Clearly, Marvel President Kevin Feige is something of a Spider-Man superfan. This, no doubt, played a large role in his helping to successfully negotiate a deal with Spidey owner Sony, in which Spider-Man would feature in the now legendary Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Sony retaining the rights the character. It was the development that Spidey fans dared not hope for, but now that the reality is beginning to unfold, audiences are eager to hear how Feige expects it all to hang together. For them, it boils down to two questions – which version of Spider-Man will appear, and how old will he be?
The question of identity has been asked for some time. Since news of Spider-Man’s involvement in the MCU surfaced, speculation has swirled around the idea that a full reboot could be planned, with perhaps a version of the character other than the most renowned Peter Parker. The source material includes storylines that feature other characters taking up the web-slinging, such as Miles Morales – the mention of whom gave rise to the idea that Community alum Donald Glover might be cast. That speculation was put to rest by Kevin Feige, when he confirmed not only Spider-Man’s identity, but also the age at which he will appear.
“In terms of the age of an actor we’ll eventually cast, I don’t know. In terms of the age of what we believe Peter Parker is, I’d say 15 – 16 is right.”
For Feige, the age of the character is what seems to be most significant, and he explained why to Collider.
“We want to play with Spider-Man in the high school years because frankly, there’ve been five Spider-Man films and the amazing thing about it is, even though there have been five Spider-Man films, there are so many things from the comics that haven’t been done yet. Not just characters or villains or supporting characters, but sides to his character. The most obvious being the ‘young, doesn’t quite fit in’ kid before his powers, and then the fella that puts on a mask and swings around and fights bad guys and doesn’t shut up, which is something we want to play with and we’re excited about.
“I think it was midway through the first film that he graduated high school. At the beginning of the second Marc Webb film, he graduated high school. And some of my favourite Spider-Man arcs and stories, he’s in high school for a lot of it. We want to explore that. That also makes him very, very different from any of our other characters in the MCU, which is something else we want to explore: how unique he is when now put against all these other characters.”
These details from Feige are interesting. His comments betray a sense of frustration that five Spider-Man films have barely scratched the surface of the stories contained in the comic books, and this gives rise to his determination to deliver a Spider-Man film set firmly within the character’s high school years.
Returning Spider-Man to teenage is a promising development for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because, as Feige points out, it gives the opportunity to see a truly unique character juxtaposed with these other enormous personalities. But, it achieves something else, too. It brings into the MCU a character that connects directly with teens – a demographic that has otherwise not seen itself directly reflected in superhero movies to any significant extent.
There is a different question, however, and it arises from the intentionally cohesive nature of the MCU. Given that the origin stories of Spider-Man and Jessica Jones are essentially intertwined – with Jessica Jones being, in a way, a Spider-Man spinoff character – and given that a Jessica Jones series will soon be arriving on Netflix as part of the MCU, while Marvel are simultaneously seeking a high school-aged Peter Parker, will Spider-Man feature in flashback on that show? Jessica Jones is currently filming, so the timing of a Spider-Man casting announcement may well answer that question.