By Michael Robinson ~ PhD
Falling is just something Spider-Man does. It’s part of his job description really. When he’s not having his web line cut by a supervillain, he’s getting knocked off a Goblin glider or being thrown out of a helicopter. If he can’t shoot a web to a nearby building or catch a flagpole at the right moment, fear not. By this point in time, our hero is so used to this that he is adept at making web parachutes to save himself. Once he even made a hang glider out of his webbing.
When the new trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home . . . please excuse the pun . . . dropped on Tuesday, we got a glimpse of this particular Spider-Man falling as he’s never fallen before. The now familiar reshuffling cityscape from Doctor Strange seems a fitting tableau as the trailer revealed that this plot will hinge upon a particularly bad plan that Spidey convinces the Master of the Mystic Arts to execute in order to erase the world’s knowledge of his secret identity after Mysterio revealed it in the previous film.
Although we’ve seen these mutating cityscapes throughout popular culture in sources as disparate as Inception to Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry” video, Spider-Man is an long overdue candidate for this vertiginous plunge. Our Friendly Neighborhood Wallcrawler is very much an urbanite, perfect as Peter Parker is for metropolitan life and as Spidey is for crime fighting on skyscrapers.
However, Spider-Man is also ideal in another way. For almost sixty years now, Spider-Man has served as a kind of common person in the Marvel Universe. Some might respond to that by saying listen bud, he’s got radioactive blood. That’s true. And there are many other things that are atypical about Spidey’s life. However, originally billed as the “hero who could be you,” part of Spider-Man’s appeal is that he contends with the problems of ordinary life on a regular basis in a way that say Iron Man, Thor, or the Fantastic Four do not.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is clearly taking a dive into the complex concept of a multiverse. These qualities were part of Avengers: Endgame and WandaVision. While the relationship between the Into the Spider-Verse and the rest of the MCU is a bit unclear, that film was a deep dive into variant Spideys. Speaking of variants, the recent Loki and What If? series on Disney+ hinge on these ideas.
The Watcher is an enigmatic alien of great power though. As the mischief-maker himself often likes to remind us, Loki is a god. Big and weird cosmic things are part of their extraordinary lives.
As Tom Holland’s Spidey drops into the multiverse, he will go as a surrogate for us. In addition, much like Miles Morales before him, this particular Spider-Man’s questions and observations will help simplify a wildly complicated narrative concept in a way far simpler that big Watcher speeches or conversations at the Time Variance Authority could not. By his very humanity, Spider-Man will make the multiverse more understandable.