This article contains Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a delight in every possible way a summer blockbuster can be. Despite being a superhero extravaganza with all the special effects and hype that goes with that, it nevertheless is filled with humor, heart, and more than its fair share of surprises. Indeed, judging by the stunned gasps and laughter that accompanied the final button placed on the film of Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) staring at Tom Holland in the Spider-Man suit, she wasn’t the only one ready to scream “what the f—!” Of course the last syllable is cut off by the sound of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” but it also would’ve been deafened, no matter what, by the audience cheers. It’s a moment every bit as audience-baiting as Zendaya’s Michelle revealing that “My friends call me MJ.”
When we had the opportunity to sit down with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and director Jon Watts last month, those moments were at the top of the conversation. While both were cagey, they still gave some interesting reads on the situation.
For Feige’s part, he wanted to tread carefully by underlining the fact that Zendaya is still playing a character named Michelle and not Mary Jane Watson. However, he will at least agree that calling Zendaya’s character an MJ of a different name does underscore she will have some similarities to comicdom’s most famous redhead.
“In setting up this will be a very different thing, she’s not Mary Jane Watson, that’s not who the character is.” Feige tells me. “But giving her the initials that remind you of that dynamic certainly is intriguing about what could go forward.”
Indeed, after we note that Michelle is keeping sharp eyes on Peter’s coming and goings (just like Mary Jane Watson did in Tom DeFalco’s run of The Amazing Spider-Man), Feige adds, “Clearly, she says she’s not obsessed with him, she’s just observant. But she’s there. And to have fun with that while at the same time having it be different characters that can provide a different dynamic [is the point].”
Feige explained that the logic of this was to take Peter Parker (and his supporting cast) in directions we haven’t seen before, be they auburn-fringed or otherwise.
“Peter’s had a lot of friends over the years in the comics, and a lot of schoolmates and characters he’s interacted with. It wasn’t just Mary Jane Watson; it wasn’t just Gwen Stacy; it wasn’t just Harry Osborn. So we were very interested in the other characters, and that’s where Liz came from and that’s where the version of the character Michelle came from.”
Yet in terms of Aunt May discovering Peter Parker is Spider-Man, that is something that has occurred before between the web-head and one of his most important supporting cast members in the comics. But never this early in his web-slinging career, and of course never onscreen. When I bring that moment up to Watts, he is reticent about who first came up with the idea—nor is he exactly sure where this moment will lead for Peter other than instant, mega grounding.
Says Watts, “That was a thing where I don’t remember exactly at what point it came up when we were just brainstorming ideas, but as soon as that came out, it was like, ‘We gotta’ do that. Like we gotta’ do that!’ It’s like when you have an idea that makes everyone excited and nervous, and feels like, ‘Are we seriously going to do that?’ Then you know you have to do it… And it definitely has opened up a huge can of worms, and I have no idea how we’re going to address it.”
Watts is also unsure exactly how Peter and May’s conversation will play out—or whether we’ll get a glorious flashback of Tomei raining hellfire down on her movie-nephew—but he strongly implies that this will change things in the status quo, including possibly Avengers: Infinity War (where we’ll next see Tom Holland as Spider-Man). There will be no excuses made for Peter to doublespeak his way out of this discovery.
“How do you explain your way out of that? I don’t think you can!” Watts laughs.
As per what will happen in a potential sequel Feige and Watts could make to Spider-Man: Homecoming? They are, for now, just hinting at how Infinity War will drastically affect the events of any future solo Spidey movie.
“Of course the way Civil War informed what happened to him in Homecoming, what’s happening in Infinity War and Untitled Avengers will very much inform Homecoming 2, and what happens after that,” Feige says with a smile.
That may be, but for now we’d love to be a fly on the wall for what comes immediately next in that scene of a spider caught in his own web.