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SPIDERTEMBER: Can Spider-Man Save the MCU?

Written by Charlie Oldfield

I know what you’re thinking: “Charlie, you are very sexy and also clever, but the MCU doesn’t need saving. Everyone loves it!” And to you I say yes, yes they do… but for how much longer?

It’s been a gripe of mine for a while that the Disney Marvel films all suffer from the same Saturday morning cartoon plot, hitting identical notes with about as much unpredictability as a pair of weathered socks.

Saying these things aloud has always resulted in people treating me like I’ve just called their mother a slag. It doesn’t matter how long she spends at the gloryhole, it’s still not a welcome observation.

Until recently, that is. This year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, while both critically and financially successful, have been described by many as too similar to the previous MCU titles, with opinions tending to range from ‘eh’ all the way to ‘yeah, was alright’.

Not exactly cataclysmic, but it does mark a change in paradigm.

The main complaint involves the franchises villains which, aside from Loki, have all been fairly weak. This is an inevitable result of the rights issue; as most of the likeable Marvel baddies originate in X-Men, Spider-Man, or the Fantastic Four, Disney didn’t have the film rights to use them, resulting in the bad guys features being so obscure even Wikipedia shrugs its shoulders when you ask about them.

This was set to get a lot worse, with the MCU’s big names (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans etc.) set to leave their contracts in the next two years, leaving Disney not only with crappy villains but with what can only be described as substitute heroes. Dr Strange may be badass and Benedict Cumberbatch will bring in the dough, yet he’s hardly got enough mainstream appeal to replace Downey.

This, my dear brothers, is why the Spider-Man deal is a LOT better for Disney than it is Sony.

It may seem absurd, but the MCU may have been on the brink of potential disaster, especially given DC and Fox are both upping their superhero game from 2016, giving Disney some real competition for the first time and undeniably causing market saturation.

Without their big guns, it would’ve been easy for the MCU to be eclipsed by the likes of Suicide Squad and the ever-growing X-Men franchise. If we look at the comic cook charts over the last ten years, we can see this demonstrated: Batman comes a consistent first; X-Men titles litter the top ten; and the likes of Black Panther are lucky to break top 50.

Spider-Man though, Spider-Man is perhaps Marvel’s biggest property. Consistently second only to the Dark Knight, web-head gives the MCU back the its name value, providing a friendly, enthusiastic antidote to DC’s sour mega-license.

Not only that, but it gives them access to an array of interesting villains. No more will Disney have to use Loki in every bloody film they do, now they can use Carnage, Doctor Octopus, Chameleon. As long as they have access to the character, it ensures the MCU doesn’t get populated exclusively by the superhero equivalents of Nick Clegg (and if you don’t know who that is it rather demonstrates my point, doesn’t it?).

Spider-Man has done what’s made him so popular and arrived to save Disney in their time of need, pulling them to safety as they stumble at a cliff’s edge. They still need to sort the kinks (no more refusals to kill any important characters or have the villain being a moustache twirling bin-man please Disney), but the rejuvenation provided by Spidey should be enough to keep their current crowd and bring back some of the lost lambs like myself. Provided they don’t give him carcinogenic spunk, of course.

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What do you think of Spider-Man’s inclusion in the MCU? Will it breathe new life into the franchise or will it add to its current character saturation? Sound off in the comments below or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Charlie Oldfield