Miles Morales is a Hispanic-African American high-schooler who becomes enhanced when his uncle steals a formula design to reproduce Peter Parker’s abilities. A rogue experimental spider hitchhikes a ride and ends u biting Miles, causing him to transform and gain superhuman strength, precognition, the ability to cling to walls, and camouflage. Miles is fearful of superheroes due to his upbringing, and resents his new-found abilities, but after certain events decides to use them where he can do something he deems is good. I feel Miles would have provided a stronger alternative for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s Spider-Man on grounds of storytelling, professional rights, and (inevitably) diversity.
Ultimately, including Miles rather than Peter would…
…introduce the audience to new stories with the same glamour
We know Peter Parker, we’ve seen him 5 times prior to his return to Marvel. We know that he was raised by his aunt and uncle, the latter of which died at the hands of a street-criminal. We also know that he’s a troubled, nerdy kid straddling the lives of a high schooler trying to nail his algebra homework and deal with bullies whilst having the guts to talk to the pretty girl but also trying to save his neighbourhood with his abilities and tech. Good story but we know it by now. Using Miles Morales in the role of the web-slinger would have given us the opportunity to learn a whole new suit of stories and their associated nuances but under the same flash and dazzle as the Spidey we love. Miles would have brought tales from his past, his high school, his troubles, and his life in general to the big screen. So, we’d get utterly new content to chew on and delve into. He would then suit up and be the swinging hero we love and create some utterly iconic moments as he did in Civil War and Homecoming. Speaking of which…
…do utterly no damage to Captain America: Civil War
Critics to the idea may point out that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and his role in Civil War was nothing short of fantastic and changing that would have hampered the movie. However, from a viewer’s perspective, it didn’t matter that it was specifically Peter in that role. We were introduced to a character which surprised the rest of the team by merely existing and then going on to demonstrate some pretty kick ass abilities. The wonder of his moments in that film was not Peter, it was his youth, his novelty, and the change-up in brought to the action which could have been accomplished by anybody new. Furthermore, in terms of storytelling, Tony Stark was the only character who had any knowledge about the Parker and thus it would’ve played out the same were it to have been Miles swinging around in a homemade suit catching cars.
…have improved Spiderman: Homecoming, albeit subtly
Spider-Man’s first leading film back at Marvel is nothing short of fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the film from start to finish and it gave us one of if not THE best villain in an MCU villain to date. My point regarding the inclusion of Miles instead of Peter is not that what Peter had let the movie down, but that a subtle within world detail could have been developed in ways more than an Easter-egg for the eager reader. During the film, Peter finds and “threatens” a guy, played by Donald Glover, for information. He takes no shit but eventually agrees to talk and this scene provides a nice example of Peter learning to shake people down for info as well as moving the plot along. Since its release, top dog at Marvel Movies Cap Kev Feige has confirmed that the character Peter shook down was none other than Miles Morales’ uncle (Aaron Davis, “The Prowler”). Glover, incidentally also voices Miles in the animated tv show. The simple switch of including Miles instead of Peter in the scene would have added a level of familial tension with Miles shaking down his criminal uncle for info. The history of the two could then be explored in future films including how they separately delved into crime and heroism and what effects this had on their family.
…go some way to solve the Sony-Marvel Spiderverse issues
Sony have been holding on to the Spiderman property for a while now and whilst they gave us two great Spiderman films they also gave us three ok to terrible ones. Sony doing a deal with Marvel to bring Spidey home seems like a sure win for both companies but since then Sony have announced a Venom (a canonically Spiderverse character) movie and there’s currently no telling when they’ll close the deal and take Peter back. If Marvel had, however, chosen Miles to do the deal with then this would have been less messy for both the companies as well as the audience. Firstly, whilst “Spider-Man” as a title would either be bargained for or shared, the protagonist would have simply been split. Sony could keep exploring Peter whilst Marvel focussed on Miles. A similar agreement about the sharing of villains and other secondary characters could have been made as well and the two companies could have parted ways to do their own thing with their properties. Secondly, the right pitch could have not left the audience going “ANOTHER Spiderman movie.!?” This would have been more difficult for Marvel as they may have had to rebrand the character. Their focus on character-driven storytelling makes me believe they’d find a way to pitch Spiderman in a fresh way and using Miles as a new protagonist would have only aided that. Lastly, the split would have untethered Marvel from prior expectations of the character and allowed them to venture into completely new territories of storytelling but with a character fulfilling the same role in the universe as Peter would have.
…have increased representation
Any discussion of character swapping is going to incite questions of representation. Marvel have taken heat at multiple levels lately on this topic. Be it for ‘whitewashing’ characters such as the Ancient One in Dr Strange (to avoid an outdated racial stereotype), maintaining a character as white in Iron Fist, or increasing diversity with their non-white inheritors of roles such as Iron Man and Captain America, or simply by diversifying the supporting cast as in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Whether these arguments stand on good grounds or not, they won’t be discussed here. But diversity is not a bad thing; we are a diverse world and there’s no reason that should not be reflected in our media, including our heroes. So, in that regard, using Miles in place of Peter ups the ante for diversity by providing a mixed-race leading hero for a film already populated by non-white characters amongst his school friends and the antagonist’s team. Further, it would produce a film where the white guy is the villain overcome by the non-white hero which would flip a few tropes on its head.
Overall, whilst taking a small risk, I feel using Miles Morales in the role of Spider-Man within the MCU would have only strengthened the character and the films. I hope to have convinced you also across the five points I’ve made and welcome any comments you have.
Thanks for reading 😊