Spider-Man and the struggle of source material plot twists

Words by Alexander Thompson

Warning that the following article may contain spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home, so if you want to go in completely fresh, do not read further. However if you are familiar with the Spider-Man comics and related characters, I won’t be saying anything you don't already know.

Shock, Surprise, Disbelief. All words people yell out loud in the theatre when a movie surprises them. People love a good plot twist, having the complete surprise of something they never thought would happen, happen. People also love movies based off of things, books, old cartoons, Tetris (yes there is a Tetris movie in development.) and comic books. Both plot twists and adaptations are popular, but when put together they become problematic. While it's true not all audience members will be familiar with the source material, a very large chunk of the core audience will, which makes it quite difficult to replicate a twist everyone knows is coming.

Enter the new Spider-Man film, that has this issue at the core of its narrative. This is where potential spoilers begin to enter the equation. Spider-Man: Far From Home is the new chapter in everyone's favourite web slinger’s story, The film will also feature Jake Gyllenhaal in the role of Quentin Beck, a comic book character that goes by Mysterio. Mysterio is classically known as a villain of Spider-Man, but the film positions him as a fellow super hero. To understand the significance of this we have to go back to Mysterio’s comic book origins.

Mysterio made his first super villain appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #13 back in 1963. Originally a hollywood special effects artist, Beck turned to a life of crime as the costumed criminal Mysterio. He uses his special effects expertise to deceive his foes. Throughout his run in the comics and in other adaptations, Mysterio will often portray himself as an alien, a wizard and even a superhero. Through the course of the story, Spider-Man will discover Mysterio’s illusions realizing him to be a fraud. Though being honest effectively tricking someone into thinking your a wizard with just practical effects is kinda impressive for a fraud. Mysterio has always been a character that is all about deception. How does this tie into the new movie? Well, if they are positioning a known villain whose entire character is based around the idea of deception into the role of a hero, chances are they’re setting up the film for a twist villain. But this isn’t some insane realization, if you look at the comment sections on any of the trailers, people are all thinking the same thing.

From left to right: Numan Acar, Tom Holland, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

So is Marvel screwed? Is their new films big twist ruined? Not necessarily. At the core of his character Mysterio has always been about illusions and misdirection. So in my eyes, if the film is able to surprise me in any way or form, I'd call it a success. Honestly they have quite a lot of options to do that. If everyone is expecting him to be a villain, but in the end it turns out he isn’t that would be quite surprising. They're in an interesting position where they can clearly tell what the audience is expecting, and by knowing that they can craft the narrative in interesting new ways that might actually be surprising.

Will they succeed? Who knows I haven’t seen it yet, but maybe you will by the time this article is up. Most other adaptations don’t have the advantage Marvel does with Mysterio since the film isn’t a direct adaptation of any particular story. It’s very challenging to pull off a twist, even if there isn't any source material. It’s a risk, they don’t always pay off, but when they do, there isn’t anything else quite like it.

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