As both Marvel Studios and DC Studios (née Films) embrace the multiverse concept in their films, they have an opportunity to change the way people view major characters like Batman or Spider-Man. By uniting previous actors who have played these roles, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Universe are able to turn their heroes into James Bond.
Spider-Man: No Way Home has already done what James Bond has never done. This film brought together the three most famous actors to play the character live. Yet the emotional payoff for this moment wouldn’t work as well without nearly two decades of previous films. No way home took what were perceived as two “failures” and gave them a new ending. Not only that, this was a mega-blockbuster film that, for lack of a better term, redeemed the ignominious end of the previous two Spiderman Franchise. Rumor has it that DC Studios will be doing something similar with Batman actors Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton. This moment of unity between generations could allow both Marvel and DC to reimagine their constant reboots and rewrites, from “starting over” to just “passing on the torch” like James Bond actors do.
The reaction to Spider-Man and Batman recasts or reboots is predictable
Every time a new Batman or Spider-Man actor is cast, the entertainment press and fans go through a similar arc. First, they break down where the last iteration “went wrong”. They then speculate about how the next actor will take on the role, eventually getting to a point where they question the need for a recast at all. However, the James Bond rewrite is an event. Typically, Bond actors announce they are leaving before their replacement is cast. The first time this happened with Spider-Man was when Sony signed the deal with Marvel Studios. fans of The Incredible Spiderman Universum were disappointed, but they understood why it had to be done.
So Marvel Studios rewarded those fans, as well as Tobey Maguire’s, by uniting the characters for a triumphant conclusion. What this is subtly hinting at is that Spider-Man will be in cinemas from now until the end of cinemas as we know it. And if the fans are really lucky, a few of them can hang out together every now and then. Spider-Man is already one of the most popular heroes in the world. However, when news breaks tomorrow that Tom Holland is done with the role, no one is going to say the franchise is “broken” again. You will mourn his Spidey and look forward to the next one with great anticipation. Give it five or, like Michael Keaton and Batman, 30+ years and they might just come back.
It also goes beyond Spider-Man and Batman. DC and Marvel should present each character remake as an “event,” like the search for a new James Bond. Because despite all the charm, the continued success of 007 was not always certain.
The James Bond rewrite became an event after Sean Connery
When Sean Connery got tired of playing James Bond, producers found George Lazenby and tried to land him in a seven-film deal. His agent told him that Bond would never exist in culture, so he went after a single film. They drove the money truck to Connery’s house and got another feat out of him until they finally found Roger Moore. There’s a direct parallel to comic book characters here every time the iconic actor who first brought them to life leaves the role. Separating the character from the actor is a major hurdle, and Spider-Man and Batman have the benefit of masks.
After 12 years as Bond, Moore left the franchise. His exit was announced before Timothy Dalton stepped in. From that moment on, the notion that James Bond could ever “disappear” became absurd. Even when Connery slipped back into the role of Bond never say Never For a competing studio (after a lengthy legal battle), fans didn’t care. The more Bond the better. DC and Marvel Studios both need to recast, like Harrison Ford as Thunderbolt Ross, as the inevitable result of these characters’ continued popularity. A movie like Spider-Man: No Way Home reinforces that idea by embracing and celebrating each previous iteration.
Spider-Man has another advantage. Whether the former cast returns or not, the next actor to play Spider-Man in live action will almost certainly be Miles Morales. Those who believe that superhero films will eventually go the western way need only look to James Bond (and his imitators) to see otherwise. And superheroes have far more source material to draw from than a few dozen novels and short stories.