Never mind Batman. Never mind Iron Man. Never even mind Captain freaking America himself. Spider-Man is always going to be the hero that I return to time and time again, regardless of how many times his movies let me down and how drastically he pales against Marvel’s proper Avengers lineup.
Spider-Man has always been my superhero: the one that I unquestionably turn to when looking for a good time. Despite being ahead of the comic book curve at the time of its release, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man always seemed to miss the point of the character. And despite its innumerable flaws, Marc Webb’s short-lived Amazing Spider-Man movies at least got nearer to the heart of the franchise than any of the previous three movies. But with Marvel’s newly cemented relationship with Sony, the companies have the chance of giving audiences what they’ve been waiting decades for: a proper Spider-Man outing on the big screen.
While I do have complete faith in Marvel’s unerring cinematic quality, there are a few things that I desperately want them to include in the new movie. And while, yes, I could go on about a few narrowly-drawn gripes – like wanting Spider-Man to shoot organic webbing or a checklist of in-universe references that I want them to hit – there are a few big things that are at the top of my wish list, ranging from unlikely to near certainties.
J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson – Say what you will about Raimi’s roughshod take on the franchise, but J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of libelous news paper mogul J. Jonah Jameson was absolutely perfect. He was comically over-the-top, yet unquestionably realistic. He was infuriating, yet oddly endearing. He was exceedingly expressive, yet still managed to look like a real person.
He hit all the proper notes of the character and was absolutely the best-realized aspect of that entire trilogy. Simmons was so perfectly suited for the role that The Amazing Spider-Man reboot didn’t even try to recreate him. The most that we ever got of Jameson were a few Baily Bugle ads and some e-mail exchanges with Peter Parker.
I know that it’d be a stretch to bring Simmons back for the role in the upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man. Coming off of a well-earned Oscar, his asking price is probably a Hell of a lot higher than Marvel’s willing to dish out for a fairly bit part. Given the uphill battle that they already face with franchise fatigue, Marvel would be loath to remind audiences of the previous (and still pretty recent) takes on the character. Plus, there’d be more than a few movie-goers who’d probably be confused if this was supposed to be the same universe as the first three movies (the same Jameson, the same Parker). Despite these (and other) issues, however, Simmons is too perfect for the role to at least not warrant a second look.
Clark Gregg as Principle Coulson – When it comes to Spider-Man, Disney’s Ultimate Spider-Man tv show pretty much gets everything right. Sure, I prefer my Spidey to be a solo act. Sure, some of the (thankfully minor) recurring villains end up being a bit dull (the Trapster being the prime example). But when it comes to the character, the story and the world around him, the series is the perfect template for what a big screen version of the franchise should look like.
One of the strangest – yet most oddly satisfying – decisions made with the show was to include S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson Midtown High’s acting principle (all the better to keep an eye on Parker and his teenage team of superheroes). It made perfect sense for S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep an ear to the ground when dealing with not only superheroes, but teenaged ones at that. Coulson – ever S.H.I.E.L.D.’s PR guy – was the perfect candidate for the job (basically doing a more full time version of what he did with the various Avengers in Marvel’s Phase 1).
Now, I don’t expect this to be a particularly realistic course of action with Coulson now being the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but this version of Spider-Man is supposed to have been around for a while. His movie won’t actually be an origin story (we’ve had enough of those already) and he’s actually scheduled to appear in a Marvel movie before The Spectacular Spider-Man. He could have easily been assigned to Midtown High to keep a watchful eye on the newly created Spider-Man before his supposed death (to be referenced in dialog or flashback). It would be a clever touch – keeping in the peculiarities of the character – that would be rife with cinematic potential.
Gwen Stacy as Peter’s love interest – Despite being Spider-Man’s longest-lasting love interest (going so far as to actually marry him in the comics), I’ve never especially cared for Mary Jane Watson. She just never had much of a personality beyond being pretty.
Marvel’s tried to countermand that shortcoming already. Ultimate Spider-Man has her as an ambitious journalist trying to get a job at the Daily Bugle (essentially taking over that side of Parker’s day-to-day life). And while that mostly works, the character was never as interesting as Gwen Stacy: a character that always had a lot more going for her and a lot more in common with Peter than any of his other love interests over the years.
While arguments can certainly be made for Betty Brant (who really hasn’t shown up in the movies yet) and Felicia Harding (who doubles as the superheroine Black Cat), Gwen Stacy still seems like the best option available to the franchise. Helped out by Emma Stone, she was the best part about The Amazing Spider-Man movies (in the same way that J. K. Simmons was for the first Spider-Man films). She’s a likeable character with a lot of personality, that audiences are already at least somewhat familiar with and comes with her own iconic narrative built into the character (“The Night Gwen Stacy Died”).
Asa Butterfield as Peter Parker – When it came to the new Spider-Man, Marvel’s had a few very specific ideas for the character. While a lot of fans were hoping for Miles Morales (the black Spider-Man from the Marvel’s Ultimate imprint), Marvel’s on record that it’s going to be Peter Parker behind the mask. And while both of Sony’s versions of the character were on the older side (both circling closer to college than High School), the plan is to keep Spider-Man young: in the neighborhood of fifteen years old.
This naturally puts a lot of restrictions on the actors that they have to choose from for the role. You need somebody good enough to headline their own movie and yet young enough to actually look the part of a high school freshman. A lot of names that were initially thrown out were a bit tweeny for my tastes, though, particularly Logan Lermann from Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Dylan O’Brien from Teen Wolf. In recent weeks, however, the roster of possible Spider-Men has broadened to include Asa Butterfield, who I feel is ideal for the role.
Not only is Butterfield a good fit for the part physically (his age and physique are consistent with what Marvel wants out of the character), but he’s a legitimately good actor in his own right. He’s already headed up movies like Hugo and Ender’s Game with the competence of far more seasoned actors and there’s no reason why he couldn’t do the same for Spider-Man. He’s the ablest choice of those allegedly being looked into for the role, would be a pretty cheap acquisition for Marvel and could convincingly age with the character over any number of solo and crossover movies.
Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin – Marvel did damn near everything right with their Daredevil series on Netflix, none more so than casting veteran character actor Vincent D’Onofrio as its principle villain: Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. He added a considerable deal of nuance to a character that could have just been a large guy with a villainous smirk in a suit (ala Clark Duncan) and was instantly the most memorable and endearing aspect of the entire series.
Despite traditionally trading punches with Daredevil, the Kingpin has often been as much of a Spider-Man villain, and it’s really no wonder why. Both Daredevil and Spider-Man are based in New York. Both are understandably keen on fighting crime, and the Kingpin is on the top of the pecking order: the man through which virtually all crime in the city flows.
Growing up on the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon, I knew the Kingpin as the man responsible for creating Scorpion, forming the Sinister Six, funding Alistaire Smythe and frequently hiring iconic Spidey thugs like Rhino and the Shocker. If there’s one thing that I want to see in The Spectacular Spider-Man, it’s D’Onofrio’s Kingpin as the man pulling the strings: creating, hiring or otherwise assembling Spider-Man’s menagerie of villains to crush the wall-crawler from day one.
D’Onofrio would lend just as much credibility to the second Spider-Man reboot in recent memory as he did to the small-screen reboot of Daredevil. It would considerably raise his character’s already illustrious profile and create further interest in the rampantly successful Netflix series that he debuted in. It could also open the doors to more small-screen tie-ins, like cinematic team ups with Daredevil, Skye and Mockingbird or squaring off against villains like Crusher Creel. Besides, Marvel’s proven that it pays to have forward-thinking plots play out with a high-end villains pulling the strings from the shadows.