 38.) Peter Parker has rarely been portrayed as older than his 30s in the comics, but there is the little-known 2006 limited run Spider-Man: Reign to draw on if the studio wants to go down a Dark Knight Returns-style path. It could work.
Where Maguire has the advantage is that the villains featured in Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 are both among the greatest in comic-book movie history. Following his barnstorming return in No Way Home, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is probably fighting it out with Heath Ledger’s Joker for the mantle of greatest big-screen supervillain of all time, with Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock not far behind. It would take some clever writing to bring both back to the dark side after they were ostensibly cured at the tail end of No Way Home, but it could be done.
Still, it seems to me that Sony might be best served by restoring its Spider-Men in future Venom and Morbius movies, which could certainly use the extra hype. Sony’s Spider-Man universe never made any sense without the main player, and the studio is now in the perfect position to restore a little Spider-sense to proceedings.