We now live in a world where the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer exists and fans everywhere have been celebrating as they helped the movie demolish the record for most trailer views in 24 hours – 355.5 million! Insanity. On February 4th, 2021, Tom Holland told Variety in a podcast interview that Spider-Man: No Way Home was “the most ambitious standalone superhero movie ever made”. Keyword there is ‘standalone’ so he isn’t pitting his upcoming spider flick against the highest grossing superhero film. However, I mulled over the question of whether Spider-Man: No Way Home or Avengers: Endgame is more ambitious?
This question may either trip you up or you may have a hasty response to it. Whatever this may be, there is more to ponder here, as both films are attempting to do two very different things. Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of a decade-long journey and brings together an absurd amount of elements from the MCU playground. Spider-Man: No Way Home is the introduction of the multiverse as characters from all five of the previous live action Spider-Man movies are set to appear.
Fair to say, it is pretty unreasonable to find a reliable measure of ‘ambitiousness’ but we can determine the level of difficulty in orchestrating such a grandiose comic-book extravaganza and how the ‘ambitiousness’ of each film can serve its narrative. Distinguishing these significant components assists in conceptualising whether the ambition present is significant to the narrative purpose and if the level of difficulty has or will have a genuine emotional payoff.
The nature of this juxtaposition has its disadvantages, such as we know that Avengers: Endgame delivers upon its gargantuan expectations and there is a genuine emotional payoff to the cosmic stakes. Spider-Man: No Way Home is yet to release, and I require some conjecture in deliverance of this dialogue.
The easiest film to explore; Avengers: Endgame, a love letter to the Infinity Saga as it is a time-travelling adventure film that brings together 36 distinct characters from the past 21 films in the MCU into the final action sequence. They flesh other characters from past MCU films out through the 3 hour runtime. The level of difficulty to pull this off is something that only Kevin Feige could put into words, but considering budgeting, scheduling of actors, secrecy of involvement and other technical obstacles, you can imagine this required pitch-perfect organisation for all parties involved. Place this alongside the expectations, the plethora of theories and hype from a very active fanbase – the pressure had never been higher.
Spider-Man: No Way Home poses the challenge of bringing properties from pre-established franchises that had run its course and place them in the biggest cinematic universe. Marvel Studios appears to be crafting a multiversal storyline in which they can bring these past characters to formation in the MCU. It’s quite a simple scapegoat for the MCU to lean on to bring all these alternate characters into the fray, but the difficulty lies inside the tone and atmosphere in which these characters operated. Spider-Man’s Tobey Maguire and The Amazing Spider-Man’s Andrew Garfield function in their respective universes which have striking differences in tone, formula and atmosphere. Avengers: Endgame had the privilege of utilizing their pre-established characters in a more natural manner as they had already belonged there. Bringing in Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Rhys Ifans and Thomas Haden Church would pose its challenges, but even more so is to make them buy into the script and provide an incentive to return. Particularly Willem Dafoe, who has become somewhat of an indie darling in some of his incredible roles in recent times (The Florida Project, The Lighthouse, At Eternity’s Gate)
Tom Holland has also said Spider-Man: No Way Home contains the most impressive comic-book fight scene he has been a part of. Remember, he was a part of the monumental Avengers: Endgame portals sequence which has already cemented itself in film history. I have shifted into the minority that the Avengers: Endgame end fight sequence is quite underwhelming in relation to the disposable tools at play – however, that portals scene is just pure greatness. If Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are in this as their prior versions of the iconic superhero, then the title of best comic-book fight scene could be at stake. Hell, Tobey Maguire could be taking a swing at himself as the subway sequence in Spider-Man 2 continues to be a top-tier action sequence in any comic-book property.
Both films had their uphill battles as they come to fruition and are dealing with an agglomeration of obstacles. It appears that Avengers: Endgame is the one that probably encountered more hefty and enduring obstacles through its production course. Avengers: Endgame uses these tough hurdles to best serve its narrative, which is essentially a conglomeration of 10 years and 21 films of world-building. We all know the emotional payoff that fans around the world were rewarded with in Avengers: Endgame – do we truly believe that Spider-Man: No Way Home can pull off such a feat? Absolutely not. In no attempt to undermine the film, but has the MCU Spider-Man series been building to this? Does this serve Tom Holland’s Spider-Man character?. I highly doubt it and I’ll continue to say that the MCU has mishandled the Spider-Man character but he is constantly distracted by other determinants (Iron Man, Nick Fury, and now Doctor Strange).
Maguire’s Spider-Man films have been such massive parts of my life and I have a genuine appreciation for Garfield’s Spider-Man, who was placed in poor films, never getting the chance to shine. It pains me to say that what is happening in Spider-Man: No Way Home is a cheeky wink of fan service and the massive amount of hype surrounding it is a product of blind nostalgia. Don’t treat this as a deterrent to the hype levels, us Spidey fans should absolutely be excited about this once in a generation event film. While we are at it, despite not being officially confirmed, would Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s involvement in the movie even turn the tide in terms of it being more ambitious? Eh, probably not.
There is some insider knowledge about the secrets of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness floating around – all of which sounds incredibly wild and wacky. If what I am hearing is true about that film, then that’ll be another film trying to top the heights of Avengers: Endgame.