Spider-Man: Homecoming packed a lot of twists into its last act, but the biggest of these may have passed you by. Don’t worry, says Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige: One character reveal may not mean what you think it does.
There’s a big ol’ spoiler for Homecoming below, so if you haven’t seen the movie ... here’s your warning.
A late scene takes place with Peter Parker’s Quiz Bowl team, one of the few bastions of normalcy in his teenage life. With the departure of Liz, Peter’s crush and the daughter of his nemesis Vulture, a new student has been named captain of the team. It’s great to see Michelle, the snarky punk with an acid tongue, assume the role, because it likely points to more screen time for her in the sequel.
With a new title comes a new name, apparently. Michelle announces that she’d like her teammates to call her by her nickname going forward.
“My friends call me MJ,” she says, a line tossed out so casually that we couldn’t blame you for missing it.
The significance of “MJ” in the Spider-Man universe needs minimal explanation to anyone who’s seen one of the half-dozen films in the series, read a comic book, watched the myriad cartoons or generally been aware of American pop culture over the years. Mary Jane Watson is Peter Parker’s greatest love, a character who’s long been absent from the Spidey cinematic adaptations since Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal in the original trilogy.
Could Zendaya, who plays Michelle in Homecoming, be the new MJ? In an interview with Den of Geek, Feige said that’s not quite it.
“In setting up this will be a very different thing, she’s not Mary Jane Watson, that’s not who the character is.” Feige said. “But giving her the initials that remind you of that dynamic certainly is intriguing about what could go forward.”
Michelle is obviously not the Mary Jane Watson of old; she’s not a redhead, and her name isn’t even Mary Jane. But when Homecoming takes liberties with the Spider-Man canon in numerous ways, does Feige mean that this MJ won’t be much more than a friend to Peter? There are a few instances where she casts a glance toward Peter from a distance, and high schoolers aren’t known to be the most open or mature about their feelings for each other.
Perhaps a bigger question is whether we need Michelle to a romantic lead. Homecoming already gave Peter an original love interest in Liz, ignoring the usual suspects — which include Betty Brant, who makes a cameo appearance, and the doomed Gwen Stacy. But Michelle, a fantastic character in her own right, could forge a new path for the classic MJ.
“Peter’s had a lot of friends over the years in the comics, and a lot of schoolmates and characters he’s interacted with,” Feige continued. “It wasn’t just Mary Jane Watson; it wasn’t just Gwen Stacy; it wasn’t just Harry Osborn. So we were very interested in the other characters, and that’s where Liz came from and that’s where the version of the character Michelle came from.”
More Michelle in any capacity is a good thing, whether that’s as the love of Peter’s life or the best friend he’s always needed. We’re inclined to believe that she and Peter will end up together in the end, but Marvel’s fresh take on Spider-Man has already proven unpredictable. The next movie in the franchise is out in 2018.