Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year. It promises to be an absolute blast, giving Tom Holland's Spider-Man the chance to shine in his first solo movie. Interestingly, both Tom Holland Kevin Feige have suggested the relaunched franchise will be modeled on another popular franchise: J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter.
Here's What We Know!
Speaking to MTV about the future of the #SpiderMan franchise, Tom Holland pointed to the #HarryPotter films as an inspiration. It seems that we can expect to gradually see Peter Parker grow up as a character, with each movie representing a different school year. It's a smart take; in the comics, Stan Lee brought his time in school to a close as early as Amazing Spider-Man #28, but later admitted to regretting it.
While Holland admitted to not exactly being kept in the loop, he was still pretty confident #Marvel and Sony are taking this approach.
"But I think that is the overall plan, I think the Harry Potter movies are a perfect example, they worked so well. I’m such a huge fan, as are billions of people, so why not follow that perfect formula? And I think we can do something really exciting with that."
When interviewed by ScreenRant, Holland admitted that he expects Peter Parker to graduate in the last film in the trilogy, fitting perfectly with the Harry Potter model.
Interestingly enough, Tom Holland is the second figure at Marvel to make this comparison. Last August, #KevinFeige himself used exactly the same analogy when speaking to Collider about the possibility of Homecoming sequels:
"Should we be able to make more after that? Sure. This is sophomore year, is the next one junior year? Is the next one senior year? Is there a summer break between each of those? I don’t know what, but it was sort of how do we do a journey for Peter not dissimilar for what the students of Hogwarts would go through each of their years, which was one of the early ideas we had for the movies."
Given both Kevin Feige and Tom Holland have made the same point, and months removed, I think we can safely assume Marvel is indeed using Harry Potter as a plot model. But beyond narrative arcs, there's a lot more the MCU could learn from the Wizarding World.
1. Develop the Secondary Cast as Well
The first lesson Marvel needs to learn from Harry Potter? It's not all about watching Peter Parker grow up. One of the main reasons J. K. Rowling's formula works is that we see every single character change and grow over the course of seven books (and eight films). Harry's closest friends, Ron and Hermione, are firmly established characters in their own right, with their own character arcs and issues. The dynamic between Harry and his friends is one of the main driving forces for his own plots, and ultimately, they prove themselves to be every bit as heroic as Harry himself.
But the Harry Potter franchise doesn't just concern itself with the big three. Take Neville Longbottom; he has an important role in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, standing up to his friends and proving himself a true Gryffindor. Voldemort would have triumphed without Neville's heroism in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as Neville pulls the Sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat, and destroys Voldemort's last Horcrux. He may be relegated to the role of background character for the majority of the books, but Neville is an essential character.
Marvel movies haven't been great for secondary characters. Love-interests appear, play their necessary role for a time, and then disappear when the studio has trouble with the contracts. Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts disappears after Iron Man 3, and in Civil War, we're told about an off-camera breakup between her and Tony. Liv Tyler's Betty Ross hasn't been seen since The Incredible Hulk. And there's been another off-camera breakup between Natalie Portman's Jane Foster and Thor, with Portman not reprising her role in Thor: Ragnarok. Yes, I know there are real-world reasons for this, but the message is a simple one: the hero is the one who matters, the secondary characters can be set aside.
Spider-Man's world is very different. His secondary characters are well-established, becoming heroes and villains in their own right, and enjoying decades-long character arcs that have thrilled fans. Marvel has a chance to do something very different here: to develop the secondary characters over the course of years, and to create a whole generation of key characters. There are early signs that Marvel is indeed taking this approach, including the focus placed on Peter's relationship with Jacob Batalon's Ned Leeds (clearly the Ron Weasley sidekick) in the trailers. I'm also suddenly amused that Zendaya's mysterious Michelle has been portrayed as a bookworm — shades of Hermione, perhaps?
2. Iron Man as Albus Dumbledore: The Importance of the Mentor Figure
Marvel has clearly put a lot of thought into establishing a strong mentor / father-figure relationship between Peter Parker and Robert Downey Jr.'s #IronMan. The dynamic is clearly a fundamental part of Spider-Man: Homecoming, with the villain's vendetta actually being against Stark rather than against Parker. Fan reaction has been mixed; some have feared that Iron Man is in danger of overshadowing Spider-Man in his own film. In fact, a lot of fans have taken to jokingly referring to Homecoming as Iron Man 4.
However, during recent set visits, ScreenRant was told Tony Stark is in only five or six scenes. What's more, if we assume Marvel's using the Harry Potter franchise as a model, then it's pretty clear the conflicted mentor role is being modeled on Albus Dumbledore. It's likely to be a more complex one, though; as Tom Holland told ScreenRant:
"I think Robert is more like a big brother than he is a father figure because he picks on him and he is down on him quite a lot. But then there is that level of him caring about him like his own, and Robert has really brought something lovely to the character. It’s a very different side of Stark than you’ve ever seen before."
Here's the catch, though; the Dumbledore / Potter relationship is a clear nod to the classical Hero's Journey. That means Peter's relationship with Tony Stark should ultimately include the loss of the mentor figure, with Spider-Man proving he can stand on his own two feet.
3. A Long-Term Plan — And a Shadowy Evil in the Background?
But there's another interesting side to this Harry Potter analogy; it's pretty clear Marvel is planning beyond the trilogy, which means there are likely already discussions in progress between Marvel and Sony about the future of the Spider-Man franchise. Last week saw fans panic as they realized the Marvel/Sony deal will have a limited shelf-life, but both Kevin Feige and Tom Holland are implying that Marvel is looking beyond this.
Tom Holland himself won't even be in the loop about this. As he told MTV:
"You know those discussions all happen behind closed doors with the creatives and I’m only brought into the process much later..."
For now, Spider-Man fans can probably rest at ease; if Homecoming is the hit it promises to be, it will be in both Marvel and Sony's best interests to keep the partnership going.
But here's the interesting thing. Back in October last year, we learned that Homecoming will feature an as-yet-unrevealed cameo:
“... there will be a surprise appearance from a character that is central to the Spider-Man mythos, one who will play a larger role in upcoming films. We just can’t confirm who it is at this time.”
Is it possible that this is a villain, and that Marvel is preparing to set up a sort of 'Voldemort' figure? Will we see the Spider-Man films explore the growing threat of a powerful Spider-Man foe, one who'll come to dominate the franchise as the #MCU Spider-Man's nemesis? One character not to expect; Norman Osborn. As Amy Pascal told ScreenRant:
"I think we have to try to be really fresh with it. I mean, I don’t know how many more times we can do – at least for now – I don’t know how many more times we can do the Green Goblin. I’ve certainly tried to do it fifty."
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I love the idea of Marvel learning some key lessons from the success of the Harry Potter franchise. I'm a massive fan of J. K. Rowling's books (and films), and the Spider-Man franchise is perfectly suited to do a sort of superhero version of that tremendous character arc. Meanwhile, excitingly, it's definitely looking as though Marvel is playing the long-game — and looking beyond a trilogy, to a far longer series.