Clothes make the web man
Superhero's costume gets a technological upgrade
By MEREDITH WOERNER | Los Angeles Times | Published: May 2, 2017
There’s one thing “Spider-Man: Homecoming” can boast over previous Peter Parker films: a direct line to the Avengers. And when you’ve got Iron Man on speed dial, audiences can certainly expect a few technological upgrades to their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Premiering on July 7, Sony’s “Homecoming” is the first Spider-Man movie to join up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The new Parker (played by British actor Tom Holland) was introduced during the superhero showdown in “Captain America: Civil War” and, since his debut, the classic red-and-blue super suit has had a little work done.
“Tony Stark built it,” director Jon Watts says of Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man” character. “So it has lots of bells and whistles.”
Bursting with all sorts of super secrets for fans to uncover, the new high-tech enhancements include (but are certainly not limited to) web wings, a GPS tracking device, an auto-fit feature, a tiny spider drone and (of course) the classic web shooters.
The director insists that Parker’s new gadgets and gizmos originate from Spider-Man’s earliest days.
“There’s actually a precedent for a lot of these ideas in these comics,” Watts says, taking a break from his Spidey scoring sessions. “In the very first issue of Spider-Man, there was one page dedicated to all the different things that Spider-Man can do with his webs. We would always joke about that because there’s web skis, and a web boat, and a web shield.”
Web skis aside, the panels inspired a long brainstorming session on the possibilities of a Stark Industries-sponsored suit.
But bringing that fantasy suit into the real world was much more difficult.
“We were tasked with trying to build a practical suit that looked like the perfect computer-generated suit they had made for ’Civil War,’” Watts says. “That was very complicated, and I assume extremely stressful for Louise (Frogley, costume designer).”
If the pressure wasn’t already high enough, the creation of the practical suit became a pet project of Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. “I was really concentrated on trying to realize (Feige’s) vision,” Frogley says. The costume designer was charged with turning a flat suit into a three-dimensional ensemble. Needless to say, printing an optical illusion onto a piece of moving fabric proved to be difficult.
“We did test after test of different fabrics, ways of printing on the fabrics, different levels of patterns, different cutting patterns,” says Watts. “I learned so much more about textiles than I ever thought I ever would need to in my life. . I also learned the hardest thing in the world to do is have a spider web pattern look consistent from every angle. It’s basically impossible, it’s like fishnet stockings.”
So what else has changed for the high school hero? The classic spider tracers got a substantial reworking. Since the homing devices from the comics are slightly less impressive now that everyone has an iPhone, Parker is now equipped with a fancy GPS system on his wrist.
And that spider on the suit’s chest? Now it’s a drone that can detach itself from the suit and perform small tasks. But can it pick up delivery?
“I think it’s all supposed to be strictly for crime fighting,” Watts says. “But I don’t think ’droney’ would be opposed to picking up some take-out if that’s what Peter needed for his mission.”
Even the requisite web shooters were due for modifications, “We don’t go quite as far as having web skis,” Watt said. “But you do get to see the webs doing more than just a regular strand.”
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