It looks like we won’t be getting a comic book accurate Mary Jane Watson any time soon in the current MCU version of the Spider-Man films that star Tom Holland and Zendaya.
Zendaya, who plays Michelle Jones in the recent Spider-Man films, recently appeared on Variety’s Actors on Actors alongside Pose actor MJ Rodriguez. Towards the end of the interview Zendaya was asked about her role in the Spider-Man films.
Rodriguez states, “Zendaya, I went to go see Spider-Man and I solely went to see you… But I solely went to go see you because I never saw a representation of that for a long time. I’ve always seen Mary Jane, who I love dearly, her green eyes and her red hair. She’s amazing.”
Rodriguez added, “But seeing you and the way you took it there. You gave such a total different spin. I just wanted to know what that was like. Also swinging through the concrete jungle with Spider-Man, what was that like?”
Zendaya responded, “Spider-Man was one of the first movies I did outside Disney Channel, right before I did Greatest Showman. I didn’t have much to do in the first movie, but I was so just excited to be doing a movie at all. And I knew that she would develop into MJ and this whole thing.”
She then detailed that Sony and Marvel Studios wanted to recreate the character. She explained, “I was lucky because they already kind of wanted to recreate the character and turn her into a new version of what I think maybe the original Mary Jane character kind of represented and just do it in our own way in this Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
“So, I kind of came into it and there was already on the page this kind of smart, quick, sharp young girl who comes off a bit quirky or offbeat, or whatever,” she added.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Trend Of Changing Characters
Zendaya’s comments that Sony and Marvel Studios wanted to recreate Mary Jane Watson from the get to isn’t surprising given both studios’ recent track records of altering characters from their comic book origins.
In fact, both Sony and Marvel Studios have reimagined a number of characters in their Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man films.
In the latest film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Quentin Beck a.k.a. Mysterio was turned into a former Stark employee who helped develop B.A.R.F. or the Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing system.
In the comics Beck was a special effects artist who was spurned by the industry and turned to a life of crime.
Mysterio isn’t the only character they reimagined. Aunt May has also been drastically altered. In the Spider-Man MCU films the character is played by Marisa Tomei, a much younger version of the character than from the comics or even previous Spider-Man films.
They’ve also made significant changes to Spider-Man. In the comics, a young Peter Parker develops his own Spider-Man suit and helps clean up the riffraff in New York City by himself.
In the films, he is introduced in a massive crossover film, Captain America: Civil War, where he faces off against Captain America and his allies. Spider-Man doesn’t really ever do anything by himself.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming he’s aided by Iron Man as they take on Vulture. In Far From Home, while Stark is no longer around, he’s still aiding him with his technology and through Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan.
It doesn’t look like Spider-Man will be a solo act any time soon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Of course, there isn’t a requirement that movies adapt every aspect of the comic books to film.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken liberties with a number of characters and storylines in its brief history.
Thor was turned into a depressed fat man in Avengers: Endgame after killing Thanos, but losing his home of Asgard and many of his allies due to Thanos’ use of the Infinity Gauntlet.
In the comics, Hank Pym a.k.a. Ant-Man was a founding member of the Avengers alongside Wasp. He also went on to create Ultron. In the MCU, Pym was active during the Cold War, but is currently retired.
Pym also doesn’t play a role in creating Ultron. Instead, it’s Tony Stark who created Ultron with the help of Bruce Banner.
The list of examples about what has changed from the comics could go on for quite a while, and it’s something we expect. We don’t expected a 1 to 1 adaptation of the comic books. But we do expect the films to stay true to their comic origins.
Kevin Feige’s Past Comments About Michelle Jones and Mary Jane Watson
However, while Marvel Studios has definitely taken liberties with the comic properties as they are expected to do, Zendaya’s comments appear to contradict Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal’s repeated statements about Zendaya’s Michelle Jones character in relation to Mary Jane Watson.
In 2017, Feige spoke to IGN in response to the reveal at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming that Michelle Jones went by MJ.
He stated, “Well, we never even looked at it as a big reveal necessarily but more of just a fun homage to his past adventures and his past love.”
Feige added, “She’s not Mary Jane Watson. She never was Mary Jane Watson.”
He elaborated, “She was always this new high school character, Michelle, who we know there’s an “M” in Michelle and an “M” in Mary. [laughs] So we’re so clever and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if her initials were MJ?’”
“And then I think it leaked that she would be playing MJ and then it became a whole headache for Zendaya to have to navigate. It was never a big, ‘Oh my God, it’s a big reveal!’ There are big reveals in the movie. That’s not one of them,” Feige stated.
Sony’s Amy Pascal also reiterated, “She is not going to end as being Mary Jane Watson.”
Feige then concluded, “She’s not Mary-Jane Watson. Is she going to date Peter? Are they going to fall in love? She seems to be intrigued with him. There’s a nice chemistry there. Who knows what will happen in the future films?”
Feige would echo those comments in an interview with Den of Geek in 2017 as well.
He stated, “In setting up this will be a very different thing, she’s not Mary Jane Watson, that’s not who the character is.”
He added, “But giving her the initials that remind you of that dynamic certainly is intriguing about what could go forward.”
Feige then added, “Clearly, she says she’s not obsessed with him, she’s just observant. But she’s there. And to have fun with that while at the same time having it be different characters that can provide a different dynamic [is the point].”
He then reiterated that she was supposed to be a new character, “Peter’s had a lot of friends over the years in the comics, and a lot of schoolmates and characters he’s interacted with. It wasn’t just Mary Jane Watson; it wasn’t just Gwen Stacy; it wasn’t just Harry Osborn. So we were very interested in the other characters, and that’s where Liz came from and that’s where the version of the character Michelle came from.”
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