Spectacular Spider-Man is a 2017 film set in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the 2nd franchise incarnation of the titular character, following the trilogy of films release by Sony in the 2000s directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire. Tom Holland plays the title character, reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War. It is the 7th film in Phase 3 and the 22nd film overall in the MCU. It is also a co-production of Sony/Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios, following a rights sharing agreement struck between the two studios after plans for a rebooted Spider-Man series fell through in 2012. The film was a critical and financial success, netting over 880 million dollars at the worldwide box office.
When the MCU was first created, Sony owned exclusive rights to the character of Spider-Man and his various rogues gallery. Arguably the most well-known hero in the Marvel Universe, Marvel Studios attempted several times to reacquire the rights or enter into a rights-sharing deal with Sony/Columbia, but talks broke down more often than not. However Sony was having trouble getting a new Spider-Man film off the ground, after Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Raimi left early in the pre-production of Spider-Man 4. In 2009 the decision was made to reboot the character with a brand new series, which would lead into a shared cinematic universe of just Spider-Man characters including potential spin offs for Venom and the Sinister Six. Director Marc Webb was initially hired to create a new film, with a tentative released in summer of 2012 (which incidentally, would be the release date of Marvel's The Avengers.) Andrew Garfield was in talks to star as the new Spider-Man, but at the 11th hour talks fell apart and Webb was fired as director over creative differences. In 2012, with no new film in sight, Sony agreed to enter into a rights sharing agreement to put Spider-Man in the MCU, provided that no other film entered production prior to 2015.
With the drop-dead date of 2015 passing, work on a new Spider-Man film was announced shortly thereafter. Despite their being rumors of the character appearing in a post-credits scene of Age of Ultron, it was announced that the character would make his debut in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, before appearing in his own solo film the following year, directed by Jon Watts. British actor Tom Holland was cast in the role as Peter Parker, also ending rumors that the new Spider-Man would be Miles Morales as opposed to Peter Parker. The decision was also made to use Gwen Stacy as the love interest for Peter as opposed to Mary Jane Watson, casting Kathryn Newton in the role. After being teased in the Raimi trilogy, Curt Conners/The Lizard was announced as the villain for the film, with Rhys Ifans playing an "updated" version of the character. It was also announced that Robert Downey Jr. would reprise his role as Tony Stark for part of the film, acting as Peter's mentor, while Christopher Walken would also reprise his role from the Luke Cage TV series as Silvio Manfredi, aka Silvermane, marking the second time a Netflix character had appeared in a Marvel movie (following Luke Cage himself). Michael Keaton was also cast as Norman Osborn, debuting as the character in a flashback in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Production on Spectacular Spider-Man began in August of 2016, ending in November of that year.
The opening credits play out much of the origin story we already know: Peter Parker bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining super powers; his attempts to become a celebrity in professional wrestling; the death of his Uncle Ben. We then see a montage of video clips from the fight in Budapest involving Peter, particularly his relationship with both Happy Hogan and Tony Stark. After the battle is concluded, Stark brings him back to New York, telling him he can keep the suit, but that training wheels are still on the bike. He assigns Hogan to be a go-between, and tells Peter to keep in touch. Later that night, May and Peter have a brief conversation over dinner concerning super heroes. Peter seems to want to tell her his secret, but doesn't when she starts agreeing with a talking head on TV. He turns and sees J. Jonah Jameson, complaining about the super hero menace in the world, causing him to sulk a bit.
Over the next couple of months, life settles into a routine for Peter as he balances his life between Midtown High and his friendships with Ned Leeds and Gwen Stacy (who he also crushes on) and being Spider-Man. Peter continues to help solve petty crime within his Queens neighborhood, also breaking up mafia protection rackets in the process, and becomes somewhat disillusioned when he sees an issue of the Daily Bugle calling him a "Web-Headed Menace." For moral support, he turns to his biology teacher, Dr. Curt Connors, who unknowingly gives him a pep talk about his time in the Army as a surgeon and the heroics he performed there, even at the cost of his own arm. He also tells Peter that someday, he will do great things.
Unbeknownst to Peter, Curt is also moonlighting as a genetics researcher in an underground laboratory, researching the abandoned subject of Neogenics, which Oscorp had experimented with briefly in the 90s and again in recent years (it being the experiment Peter attended when he gained his powers). After managing to sequence the genome of a Komodo Dragon, specifically looking for the genetic markers which allows a person to regrow limbs, Connors seems ready to move to more experimental testing. However, he is visited by Silvio Manfredi, a crime boss also known as Silvermane, who wants an update on the project he's bankrolling. After a long discussion, in which he admits to having cancer and having limited time left, Manfredi orders Connors to have a working prototype process to cure or alleviate his cancer in 72 hours, or else. Not seeing any other choice, Connors dismisses his lab assistant Dr. Farley, and begins working on a serum to duplicate the regenerative healing ability of reptiles. Peter does notice that Curt is gone the next day from school, but doesn't look into it more. In an attempt to ask out Gwen Stacy (after off-handedly agreeing to meet Ned later that night), though, Peter runs afoul of schoolyard bully Flash Thompson, leading to a chase scene where he has to avoid Thompson and not using his powers in the process. This is stopped by Happy Hogan, who tells him Stark wants to see him. Stark tells him, remotely through an Iron Man suit, that he needs to keep doing what he's doing. Peter asks if he's "being let off of training wheels," but Tony says that won't happen anytime soon, leading to Peter being frustrated.
48 hours after his ultimatum, a tired Curt Connors finishes a prototype serum, subjecting it to the Neogenic Recombinator. Without any further testing, he uses it on himself to see if it will regrow his arm, thinking that if it works it will also regrow healthy cells in Manfredi's cancer-ridden body. The serum initially works, causing his arm to regrow. However a few seconds later, he begins to mutate into a large, anthropomorphic Lizard creature. Dr. Farley, who came in against his wishes, doesn't see the transformation, but does find him in that state, and accidentally lets the rampaging beast out of the laboratory and onto the streets. Peter, who happens to be nearby, rushes in to try and save the day and is thoroughly trounced by the Lizard's strength and speed, which far exceed his own. The Lizard, however, seems to come to grips with himself before he hurts anyone, and slinks off into the sewers, not wanting to be seen further. Peter slowly comes to and escapes before police arrive. He notices Dr. Farley staring at the storm grate where the Lizard was slinking off to, and makes note of it. Later at night, he visits Farley at her apartment. She doesn't disclose much information, including not passing on Connors' name, but does mention Neogenics as something she had been working on. Armed with this information, Peter goes looking for more info, but not before checking up on Gwen Stacy who lives in the building across the way. Unfortunately for him, she sees him staring at her in the window, and he embarrassed rushes off. When he returns home, he inadvertently removes his costume in front of Ned, divulging his secret identity.
At school the next day, Peter makes Ned swear not to tell anyone about his secret identity, and also promises to have Ned help him when necessary. He gets paired with Gwen during a lab in biology class, with Professor Connors having returned to work, disheveled and short-tempered. Peter attempts to ask Dr. Connors if he is okay after class, which causes Connors to snap at him, before he regains his composure and apologizes. Later, Peter notices that Connors is being approached by two large men and a gray-haired gentleman. He sneaks off from gym class, Ned running cover for him, and dons his outfit to try and protect Connors. He overhears part of the conversation between the man, who he finds out is named Manfredi, and Connors dealing with some kind of Neogenic treatment. He intervenes before the goons can rough up Connors more, and Manfredi takes note of his interference.
Following up on the hint from both Dr. Farley and Connors himself, he goes to Oscorp and sneaks in to try and talk with Norman Osborn about Neogenics. In the course of the interrogation, Peter inadvertently lets it slip that he is in someway connected with Richard Parker, who was an intern who worked on the project during its initial conception back in the 80s...and again on it a few years later, but Norman doesn't appear to notice anything about it. In the end Osborn says Neogenics was a dead end that they shelved after the latest failed test about a year or so ago, leaving Peter without any leads. Worse yet, he comes home and finds his Aunt May furious with him, as she got a call from school saying he had skipped out on his last two periods. The two have a brief argument about Tony Stark's workload, and Peter storms off to visit Gwen, ignoring his aunt's demands.
Back at Connors' lab, he is busy trying to gather up his notes and destroy them, when he starts feeling a tingling sensation in his missing arm. As soon as he sees it start to regrow, he goes ballistic and tries to stop the transformation, but alas cannot. The Lizard again rampages out onto the street, but this time appears to have a bit more control over his surroundings. En route to see Gwen, Peter again runs into the Lizard, but the creature disappears before Peter can confront him. Peter examines the laboratory where the Lizard came out of, and finds Connors' notes scattered all over the ground. Curious, he picks them up and takes them. Back at home, he calls Tony Stark to ask for help with this Lizard thing, but Hogan tells him Tony is kind of busy with a wedding and dealing with a large lizard of his own over in Beijing, which Peter sees on the television in his room. Hogan then tells Peter not to go after this Lizard guy alone, that Tony will deal with it when he can, but Peter proceeds to hang up. Frustrated, he leaves his room and talks to his Aunt, apologizing for his outburst earlier. May simply says that she doesn't want Peter to be hurt in any way, especially after what happened to Ben. The conversation briefly turns to money issues, with Peter saying that maybe he could get Stark to make it a paid internship, half as a joke. He does take note in the paper for pictures of Spider-Man.
At school the next day, Connors is again missing and Peter goes through the day reading through his notes. The ideas of Neogenics make sense to him, and he works a little at the formulas on the page to try and fix it, working with Gwen and getting closer to her as he does. When he gets home he asks his Aunt if she knew anything about what his father was working on for Oscorp, but May doesn't give any answers. Peter heads out to do his evening patrol of the neighborhood, finding some goons roughing up a nearby store. As he goes to investigate, he is suddenly jumped by several goons at once, taking him by surprise even with his Spider-Sense warning him. They hold him down as he is approached by Silvio Manfredi. The crime boss, looking even more haggard, says that Spider-Man has been getting in the way of his operations in Queens, and he won't stand for it anymore. Peter manages to fight off the goons and goes after Manfredi, but is suddenly called away by the sound of sirens in the distance, allowing Silvermane to slip away. Peter goes towards the sirens and finds the Lizard, having emerged from his sewer lair, in possession of some chemicals. Peter again tries to fight the Lizard, with the police trying to subdue both of them. They fight to a draw, and in the process several officers are hurt. Peter is nearly arrested by the NYPD, when Iron Man shows up to vouch for him, saying SHIELD will handle the damage, and takes Peter away.
On top of a nearby building, Tony confronts Peter with the fact that he defied Happy's explicit orders. Peter says people were going to get hurt if he didn't act, which Tony counters by saying people were hurt, precisely because he acted. The argument continues until Tony finally says that Peter needs a timeout. Peter tries to swing away, but his suit suddenly deactivates, his web shooters jamming up immediately. Tony says that maybe when Peter can learn to follow orders, he can have his suit back. Peter notes that Tony has never been one exactly to follow things by the book, to which Stark replies that it's why he thought Peter would be better than him.
After confessing to his Aunt that he lost the Stark internship, he and May seem to come to an understanding. Still, he goes through the motions of carrying on his hero routine as he had, only with his old suit and equipment. One afternoon, he saves Gwen from a group of low level thugs who are trying to harass her. The two briefly talk, Peter trying to maintain his cover as Spider-Man in the process, before Gwen outright guesses that it is him in the suit. He confesses it, and asks her to the dance in a few weeks in the process, sharing their first kiss together. He also continues to work on the Neogenics problem in his spare time, finally seeming to come up with a stabilizing solution to a piece of equipment called the Recombinator that will undo the genetic damage the splicing process can cause. Meanwhile, Professor Connors grows more distant the few times he shows up at school the next few weeks, before it is finally announced he is taking a sabbatical altogether. Peter confesses to Ned that he has heard more about the Lizard, that he's been stealing some chemicals and electrical equipment. He also heard some goons talking about Silvermane and some other new guy, but nothing more can be learned from it. He admits that without the Stark-tech, he don't know if he could survive another encounter with the Lizard. Ned tells him then not to worry about it, but Peter says it's his responsibility, as he suspects that the Lizard has something to do with Connors. If nothing else, he'd like to get a picture of the thing so he can help his Aunt pay the bills by selling the photo to the Daily Bugle.
On the night of the dance, Peter and Gwen have a brief romantic dinner at a diner together before heading to the school. Peter glances up at the TV and sees news of a hostage situation nearby, and tries his best to focus on Gwen and ignore it. Gwen notices the effort, and tells him to go, she'll see him at the dance. Peter dons his outfit and goes to handle the situation, only to find it another trap set by Manfredi. Silvermane has been upgraded since he was last seen, his body replaced by cybernetic enhancements built by a man named Smythe. Silvermane tosses Peter around in the abandoned building a bit, the cops having been bought off by Manfredi's goons to clear the area. The fight becomes more evenly matched thanks to Peter's agility, but Silvermane eventually lures him into a corner and collapses a large part of the building on him. With Peter seemingly buried, Silvermane looks to finish him off, when the Lizard comes from the sewer seeking Manfredi. After a brief struggle, Manfredi is kidnapped by the Lizard and taken to the sewer. Peter struggles to free himself from the wreckage, eventually doing so. Meanwhile at the school, Ned dances with Gwen to try and pass the time, as Gwen waits for Peter.
Peter figures that whatever Lizard is, he'll need the biggest power source he can find. Thus, he travels through the sewers towards Avengers Tower which, though it is technically off the New York Power Grid, could theoretically be hooked back in to provide access to large swaths of the city's power. He arrives at a clearing in the sewer, finding Silvermane incapable of moving and the Lizard, who can now talk, explaining his plans. He has perfected the transformative capabilities of the Neogenic Recombinator and, by hooking it to a large enough power source, he can transform most of Manhattan into creatures like himself. Peter, making sure to set his phone to record in a discreet corner of the room, intervenes and confronts the Lizard, saying he knows it's Dr. Connors in there. Connors replies that he has evolved far beyond the puny weakling, and begins to fight Peter while Manfredi watches, helpless, though he does start to fiddle with the cybernetics on his wrist.
Peter and the Lizard fight, with Connors coming close to killing Peter once or twice only for something to hold him back. Silvermane takes the opportunity to attack Connors and Peter, claiming he will take the Recombinator for himself. However, having studied the machine schematics carefully, Peter is able to reverse the polarity and blast both Manfredi and Connors, which reverts Connors back to his human form and, due to short circuiting Manfredi's cybernetics, renders him comatose. Peter sighs and grabs his phone, doing a happy dance when he sees it recorded the fight. Later, Happy Hogan comes to Avengers tower to find Manfredi gift-wrapped with a note saying "Man behind the Lizard Guy, Signed Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." Back at the school, Peter finally shows up just as the dance ends, and he and Gwen share a brief dance in the moonlight on the roof of the school away from prying eyes.
With Manfredi's criminal enterprises having been shut down and Connors back to work, Peter edits the video of his fight to a few still shots and meets J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson is at first skeptical of how he got the photos, but quickly surmises that Spider-Man must have paid Parker to take them, in exchange for Parker to try and get him good press. Peter "confesses" to the scheme, and is told to sell more photos if he ever comes across them, meeting Robbie Robertson in the process. Outside the Bugle's office, Hogan picks up Peter and brings him to Tony Stark. Stark starts by lambasting Peter's recklessness in still going after the Lizard despite everything...and also thanks him for saving them all. He admits that, as the new acting head of SHIELD, he doesn't have the time to keep up with Peter's exploits, so he will trust that Peter can do everything himself. He hands him back his suit, deactivating the Training Wheels, and leaving it at that. Peter does ask if he's an Avenger now, which Tony responds "maybe in a few years. Consider yourself a reservist. A utility infielder kind of guy." Peter comes home stoked out of his mind and enters his bedroom, removing his mask...right in front of his Aunt who was vacuming, causing her to exclaim "HOLY..." as the film ends.
[Cut into Norman Osborn's office, where he is looking over some paperwork. His son, Harry, walks in to greet him.]
Harry: You wanted to see me Dad?
Norman: Yeah just for a quick second. I wanted to talk with you about your science grade at school. Seems your teacher's are afraid that you are falling behind the rest of your classmates. Might even have to take summer school at the rate you're going.
Harry: It's not that bad.
Norman: Not that bad? Son you're the child of one of the most well-known scientists in the world and you can't pass chemistry?
Harry: I'm just not into science as much as you are, Dad.
Norman: Fair enough...look why don't you think about getting a tutor. Dr. Connors suggested a kid named Peter Parker. And who knows, you might learn something from him.
[A buzzer goes off and Norman answers it, getting a call for his afternoon appointment.]
Norman: We'll talk about it at dinner tonight. Love ya son.
Harry: Love ya Dad.
[Harry walks out right past Dr. Kristin Farley, who walks in front of Norman's desk.]
Farley: I see you've seen fit to hire me back into the fold.
Norman: Yes well...plans change. And given everything that's happened...well it seemed appropriate at this time. I want you to tell me everything you know about Neogenics.
[Cut to Black on Norman's inquisitive face.]
/ = / = / = /
[We fade in on Tony Stark mindlessly working on tinkering with one of his suits in Avengers Tower, as Peter is discussing a recent encounter he had.]
Peter: I was stopping a bank robbery from this guy named Gargan or something...only then I was interrupted by a super villain. He called himself Mole Man. I mean, who names themselves after a mole?
Stark: Uh huh...look you'll have to ask Richards about that one cause I think Mole Man is from their rogues gallery.
Peter: ...Reed Richards? Of the Fantastic Four?!
Stark: Yeah...I'll set up a play date for you to...
[A gust of wind blows through and Tony and Peter look up at the sky, seeing a ship slowly descend through the cloud cover. Tony goes white as a ghost.]
Stark: Peter...get back to your Aunts and stay there.
Peter: But Mr. Stark...
[Peter quickly bolts out of the way as Tony grabs a nearby cellphone, calling a SHIELD agent.]
Stark: Get Reed Richards and Nick Fury on the line...tell them Bruce is back.
[Tony glances up at the sky in horror as we cut to black.]
Summary of Changes
- The film combines elements from three disparate sources (four if you include J. Jonah Jameson's casting); the mainline Sony Amazing Spider-Man franchise (which never happened in this universe), the mainline Spider-Man Homecoming, as well as the 90s animated series on FOX.
- Peter's origin is told again, in a brief synopsis by way of the opening credits. It also retains the changes made to Civil War. The opening scene between Peter and Tony happens much the same way it did before. However, the addition of J. Jonah Jameson in the beginning (and periodically throughout the film) is new to this film.
- The main villain of the piece is Curt Connors/The Lizard rather than the Vulture. This is the same as our universe's Amazing Spider-Man, but here Connors is viewed as a biology professor at Midtown High as opposed to an employee of Oscorp.
- Neogenics is taken out of the 90s animated series, and works very similar as it did there. It is also the basis of the technology used by the High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (and was in fact initially developed by him at Oscorp).
- Gwen Stacy serves as the love interest in this film, as opposed to Liz Allen.
- Silvermane appears as a secondary antagonist, reprising his role from the Luke Cage TV series.
- Ned Leeds plays a smaller role in the film, and there is less focus on Peter's life in school as opposed to his growing relationship with Gwen Stacy.
- The film's first half takes place during the events of Iron Man 4, as alluded to the fact of Tony fighting Fin Fang Foom over Beijing. This film's ending also confirms that Tony is the new head of SHIELD, at least temporarily.
- Tony's taking of Peter's suit is more done by locking him out of its functions. There's never a scene where Peter "hacks" his suit. The training wheels are intentionally taken off at the end of the film.
- Peter is never offered, nor does he reject, becoming a member of the Avengers. At the end of the film, he adopts his part-time job taking freelance photos for the Daily Bugle.
- Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man- A high school sophomore at Midtown High who, due to a radioactive spider-bite, now has spider-like powers and uses them to fight crime in his local neighborhood while balancing his life in high school.
- Marisa Tomei as May Parker- The Aunt and Sole Guardian of Peter Parker following the death of her husband Ben. She is unaware of her nephew's dual identity, and tends to be overprotective of Peter whenever necessary.
- Kathryn Newton as Gwen Stacy- Another sophomore at Midtown High and a lifelong friend and crush of Peter Parker.
- Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard- A former Army surgeon turned high school biology teacher and researcher, who seeks to unlock the powers from a new form of genetics known as Neogenics, developed several years earlier.
- J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson- The owner and publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper and online magazine. Simmons reprises his role from the Sam Raimi trilogy, the only character to do so, but he doesn't retain the same backstory as those films.
- Christopher Walken as Silvio Manfredi/Silvermane- A New York crime boss who secretly funds Connors experiments into Neogenics, seeking a source of immortality.
- Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan- The head of security for Stark Industries and the "handler" for Peter Parker on behalf of his boss, Tony Stark.
- Michael Keaton as Norman Osborn- A millionaire industrialist who initially funded the first explorations into Neogenics research.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man- A former weapons manufacturer who combats in mechanical suits of his own design. Also becomes acting SHIELD director, as revealed in the film Iron Man 4.
- Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds- The best friend and confidant of Peter Parker at Midtown High.
In addition, Tony Revolori plays Flash Thompson, a local bully at Midtown High. Eleanor Tomlinson has a brief role as Dr. Farley, an assistant to Curt Connors. Chandler Riggs has a brief role as Harry Osborn, the son of Norman. Ernie Hudson plays Robbie Robertson, a senior editor at the Daily Bugle. Stan Lee cameos as a pet shop owner amazed by the appearance of the Lizard.
The film received strong reviews upon its release. The review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 92% with an average rating of 7.9/10 based on 362 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Spectacular Spider-Man does whatever a reboot can, ably juggling a fun filled cast and a well-written story that fits snugly into the MCU, without getting bogged down by world building." Critics praised Tom Holland's performance as Peter Parker, as well as the brief return of J. Jonah Jameson to the film, while also criticizing the unfocused second act and the seemingly needless addition of Silvermane.
The total weekend gross on its opening weekend was $117 million, en route to a dominating $334.2 million dollar domestic box office, and a worldwide total of $880.2 million. This made Spectacular Spider-Man the highest grossing super hero film in 2017.