I’ve got a bone to pick with the MCU Spider-Man films. Not a big one, but a bone, nonetheless.
When I walked out of the latest installment in the Marvel Spider-Man saga, Spider-Man: Now Way Home, last December, I couldn’t shake this feeling of profound disappointment. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was exactly that didn’t sit right with me. But then, just a few days later, while riding the ever-lovely F train, it hit me – there’s a severe lack of New York City in this trilogy.
While this might seem like an odd gripe to hold against this film series, please bear with me.
A Perfect Pairing
The relationship between Spider-Man and his hometown is so dang crucial to our understanding of the character. To not feature the city in any meaningful way, is to prevent us from engaging with a Spider-Man story in the most complete way possible.
The pairing of Spider-Man and New York City is a perfect marriage; like a bagel and cream cheese, or a dollar slice and a cold can of soda, or a Yankees hat with a pair of Timberland boots. It just makes sense for the two to co-exist. To have one without the other just feels plain wrong.
While the characters of the Marvel comics all exist within fantastical versions of our real world, and with many of them calling New York home, Spider-Man’s linkage to the Big Apple is unmatched by any of his peers. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, is New York City’s connection to Spider-Man.
Where is New York?
As a collective, there is no superhero that New York identifies with more than Spidey. He’s like the New York Knicks of fictional folks with superpowers (except he’s actually good at what he does). And it’s that symbiotic relationship that makes the lack of NYC in this franchise so frustrating.
While New York does make brief cameos throughout Homecoming, Far From Home, and Now Way Home, it’s never fully embraced as part of the films’ individual identities or their collective identity as a trilogy. I mean, Far From Home physically removes Peter Parker from the five boroughs, for crying out loud! And within the other two films, New York City merely serves as a backdrop for Spider-Man’s escapades.
What ever happened to a film’s setting feeling like a character in its own right? This should be the easiest setting to do that with. NYC is full of character and is populated by characters.
Any film taking place in New York should be buzzing with the energy of the streets bursting through each frame, each shot, each scene. One would have to actively suppress its electric nature to create a New York City as dull as the one featured in this series. I guess this is what happens when you attempt to artificially recreate New York City. What a wasted opportunity.
A Missed Opportunity
Beyond the frustration from omission of New York City’s character in the MCU Spider-Man flicks, is the simple fact that one of the coolest things about the web slinger is actually seeing him…web sling through the city’s skyscrapers. The sparse inclusion of one of the most exciting aspects of Spider-Man’s superpowers can only be described as baffling. Grant me the joy of taking tours through New York City neighborhoods and across the legendary sites, with Spider-Man serving as my tour guide.
This may be an unfair assessment of the series, but as a New Yorker, I can assure you that we take great pride in this city we call home. And while there is no shortage of wonderful films that properly capture the magic of the city, I can’t help but request more from these particular films.
I can’t guarantee that a proper representation of New York and Spider-Man’s relationship to it would make these films perfect. But I do know that its inclusion would make them a helluva lot better.