Warning: we talk about spoilers with the writers of the latest Spider-Man movie, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.
Spider-Man went "far from home" this Fourth of July weekend.
Fans got to see what he was up to after Avengers: Endgame and returning from The Snap. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) takes a high school trip around Europe but ends up enlisted by S.H.I.E.L.D. to help Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) fight Elementals.
Screenwriters Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna spoke with Popdust about the many twists and turns in Spider-Man: Far From Home. So a spoiler warning to anyone who hasn't seen Far From Home yet. We do talk specifics with the writers.
This is the second Spider-Man movie for the writing team, and their fourth superhero movie after The Lego Batman Movie and Ant-Man and The Wasp. They've also written Community, The Mindy Project and American Dad! Spider-Man: Far From Home is in theaters now, as we discuss everything from The Blip to the very last credits scene.
How Peter Parker (Tom Holland) spent his summer vacationCourtesy of Sony Pictures
When you got started on Far From Home, did you get to be privy to Avengers: Endgame early?
Erik Sommers: Yes, Marvel was well aware that we had some bills to pay in terms of the fallout from Endgame. So they were very good about keeping us in the loop as to what we would need to deal with and what we wouldn't so that we could move forward with our story.
Was there anything you were still surprised by in Endgame?
Chris McKenna: We didn't know about the Pegasus. If we'd known about Valkyrie and the Pegasus we would've used that. We knew the plot points but we did not know the detail, so then we actually didn't see the movie. We were supposed to see it like two weeks before the premiere and then we were still doing reshoots. It kind of worked out where we didn't even see it until the actual premiere. She comes out in the Pegasus, Erik and I were like, "Oh, we could've referenced that. That would've been a fun thing to reference." They wanted us to know what we needed to know and for good reason they keep things pretty close to the vest so that loudmouth fans like us don't ruin things. We had what we needed for the movie, obviously. We had The Snap, because we started working on the movie even before Infinity War came out. So we knew what happened at the end of Infinity War and we knew what happened in Endgame, the time transition and obviously the very end. Those were what we had to work with as we moved forward, but their main mandate was: Yes, we have to pay these bills but also to make a really fun Spider-Man movie because we're coming off a very dark, emotionally draining two movies.
How many different names did you brainstorm for The Snap?
CM: It's funny, I seem to recall someone I thought from Marvel calling it The Blip and we just sort of adopted that. I don't know if The Snap was something that happened, [if] that would be what it was referred to, while they were making Endgame. I do think it's kind of nice that we didn't have to follow, that the world almost came up with its own name for it, their own ground level name for this crazy thing that happened so it doesn't have to necessarily line up. It feels more organically real that the world would have this crazy thing that they call The Blip that happened.
Spidey Sense has been well established in the comics, so how many alternatives did you think of before you landed on Peter Tingle?
ES: We knew that Spidey Sense was going to be a factor and something that we would be using, but it was definitely a question of what are we going to call it? Should we call it anything at all? We did many, many iterations of giving it different names, giving it no name, the different ways people talk about it. And then it was relatively late in the game that I think [director] Jon Watts pitched Peter Tingle and it immediately made everyone laugh, so that's what we went through.
CM: We just wanted to make it awkward. We wanted to make it funny and we also wanted to make it this thing that is kind of nebulous but it takes like your aunt or your mom to come up with a name and sometimes it's the most embarrassing name ever.
Spidey hanging around London in his new suit. Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Tony Stark was such a big part of part of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Even with Tony gone, was it important to still find a post-Tony way to deal with Iron Man, with his legacy lingering over Peter?
CM: It's so hard to not. He's so infused in Peter's life in terms of discovering him in Civil War and obviously being such a part of Homecoming in terms of becoming a surrogate father, [so] we knew Peter would be dealing with that. It would hang over the movie and it gave us the opportunity to do the inverse of Homecoming. Homecoming is about him trying to prove to his surrogate father that he's worthy and is able to step up. The trauma of Endgame sends Peter into a spiral and makes him question his own abilities and what his place in the world is. And he therefore is running away from it. That's why it's Far From Home. He is running away from the safe home that he thought he had after the first movie.
Was it fun finding some callbacks to early Iron Man movies, like the guy who worked for Obadiah Stane?
ES: Yes, it's always fun to be able to draw upon previous movies in the MCU and it helps weave them together. It makes them more rich. The audiences love it and we, the people making the movies as fans, love it too. An opportunity like that comes up and someone on the creative team says, "Oh, you should use that flashback of Obadiah shouting at William." Everyone in the room gets really excited immediately because we know it's going to be fun and we hope the audience will think that's really fun too.
When Mysterio reveals his plan, is he sort of a Super Trump, because he's talking about how people care more about showmanship than qualifications?
CM: He's definitely a narcissist and a con artist. He has a very high self-regard, but I think he's also the kind of guy who believes that whatever he says can go and he can spin the truth. So make those parallels if you will. We're definitely taking advantage of a chaotic world, a world where half of the universe can get swept away and then heroes can disappear. He seeks to take advantage of that. I think he thinks that the world deserves him, but he also knows that in order to get what he wants, in order to get the power and the authority, he's going to have to convince the world in his own way.
Jake Gyllenhaal finally got to be in a Spider-Man movie Jay Maidment
ES: Mysterio's really preying on insecurity and confusion and doubt and fear. The world is feeling those things in the aftermath of Endgame and Peter is feeling those things in the aftermath of losing his mentor. So Mysterio is preying on that to get what he wants.
When he reveals his holographic powers, was it fun to create effects that play on Peter's insecurities?
CM: Absolutely, I think the whole fun with Mysterio is when we can look down a lot of different paths with Mysterio. Ultimately, there's so much in the early comic books of Mysterio that really are fun, that we can draw upon. This person really does think of himself as someone who should be a hero and who does like, I think, manipulating people. As much as on one hand he has a certain fondness for Peter, he can understand on a certain level that someone like Peter is unworthy and undeserving of the affection and the technological prowess that Tony has bestowed upon him. In his eyes he's unworthy and the only worthy one is himself.
ES: When the truth about Mysterio is revealed and we know what he really wants and we get to that illusion sequence where he really attacks Peter with the illusions, doing that sequence was just such a pleasure. Jon and the visual effects team had come up with so many amazing, cool illusions that he was using against Peter. It was really just a challenge for all of us on the creative team to try to refine them and think of which [ones] are the best that, as you said, would speak right to Peter's insecurities and what Mysterio is feeling about everything so as visually amazing as it is, it could really serve the story and Peter's arc.
Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) isn't himself in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is though. Jay Maidment
Did you get to write the codas as part of your script?
CM: Yeah, the first coda - the mid-credit ending - was the original ending. It wasn't a coda yet. It always switched around, like oh, is this going to actually be a tag? We were just going to play it as the very, very end of the movie, pre-credits. Then that turned into the mid-credit tag. Then the post-credit tag came up very late in the game. I actually think that was a Watts idea. There were certain ideas like being a con artist [or] there's going to be one last twist and oh, will this also help with shedding some light on why Nick Fury was acting the way Nick Fury was in the movie? If anyone had any issues with Nick after all these movies, would he fall for a con artist like Mysterio? We thought it was a really fun way to call back Captain Marvel, call back that great Ben Mendelsohn character and also explain why Nick would actually fall for a guy like Mysterio.
Was it always your idea to reinvent the Daily Bugle as a sort of Alex Jones/Infowars?
ES: I honestly don't remember whose pitch that was but it was early on that the creative team decided that if we were gonna go back to the Daily Bugle [and] using J. Jonah, it should be in a different form. That seems like a perfect way to do it so as soon as someone floated that idea, we all latched onto it and that's what we did.
Did you know who was going to play him?
CM: No, I think Watts was even talking a bit in the last movie about some clues to J. Jonah in Homecoming. This time around, again I don't know who pitched it but it was one of those ideas that oh my God, it would be incredible to bring back J.K. but with this whole new post-Whiplash spin on the character.
This spider flies now.Courtesy of Sony Pictures
You've done a few funny comic book movies. Is there a different sense of humor you use in the Spider-Mans than on Ant-Man or Lego Batman?
ES: I don't think so. I think any project where we're writing jokes, you have to try to adjust to the tone a little bit so that's going to depend on the characters and the actors and the director and just what everyone feels like the vibe of that movie is going to be. So it always changes a little but I don't think there are any huge conscious shifts that we decide on ahead of time or anything like that.
CM: We've been writing comedy now for a long time on different shows. We always are able to adjust for each character's voice and situation. I think you have a character like Lego Batman who is full of himself and yet also has crippling insecurities but surrounds it with bluster which is a totally different character from Peter Parker or Scott Lang. Even though Scott and Peter have similarities, they're different enough and also the actors are different. We try to channel their voices and their personas and have fun with them. It's always different.
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Progressive psych-rock with trippy energy.