Spider-Man being dead wasn’t a huge problem. One would think killing the main character of a movie about year before its release would be exactly that but, for the team behind Spider-Man: Far From Home, it was not. Instead, it was just the first part of a long-in-place plan to raise the stakes for not just one movie, but at least three.
“I was one of the lucky few people who knew what was going to happen in Infinity War and Endgame a long time ago,” Far From Home director Jon Watts told Gizmodo.
“So this movie was developed knowing that we would be dealing with the immediate fallout of the events of those films. It was always a part of the story but it is a little stressful knowing those kinds of spoilers and not being able to tell anyone for a really long time.”
To recap, in May 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, Peter Parker disappears from existence when Thanos uses the Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the galaxy. A year later, in May 2019's Avengers: Endgame, Peter would be brought back, only for him to witness the death of his mentor, Tony Stark.
All of those events were crucial building blocks for Spider-Man: Far From Home, which was being released mere weeks after Endgame.
“Because Infinity War and Endgame had been developed over so many years and had been shooting earlier, it was pretty much set,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told Gizmodo. “So the notion of the sacrifices, of Tony, the blip, all of that was pretty well set for a long time. So we brought Amy [Pascal, producer] and Jon Watts and our writers Chris [McKenna] and Erik [Sommers] up to speed on it to start developing the movie.”
In Watts’ first Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker leaned heavily on the mentorship of Iron Man, Tony Stark. That relationship then carried over into both Avengers movies. Now though, with Tony dead, it was crucial for Far From Home to use those emotions to guide Peter, but not become too beholden to them.
“We had to deal with the events of Endgame and especially how the loss of Tony Stark is going to affect Peter,” Watts said. “But we had to also maintain the fun, high school tone we had established in Homecoming.
So that was part of the challenge. But loss is such a big part of what makes Spider-Man who he is in the comics. So there was definitely a way to embrace those iconic stories from the comics and find a way to bring them to life, just in a slightly different way by using Tony’s death instead of Uncle Ben.”
So that’s how the story was conceived on the creative side, but there was also a whole other problem.
“It was always like, how are we going to market this movie?” Watts said. “How do you make the first trailer when the character is still dead?”
The answer, according to Watts, was, “Very carefully.”
The task fell to the team at Sony, a studio Far From Home producer Amy Pascal used to run. And Pascal told Gizmodo that, again, though you may assume it was a huge problem to market a movie with a dead main character based on an ultra-secretive mega-franchise, it wasn’t that at all.
“It wasn’t a balance at all because we knew what the story we were going to tell was from the beginning,” Pascal told Gizmodo. “Tom [Rothman, current studio head], everyone at Sony and everyone at Disney, it was something that we all did together. Obviously, it was really important to protect Endgame and not come out with anything before that movie came out. But I think it worked out great for both movies because, obviously, Endgame was great for Spidey... It worked out for everyone.”
It certainly did. There’s little doubt the shocking cliffhanger of Avengers: Infinity War helped drive Avengers: Endgame to become one of the highest grossing movies ever. And the momentum from that is almost certainly going to roll into Far From Home, which will be the first place the aftermath of that heroic victory will be seen and felt.
On the other hand, this movie isn’t called “Avengers: Far From Home.” While the impact of Endgame is crucial for a bunch of reasons, it couldn’t be the whole movie. It’s a movie about Spider-Man. Feige gives full credit to Watts for figuring out the perfect way to link everything in a short, sweet, Spidey way.
Some minor spoilers from the film follow.
“[It was] the genius of Jon Watts tapping into the great ‘A Film by Peter Parker’ at the opening of Homecoming, which brings you up to speed after [Captain America:] Civil War,” Feige said. “He was like ‘Well, this is a ton of stuff. Let’s just do the school news at the beginning that gets it out in a fun and engaging fashion but tells the audience what they need to know based on Endgame.’
And it seemed like a gift to be able to have that conceit he had established in Homecoming come in very handy post-Endgame. And, obviously, Peter Parker dealing with the loss of his mentor and he needs to step out of the shadow of that and become his own hero became the backbone of the story.”
Which leads us to Spider-Man’s new mentor, Mysterio, but that’s a story for another time.
Spider-Man Far From Home is now showing in Australian theatres.