Ok, a quick apology for my absence of late. I’m back, let’s rejoice, blablabla. But today is not the day I explain what happened, why I was away, and the rest. (If I ever do. We’ll see.)
Because today I have important things to talk about.
Meaning: let’s talk about the elephantspider in the room. The Iron Spider in the room, as it were.
People are freaking out over the tech in Spidey’s suit in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
Let’s put aside for the moment that you shouldn’t freak out over a trailer. They’re, amongst many other things I’m not going to cover here, freaking out over three core points:
- “Why does Marvel keep putting Iron Man in all the moviez?!?”
- “Why does Spidey have to have a high-tech suit made by Tony Stark?!?”
- “Why doesn’t Peter create his suit?!?”
Before the deep-dive into Spidey-lore, the first thing is pretty obvious.
Iron Man is the cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Plain and simple. It started with Iron Man in 2008. Robert Downey Jr. may be too expensive for the studio to make a standalone Iron Man 4, or too tired of playing Tony, or whatever the reason is. We’re likely not going to get another Iron Man movie anytime soon. *insert sobbing for another Iron Man movie here*
(As a sidenote, let me just say that a standalone Iron Man movie featuring a storyline where he hands off the reins to Riri Williams would A) make sense; B) only fitting to launch a “soft reboot” of the MCU; B) be awesome. Just sayin’, you heard it here first.)
So what can they do? They put him in everything. He’s the continuity between movies. (One of the continuities, anyway.) Civil War obviously has to have Iron Man. The Avengers movies have to have Iron Man.
Long story short: get over it.
“Why does Spidey have to have a suit made by Tony Stark?!?”
He has his own suit. Remember “The Onesie”?
It’s only natural for Tony to be the one who creates the tech for S.H.I.E.L.D. (and I suspect S.W.O.R.D. as well, if the TV show goes where I think it goes, and as the Guardians of the Galaxy come into play with Infinity War), the Avengers, and so on.
You’re in dire need of an upgrade. Systematic, top to bottom; 100 points restoration. That’s why I’m here.
He needed Peter to be fully equipped when engaging Captain America in the confrontation Tony already knew how will end.
(The genius-level intellect of Tony Stark really comes across in expertly subtle ways in all movies.)
What’s great about the MCU, and one of the reasons why they became as big a hit as they did, is the plausibility. That’s a hard thing to do when you deal with supersoldiers, frail scientists turning into enormous green rage monsters, Nordic demigods, space mercenaries, and the rest.
The MCU has kept all these fantastical elements in check by not mystifying them. The tech, as it pertains to our current discussion, is believable.
Granted, Peter Parker is an established inventor as well. Narratively, however, they couldn’t plausibly insert that quality into a cameo, although they did their best.
But to the benefit of those poor souls who don’t watch every Marvel movie a thousand times with a magnifying glass and a worn-out pause/rewind button, they gave Peter a StarkTech suit that he will lose (in fact, taken back by Tony himself) at pretty much the beginning of the movie.
Tony: I’m gonna need that suit back.
Peter: But I’m nothing without this!
Tony: If you’re nothing without this suit then you shouldn’t have it.
This scene practically screams “end of Act One”. We’ll see plenty of The Onesie, and I fully expect Peter to create his own “real” suit by the end of the movie. And even if he gets the Stark suit back, he’ll have earned it.
It’s comic-appropriate, and then some
Tony Stark and Peter Parker have a well-established history in the comics, many of those aspects mirrored in the MCU.
(Heck, even Mary Jane ends up working for Stark Industries, taking over for Pepper as she goes off being Rescue and whatnot.)
But, more relevantly, at the opening of the comics’ Civil War storyline, Peter is on Tony’s side. He takes off his mask and puts his real name on the Registry. (Later that’s reversed, in a very comic book-ish way, but that’s beside the point.)
And in return, Tony gives him the Iron Spider armor.
From the Spider-Man wikia:
Fabricated with advanced protein-scale nano-technology and exotic materials handling, LEP skin display, impact sensing armor integrated life support ant all-spectrum communications powered by a hybrid opto-electronic computer and using super conducting, high performance plastic throughout, the Iron Spider Armor is truly one of greatest armors Tony Stark has ever created (and Peter’s most functional costume).
The suit has many features that won’t make it in the MCU (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the aforementioned plausibility) but there’s a lot of it that’s hidden or morphed into the movies:
Enhanced Lenses: The Headpiece contains large area holographic lensing to allow for long eye-relief and panoramic real-world/-time viewing. Includes several optical spectrum modes with synthesized information overlay.
It’s also a clever, very clever, narrative solution to bring the Spider-sense into the MCU without making it too fantastical. All Peter says is that his senses are dialed to 11, and the suit just lets him filter all that noise out. (In a more sophisticated way than he himself improvised it in The Onesie.)
Light Emitting Plastic Layer: Allows for camouflage (but the darker the surface that spider-man blends to the better the the camouflage) and also allows spider-man to change the colour and style of his suit (e.g. he change it to the symbiote suit’s colour as well as the normal red and blue.)
It’s my explanation on the movie’s appropriation of the Iron Spider-concept at the same time it uses the classic Spider-Man suit. It’s a pretty neat way of having the classic Spidey suit and eat it too. Of course they have to have the suit that everyone recognizes and loves.
There’s also a list of features that have been rolled into the familiar StarkTech package, like monitoring emergency bands and the rest. The flexible metal is shown through the way it’s accommodating the body type of whoever wears it.
The last piece I want to talk about briefly is the AI assistant. That gave a lot of people on Twitter something to lash out against.
The way I see it, to keep things plausible, they use Tony’s AI assistants, whether that’s Jarvis or Friday or the one in Peter’s suit, to replace the concept of ‘mental control’ in the comics. While there it’s not out of place, in the movies not having some exotic, out-of-this-world-fantastic technology or ability helps.
I mean, having a guy capable of climbing walls, have superhuman strength, and enhanced senses is enough, right?
A different origin story
Many people complain that giving Peter the full package Tony robbed the movie of the joy of 1) showing off Peter’s intellect and capability for innovation; 2) the narrative of an origin story.
I disagree, strongly.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is still an origin story. It’s not the origin story of how Peter gets his powers (that has been done way too many times) but how he grows up to become Spider-Man.
What we’ll likely see in Homecoming is how Peter, because he’s “still a kid”, over-doing his good intentions, gets knocked on his ass. And then, probably in the scene after they save the ferry, the movie begins.
We’ll see Peter Parker go back to The Onesie, we will see him rely on nothing but his own intellect, skills, and powers, and become the Spider-Man we know.
It’s a nice throwback/coda/final stroke in Tony’s arc that started with “I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one.” in Iron Man 2, and ended with “I’m a changed man. You can take away my house, all my tricks and toys. One thing you can’t take away… I am Iron Man.” in Iron Man 3. The same character evolution Peter needs to go through.
This is why Homecoming becomes a bona fide origin story.
They grow up so fast!
Narratively, this approach will make for a much more interesting movie. Not just as a comic book movie, but as storytelling as a whole.
This transition into a new way of telling stories (that are rooted in the culture of comic books) signals a new era in my opinion.
Many, if not most, people loved Logan because it worked as a movie first. Being a comic book movie only came second. They didn’t pander, they didn’t explain everything from Adam (or anything, really) — they made a movie that made sense.
Deadpool was a success because its creators grew up to the job instead of dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator.
I love this evolution of comic book culture, and pop culture in general. I also applaud Marvel for treating their audience with respect. They’re the first who don’t feel the need to re-tell the same story over and over again, but instead take a leap and assume we all know what happened in the previous movies.
And even further than that, that these character being pop culture phenomena for decades it’s perfectly fine to assume that everyone is familiar with at least the defining moments and traits of them.
What a time to be alive!