It comes as no great surprise that Marvel is cranking up the multiverse to be their latest tool in their arsenal of keeping audiences entertained. Loki, Doctor Strange 2 and of course Spiderman Far From Home, have all made the multiverse a key element of their plot and it has been hinted that they mean to introduce teams like the X Men, The Fantastic Four and others into their universe. But will Marvel’s attempts to keep their continually expanding franchise prove fruitful or fall under its own colossal weight?
Spiderman Far From Home proves that Disney is still capable of producing a strong superhero film in which the stakes feel high without exploding to cosmic proportions. The premise, which is familiar to most readers, follows Peter Parker’s attempts to make the world forget that he is Spiderman after the revelation of his secret identity at the end of No Way Home. The consequences that his friends and family face makes Peter feel overwhelmed with guilt for exposing them to the danger he created as a known superhero. Therefore he goes to seek Doctor Strange’s help in making everyone, except them, forget who he is. Unfortunately, as Doctor Strange explains, magic is not so flexible as to allow this sort of deal and while interrupting the incantation Peter opens a rift to the multiverse that attracts a horde of villains (and friends) to their world.
*For those who want to avoid spoilers please skip the next paragraph.*
Seeing this film in theatres on opening week reminded me how much the cinema experience can bring together a group of complete strangers to feel something special, such as the wonder of being there together and watching a great movie as a group. Having people in the audience hold their breath collectively as we realized that Sony was bringing back all the fan favourites and then subsequently cheering together as they appeared isn’t something you can do whilst at home. Furthermore, the shock of seeing Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland all don their masks and fight together was fantastic, providing a feeling of magical excitement that I thought Marvel would have been unable to reproduce. For most people, this will have been exactly what they wanted, a strong superhero film that captures the imagination and leaves them buzzing with warmth as they chat to their friends and exit the cinema doors into the cold night. But for Disney, Spiderman No Way Home poses an enormous problem, one that simply won’t go away.
The question is this: do people care about the film because of the MCU or do they simply miss the old Spiderman films and the strength of the character himself? After all, it’s hard to imagine that outside of the long-established reputation of this iconic web-slinger, people will have much interest in the goings-on of The Eternals, or Captain Marvel, or any of the TV series. Presumably, Disney will expect a strong audience turnout for the next Thor and Doctor Strange 2 (less so for the latter) but there is a looming shadow on the horizon for them. When do they pull out of the MCU and decide to change their business model to keep their grip on the Box Office? Disney might think they have an ace up their sleeve with the number of possibilities that the multiverse will bring to their franchise, but as an ageing audience’s tastes evolve, so will their interests, and everyone has a limit to how much they can watch the same cheesy quips be thrown and all the stakes reversed by retconned characters and rewritten stories. Maybe the time is coming for a new breed of blockbuster films, or maybe not. Only the future will tell!
Anton Rivas Pertile- Film & TV Writer