As you have to know by now, long before Marvel started making movies on their own, they sold the theatrical rights of their most popular characters to other studios. Fox still owns the X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four. Universal still owns the distribution rights to any solo Hulk movies. And, of course, Sony owns the theatrical rights to Marvel’s most popular character, Spider-Man.
(Honestly, going through all that every time is starting to feel like telling Spider-Man’s origin story again. Yeah, yeah, yeah … people get it. Get to the point.)
Anyway, after two disappointing films – the first and second The Amazing Spider-Man movies – Sony and Marvel entered a back-and-forth negotiation that finally resulted in an agreement to let Spider-Man enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And this is why Spider-Man makes an appearance in Captain America: Civil War. (An appearance that was a bit longer than I imagined it would be. More on that when our full review hits on Wednesday.)
But, this did make things difficult for Captain America: Civil War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who were tapped with writing a movie that already had multiple intersecting characters, but they also knew they might have to make room for one more.
“It was, ‘By the way, this could happen and come up with some contingencies,’” remembers McFeely.
Markus adds, “And then it was back and forth. He was in, then he was out.”
So Markus and McFeely had to work on their script without knowing if Spider-Man was in this movie or not. But, as McFeely admits, “We always had ways to do it. And we could have done it without him if it was necessary.”
And when did they find out for sure? “It was only definitively quite late in the process,” says Markus.
McFeely adds, “That recruitment section allows for sort of an easy flexibility.”
Marvel is eschewing the traditional Spider-Man origin story because we’ve already seen that story told cinematically twice before in the last 14 years. When we meet Peter Parker (now played by Tom Holland) in Captain America: Civil War, he already has his powers. But this created a challenge: How do you introduce a character that audiences already love, but are kind of tired of being “introduced” to?
“It’s a gift,” says Markus, “with everyone sick of him being introduced, you very nearly don’t have to introduce him.”
“It’s almost a cheat,” adds McFeely. “Everyone has seen one of the five other movies that have come in the last decade. So we kind of lean into that and make a nice character scene with a stumbling kid – who is actually a kid! – who you get one vague little reference about something in his past that must be haunting him as he’s sitting on the bed there. Then everyone fills in the blanks themselves.”
Was there a debate on the slippery slope between too much information we’ve all heard before, versus not enough information for a potential new viewer? “If it was something we felt wasn’t pertinent to the story we were telling in this movie,” says Markus, “it got cut.” He continues, “Tony hearing Peter’s reasoning for being a hero is important to Tony for his evolution as a hero.”
McFeely adds, “You should be able to listen to that conversation as if it were to apply to Tony and have it resonate.”
Markus also adds, “The whole scene is as important for Tony as it is for getting Spider-Man into the movie.”
And you will get to listen to that conversation between Tony Stark and Peter Parker when Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.