WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming, in theaters now.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a roaring success, with the Sony/Marvel co-production earning enthusiastic reviews, not to mention $257 million worldwide in its opening weekend. The franchise reboot, under the direction of Jon Watts, breathed new life into the wall-cralwer, but there’s at least one aspect of the film that’s received more mixed reaction: the full reveal of Zendaya’s Michelle.
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In the closing moments, the character explains that most of her friends call her “M.J.” The nickname is a clear callback to Peter Parker’s most famous love interest, Mary Jane Watson. That led some purists to cry foul, as Michelle is very different from the Mary Jane readers have grown to love since her full debut in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #42. But according to producers Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, the character’s unveiling wasn’t all that it appears.
“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 explained to IGN. “She’s not Mary Jane Watson. She never was Mary Jane Watson. She was always this new high school character, Michelle, who we know there’s an ‘M’ in Michelle and an ‘M’ in Mary. 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.” Pascal echoed that sentiment, adding, “She is not going to end as being Mary Jane Watson.”
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But while Michelle might not be a direct translation of the spunky model from Marvel Comics canon, Feige made sure to tease that the character could easily have her own impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Peter Parker going forward. “She’s not Mary Jane Watson,” he said. “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?”
In theaters now, Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.