Marvel built its brand on being sentimental. Sometimes it comes off as cheesy or fake, but it's never afraid to show the love. But does one scene encapsulate the brand better than others?
I remember when Marvel acquired the rights to Spider-Man from Sony in the late 2000s. After two movies that failed to live up to the sum of their parts, it felt like Spider-Man: Homecoming was not only a clever high school pun but also a really great metaphor for the character returning to the studio.
My favorite part of Marvel is how it never has shied away from putting its heart and soul first. Sure, there are some cheesy lines and not all the chemistry works all the time, but the movies aren't afraid to be genuine. In a world where you see studios pushing more "gritty" reboots and ideas, Marvel went for the full schmaltz.
They do this by building everything from a small emotion. Steve Rogers just wants to help. Tony Stark just wants respect. Carol Danvers wants to know her past. T'Challa wants to get out of his father's shadow.
Peter Parker just wants to be a normal kid.
And then they deny this desire at every turn.
This denial of wants and desires creates an emotional arc for each character filled with conflict and obstacles. We see it on the grand scale in movies like Infinity War and Endgame, but I maintain Marvel is at its best and stands out from the crowd when it's handling the smallest scenes.
Marvel is Marvel when a young Steve Rogers gets his ass kicked. When Tony Stark is building a new heart (helluva metaphor), and when Peter Parker gets into the car to go to the dance.
This video from Lessons from the Screenplay goes over how masterful that Marvel scene is because of how perfectly it capitalizes on all the emotions and tension in the car.
What struck me the most from this video was thinking how the movie juxtaposes the normal tropes of a coming of age movie with the plot and storyline of a superhero film. Also, I love the duality of emotions in the car. Both Peter and the Vulture love Michelle. They both want what's best for her, but they're pitted against each other in a battle that's much bigger than the moment.
So, how do the director and writers keep it grounded?
They keep it in the car, they couch it in dating humor, and they amp the tension up right away.
The reason I think this encapsulates all of Marvel is that it's a scene driven by emotions, not plot. Each person here is acting with their character's emotional intention.
Think about other cool scenes where Marvel lets emotions push the story. Like in Winter Soldier when Captain America gets in the elevator. Sure, it's a cool fight scene, but it also doubles as he realizes his own country has turned against him at that moment. That justice has failed. And he's an outlaw.
Peter Parker has a similar moment in that backseat. He's trapped and surrounded. He's confused about who he is at that moment. Are you more than your alter-ego? Or is your alter-ego who you really are? Both men in the car are dealing with that sentiment.
Marvel has always been acutely aware that their characters are just people trying to get by, but who have a greater moral responsibility to take care of others.
Knowing this allows us to get gems like Peter in the backseat of the car.
And it allows us to see the love that drives each character and their entire brand. It keeps these huge films relatable and gripping.
Got examples of these scenes in other Marvel movies?
Put it in the comments!
What's next? Download the Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse Screenplay!
My Spidey-sense is tingling! As you all know, we at No Film School are huge fans of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. It's one of the most original screenplays in years. With story beats coming from every angle. It's visually stunning, charming, and has a great heart.
So click the link and download the screenplay!