It’s pretty much confirmed that the MCU’s third Spider-Man movie will have one incredible cast list. Besides the names coming back from the previous two movies (that include J.K. Simmons‘ J. Jonah Jameson), we’ll get Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), Alfred Molina (Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus), and perhaps Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) returning from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. As for the Marc Webb films, Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) and Jamie Foxx (Max Dillon/Electro) will be reprising their roles while Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) is still in negotiations. Besides all these, Benedict Cumberbatch is also set to show up as Dr. Stephen Strange, Kraven the Hunter is rumored to be making an appearance, and Charlie Cox will finally bring his take on Matt Murdock/Daredevil into the MCU.
These seem like a lot of characters to cram into a single feature, especially one that is not an Avengers movie where the focus is expected to be on multiple characters. We’ve already seen how Marvel Studios successfully managed to deal with the increasingly large ensembles they had to work with from Captain America: Civil War to Avengers: Endgame, but to focus too much on characters other than Tom Holland‘s Spider-Man on his own movie could be seen as a disservice to what is arguably the best Peter Parker ever to be put on screen and also the version of the web-slinger the franchise should be converging on both now and in the forthcoming years.
But Marvel Studios’ record when dealing with large casts does make it seem like, in the end, this might not be that big of an issue, as long as they manage to follow their own unwritten rules from previous projects.
INTRODUCE AUDIENCES TO CHARACTERS IN ADVANCE
Even though we’ve gotten a few event movies in the MCU that came with large casts, most of those characters weren’t exactly being introduced in said features. The fact that Marvel took the time to debut almost everybody in their own movies made the team-ups all about the interactions between previously introduced personalities, allowing for the movies to have a faster pace while still allowing audiences to be emotionally invested in most of the characters. That’s part of why those movies worked so well, even if the prospect of having 10+ characters sharing the screen at once seemed like a preposterous one, to begin with.
This is most likely something that Spider-Man 3 doesn’t need to worry about too much. The Raimi and Webb series were both well-received, people are familiar with their characters, even if both series ended on a more sour note. When seeing Garfield, Dunst, or Foxx onscreen, audiences won’t need much to instantly understand who they are and what they’re all about. This should allow for the movie to flow seamlessly while packing a huge emotional punch.
HAVE A CENTRAL FOCUS AND LIMIT SCREEN TIMES
Avengers: Infinity War was one of the biggest movies ever and going into it Captain America was one of the MCU’s biggest stars. And yet, his screen time wasn’t even in that movie’s top 10. That didn’t stop it from becoming the success that it was because it was understood that the movie should stay true to the story it meant to tell while being almost indifferent to the characters driving it. Steve Roger’s presence managed to bring more weight to the story being told but without pulling rank and asking for more protagonism, something that might have hindered the final product. As such, the success of Spider-Man 3 might be defined by how much Marvel manages to hold back on the time devoted to cameos from previous Spider-Man movies. This should still be Tom Holland‘s movie and the place in which we find his Peter Parker should allow for his continuous growth into someone who can deal with his own issues, without Tony Stark or Nick Fury around to help out. Spider-Men from other timelines could be there to guide him towards the path he needs to be on, but never to hold his hand and/or deal with his problems in his place. So, even though I wouldn’t assume these cameos to be equal to Benedict Cumberbatch‘s in Thor: Ragnarok, I also wouldn’t be expecting they’ll turn out to be much more than that. Even though celebrating legacy characters is never a bad thing, one should not do so at the cost of relegating the franchise’s present (and future) to the sidelines.
It’s a little over a year until Spider-Man 3 is released, so there is plenty of time to try and begin to make sense of how all of this will come into play, and if it will end up being worth it. Marvel Studios has an excellent track record in terms of understanding how best to develop its movies, but they are now dealing with characters that mostly don’t belong to them. And it does seem like a huge gamble to focus on a Multiverse storyline with these many Sony characters at a time when the MCU has already enough characters that could easily help bring the Multiverse into focus on a non-Spider-Man centric film, thus making its own character grow. This makes it seem that in case the movie turns out great, it’s Sony that’ll gain the most, even if not considering the money involved. With Sony’s interest in developing its own cinematic universe based on the Marvel characters they own, this project might end up being a huge boost to those interests. For Marvel Studios, it’ll be just another regular Thursday. But in case the movie ends up feeling bloated, with a convoluted storyline that earns it a bad reception, that dark cloud will mostly fall on Marvel Studios, hurting their brand. This way this project is surely looking like a bigger risk for the MCU than even Infinity War and Endgame, as the ceiling seems a bit lower than the one those projects had, and the floor isn’t exactly higher.