Jon Watts relaunched Spider-Man on the big screen when the director opened Spider-Man: Homecoming to critical, fan and financial success this month. Now he’s sticking around for some more wall-crawling.
Watts is in negotiations to return to direct the untitled Homecoming sequel, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film is scheduled for release July 5, 2019, but little else is known about it, other than that it will be called Spider-Man: (enter subtitle here).
In addition to directing Homecoming, Watts was one of six credited writers on the film’s screenplay. Watts is not confirmed to write the sequel as well, but that seems likely.
Before jumping into the Spider-Man universe, Watts had only directed two films — the 2014 horror film Clown and the 2015 indie Cop Car, about two young boys who steal a police cruiser. Cop Car in particular helped Watts earn the Homecoming gig as Marvel Studios wanted a young Spider-Man in its universe and sought a filmmaker who understood kids in the 2010s.
Watts’ hire paid off big-time as Homecoming’s scenes with high school sophomore Peter Parker and his classmates — best friend Ned, love interest Liz, loner Michelle and bully Flash Thompson — all shined. It’s not just that Tom Holland looks the part of a 15-year-old that makes Homecoming shine in an area where previous Spider-films fell short; Watts has a knack for working with young actors and understands how to portray teenagers in a manner that feels real without being stereotypical or annoying. There’s a fresh spark to Peter attending a high school party or taking a road trip with the academic decathlon team. Peter Parker’s life is often a soap opera — and it is in Homecoming — but Watts doesn’t play it like a soap; it has the tone of a teen movie tucked inside a superhero coming-of-age story.
It’s easy to overlook the value of the director in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is tightly controlled by studio president Kevin Feige. The MCU has discarded directors late in the game before — Patty Jenkins left Thor: The Dark World before going on to make Wonder Woman for DC Films, and Edgar Wright got booted off Ant-Man just months before filming when he wouldn’t budge off making his vision of the character. Like Watts, many MCU directors come from smaller backgrounds in television or smaller movies, such as Joe and Anthony Russo (originally hired for Captain America: The Winter Soldier), James Gunn (both Guardians of the Galaxy films), Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok). It leaves an impression that Feige hires directors that he can control and who will oversee his vision without complaint.
Feige and his team certainly have overarching story elements etched out for a film before a director comes on board, and Watts wasn’t allowed to be as wildly ambitious in style as Sam Raimi was in his Spider-Man trilogy — the Doctor Octopus origin in Spider-Man 2 would stick out like a sore thumb in the MCU. But the narrative of the director’s irrelevance in the MCU is misstated. Overarching story elements are not a movie, and Watts’ influence in writing and directing are all over Homecoming. There are the little moments — Ned wearing the Spider-Man mask during a time-lapse montage, Betty Brant’s awkward newscasts at Midtown Science High — and a youthful tone that is unlike anything previously seen in the MCU.
The Homecoming sequel will arrive in theaters after Spider-Man appears in the next two Avengers films, but is expected to feature Peter as still just a high school junior. Watts will get to continue to play with a young superhero finding his way in a superhero-filled universe.