Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming and the Backdrop of the MCU

One of the good things about Spider-Man: Homecoming is that it brings Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not in the comic fetishist dream of now having Spider-Man in the same scene with Iron Man, but in the sense of the increasingly cohesive backstory of the CMU undergirding the plot. I am not found of the CMU in its homogenization of plot and uninspired sameness of production design, but the ways that it increasingly portrays a world being changed by the consequences of an alien invasion and the co-occurrent emergence of superheroes I like a lot.

They didn't plan this from the beginning. There is no unification of the origins of any of the Phase One characters, and only some of their villains. As late as Winter Soldier, the Falcon's flying prosthetic wings are just some Army contractors invention, with no need of Stark genius or reverse engineered alien tech.  The small screen is where things begin to change. Daredevil season one has as its setting New York in the aftermath of a very destructive alien invasion (i.e. the Chitauri as seen in Avengers). Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter deal with (and build on) things in the periphery of the films.

Of course, Civil War deals with the political consequences of Age of Ultron (which in turn, sort of grew out of the events of Avengers), but Homecoming shows us the origins of several of Spider-Man's foes in the Roadside Picnic-esque salvage of the Chitauri visitation. It's an interesting thematic element, having the "neighborhood hero" have to deal with the personifications of the mess left behind when the big players leave the field, but it also makes the universe seem more cohesive and real. It's a step away from the Marvel Silver Age comics toward  (again) the Ultimate Marvel Universe in approach.

I think this would be a good thing to emulate in superhero rpgs or really any genre where you wanted a sustain cohesive setting. Thirty years ago, the writers of the Wild Cards books argued a unified origin for super-powers aided suspension of disbelief. That's probably true, but given the proliferation of superheroes today, it seems less necessary. What is still somewhat novel, and still worth considering is the "ripples" in the pond of the setting when a new fantastic element is dropped in. There's a lot that can be mined from that idea, I think.


JB said...

Hear, hear!

Yes. Absolutely. I agree on all points.

(and I haven't even had a chance to see Homecoming)

Trey said...

It's very good. Not quite the iconic Spider-Man film (in the sense that if someone knew nothing about Spider-Man, it would not be the one to watch).
It's more Marvel Universe #12: Spider-Man (or whatever) than Spider-Man #1.

garrisonjames said...

I'm a big fan of continuity within a game, as it allows little things to grow into bigger things and for repercussions and consequences to come home to roost in some very interesting and satisfying ways. It isn't just level progression that makes for a fun campaign, there are all those things that accumulate over the course of play that blend and merge and morph into all sorts of intriguing opportunities for adventure or peril that just don't come about otherwise. Also superheroes + Roadside Picnic is one of the best elevator pitches ever.