I had high hopes for Tom Holland following ‘Civil War.’ He’s young and fresh-faced — which could either mean good news or bad news, contingent upon how much you liked his reiteration: he could stand to stick around a while. Personally, that’s some of the best news Marvel has had for me in months.
The movie was, simply put, a breath of fresh air. I mean, a high school age character who actually looks it? Practically unheard of. Tobey Maguire’s trilogy was the first foray into the Spider-Man mythology and I can respect that — but in combining all three films and both of Andrew Garfield’s and comparing the product to this one? All due respect, Garfield and Maguire were decent, but there’s no contest: Holland is the best Spider-Man we’ve seen yet.
I say yet because of one Easter egg in particular: Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis, mentioning his nephew who can only presumably be Miles Morales, future Spider-Man himself. My hope is that they’ll give Holland a few more hits like Homecoming while they give time for Miles to rise, before they run with that story (or maybe Thanos will throw a moon at Peter and speed up the timeline, who knows?). Letting Holland make us fall more in love with his iteration would give it more emotional weight, more meaning — especially if Miles is allowed to develop along the course of those movies, too.
Enough about the potential, though — let’s talk about what was actually there.
Tom Holland. Wow. He plays the earnest, awkward teenager just as well as he can pull off the fun heroics as Spider-Man. I remember when I first saw his suit in Civil War, I was so skeptical — but this movie remedied that. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of him and his chemistry with everyone he comes into contact with. He’s the perfect balance of both sides of the hero, and he’s never boring to watch. Obviously he’s still in training and learning the extent of his abilities throughout the movie, but you get the sense he’ll make it out alright no matter what jam he’s in. Clearly nothing is going to happen to Peter this soon into his movies, but when you acknowledge that and still genuinely feel that safety (beyond the contract) as an audience member, that’s when you know: you’ve found your hero.
Now, onto the supporting cast.
Don’t get me wrong, Zendaya is possibly one of the most effortlessly graceful, gorgeous humans alive today — which is why I was wondering where her character Michelle’s spotlight was. If you’ve been following this film at all, you know about the MJ uproar vis-à-vis angry fanboys, so I understand Marvel’s reluctance to showcase too much of her in the sense that I don’t understand it at all. I believe it’s been confirmed she’s not, but I’ve already wholeheartedly accepted Zendaya as Mary Jane, honestly. Can you even imagine what a reimagining of MJ would mean for some little girls? Especially given how independent and intelligent Zendaya’s Michelle was. She gives off that ‘I’m a damsel, I’m in distress and I’m handling it’ vibe. That, plus the fact the actress herself is already such an amazing role model? Why wouldn’t you want this?
In the words of wise man and savior of a galaxy far, far away John Boyega, “You see different people from different backgrounds… everyday. Even if you’re a racist, you have to live with that. We can ruffle up some feathers.”
(Beautiful words I wish I could’ve said when a former friend of mine actually said, in all seriousness, “As a redhead, I have no representation in the media.”)
(Hello? ‘Harry Potter’?! Dye your hair if you’re so distressed!)
If it’s any consolation, Laura Harrier’s Liz Allan was great, too (because Zendaya obviously still worked with what she got), but after that big reveal (I won’t say under the guise of spoilers), her development up until that point almost felt… cheapened, like it’d just been for the reaction of the boys in the story and not herself. Of course, she has brief moments where you see how the film tried to give her more gusto than just the love interest (which oftentimes may as well just be a walk-on role), and they’re definitely noticeable — but there were a handful at most, and the rest just seemed part of Harrier’s performance (I mean, did I mention she was great?). However, I read Harrier’s been doing some light campaigning for Liz to take on the mantle of Firestar à la her character’s counterpart in the Ultimate universe, so here’s hoping Marvel doesn’t disappoint.
My scene stealer had to be Jacob Batalon’s Ned Leeds, though. While I’ve been exhausted with this Asian sidekick/best friend trope for a thousand years at this point, he actually takes it and runs with it. He’s smart, he’s funny — but most of all, he cares about Peter, which is something in movies and shows that you are told a best friend does, but are so rarely ever shown. Not to say this is a first by any means, but… My point is, you often don’t see the downtime, the little moments that make them the great friends they are — but with Ned and Peter? You do. Take that one scene where Peter says, “They keep treating me like I’m a kid! I’m Spider-Man!” To which Ned replies, “But… you are a kid. And I don’t think this is a good idea.”
He’s obviously thrilled about his best friend being a superhero, but he’s realistic and he doesn’t want him to get hurt if he can help it. I sure wouldn’t want my best friend swinging around some psychotic underground alien arms dealers on my watch, either. Maybe I watch too many subpar shows, but these small, simple developments had me living because, well, development. It was all so natural and organic. The opposite of forced (cue long stare at certain MTV shows).
Michael Keaton’s Vulture was actually a compelling villain, more so than I’d expected. I went to see this with my mom, and afterwards she kept noting how sinister Keaton looks when he smiles, perfect for a villain. But because he’s such a talented actor, he can spin that smile into something good and heroic, fit for, say, Batman — which is why parts of this movie just work so well. I loved the movie’s arc and the problems Peter had to face with Vulture, because they tie in with the Battle of New York in that way I like (I’ll elaborate more when I review Netflix’s ‘Defenders’ in caps lock in about a month) and it seemed like the perfect first win for Spider-Man. Holland himself made that all the more convincing though.
I’m a sucker for an origin story, but it was such a relief not to have to sit through another Uncle Ben’s death. Marisa Tomei as Aunt May still strikes me as a little… young for the part (the character keeps getting younger every reboot), but she gives it a fun, quirky spin and I’m not mad about it. That basically sums up how I felt about the movie as a whole: it’s fun, quirky, refreshing and I’m not mad. I have very few complaints. In fact, aside from my criticisms over the sidelining of Liz and Michelle, my only other concern was that it’d be overpowered by the Tony cameos. Jon Favreau’s return as Happy Hogan balanced it out though, and helped make the connection to Stark and the Avengers realistic so that said cameos weren’t awkward or out of place. I’m more Team Cap, but I genuinely loved what Tony was trying to do for Peter here and the first scenes of the film were so charming, they sold me on the rest.
But most of all, I loved that it stayed light where other Spider-Man movies strayed to the dark (and unlike Garfield, it wasn’t all about the love interest to the point it was actually too much — like, just put out a Spider-Gwen movie if you’re so inclined). It’s so easy to go that route considering Peter goes through so many terrible ordeals, but it’s the fact that he pushes through and maintains his humor and his willingness to ‘fight for the little guys’ that makes him a hero. That’s the movie I want to watch, and with how reverent Holland is of the role, that’s the Spider-Man I want to see.
And if you still haven’t seen it and you’re still here, here’s the trailer to inspire you to go see it already!
Featured image courtesy of Disney/Marvel Studios.