The Road to ‘Endgame’ Part 10: An Alternative to Origin Stories with ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ and ‘Black Panther’
Thank goodness we didn't have to watch Uncle Ben die AGAIN.
In the lead-up to the highly anticipated conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s epic “Infinity Saga”: Avengers: Endgame, we’re taking a look back at the decade-long road it took to get to this point. In Phase 3, Marvel started playing around with the “shared universe” aspect of the MCU. This resulted in movies like 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and 2018’s Black Panther. Both of these movies were the first of their respective franchises, but didn’t need to stick to the rigid confines of a typical “origin story” film.
Admittedly, the context of Spider-Man: Homecoming was a unique situation. Since there had been two big-screen iterations of the character spanning five films beforehand – both within the last 15 years – Marvel Studios elected to operate under the assumption audiences already knew Peter Parker’s origin story as Spider-Man. So when Disney and Sony made a deal for the character to be reintroduced for the MCU, the “backstory” element was less about him becoming a superhero and more about his introduction to the Avengers. Most of this was done in Captain America: Civil War, allowing the story of Homecoming to be focused on Peter taking his hero-dom to the next level, that is, trying to be good enough to join the Avengers.
Captain America: Civil War was also the first MCU appearance of Black Panther. But unlike with Spider-Man, who already had two film franchises under his belt, this character had never appeared in any movie before. Somehow, Marvel Studios pulled off a smooth introduction for him that tied into his future solo movie without being required viewing for it. In Black Panther, they do work in some brief backstory of things like what being the Black Panther means by incorporating some talk of Wakandan traditions as pertaining to the plot of the movie (the biggest example being the fighting to determine who rules the nation). But this is only new information to the audience and not the characters, so we don’t have to see them spend half the movie trying to figure it all out. All of this gave the filmmakers freedom to tackle issues of tradition, evolution, and power structures, and the fact that it was able to dig so deep is the reason why it became the phenomenon it did.
This practice of foregoing traditional origin stories is something Marvel has done well with in Phase 3 and it’s one they should continue in the future whenever possible. With a lot of the original MCU heroes set to depart after Avengers: Endgame, we’ll surely be getting a lot more new ones in the future, and with the sky-high quality of movies the studio has delivered lately, it would feel like a step backward to suddenly go back to getting a bunch of standard origin films in a row a la Phase 1. So here’s hoping the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther (as well as their introductions in Captain America: Civil War) serves as a spark of inspiration for Marvel Studios!