Does Whatever a Spider Can
Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man. Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU). I almost couldn't believe it when I first laid my eyes on this press release on February 9th, 2015. Rumors had been spreading for quite some time, and I desperately wanted Spidey to join the MCU. Seeing the official news was pleasantly shocking. Spider-Man was coming home. That was almost 16 months ago. Much has happened between then and now. Our much-anticipated look at the MCU's Spider-Man has come to pass, and now we eagerly await Spider-Man: Homecoming, which kicks off production soon. So, did they get it right? Did Marvel Studios do Spider-Man justice and live up to the hype?
Note: The following portion appeared in my Captain America: Civil War review. Feel free to skip on down to the next heading if you've already given it a read.
Queens. Never before have I been so excited to see a title card. Yet, this is also such a tense moment in the film. It's not intended to be, but so much is riding on Spider-Man's MCU debut and the "Queens" title card announces that the moment has arrived. Spider-Man is my most beloved character, Marvel or otherwise. Not long after the inception of the MCU, turmoil hit Sony's Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man franchise. The 4th entry into the series was dumped and it was soon revealed that Sony would reboot. I'm a big fan of what Raimi/Maguire accomplished but the thought of starting over fresh during the early years of the MCU was exciting. I nurtured a baseless hope that we might see Spidey swing into MCU. This was obviously a pipe dream and the Webb/Garfield films were severely disappointing. Soon they were abandoned, and news broke that I had hoped for five years earlier was coming to pass. On February 9, 2015, rumors became reality: Spidey was coming home.
Upon learning that a new actor would be cast and they intended to go young, I immediately began searching for possibilities. I felt like a young girl anxiously flipping through pages of thousands of Tiger Beat magazines (Do they still make those?). After just a few weeks, I stumbled upon just the right one. Tom Holland. With each day, I became more and more convinced he was perfect for the part. I should have known I was setting myself up for disappointment, right? It wasn't until May that he was revealed to be on a very shortlist of actors up for the role. This was an equally thrilling and terrifying moment. Up until this point, the idea of Holland was wishful thinking. It was then revealed as a legitimate possibility, which also meant potential for legitimate disappointment. The weeks went by, and the anticipation grew. On June 23, 2015, Marvel made its big announcement: Tom Holland is Spider-Man. *Grins*
Holland knocked the role out of the park. I'm so glad we have the funny, chatty and sometimes awkward Spidey. He has instant chemistry with everyone on screen. Going with a 15 year old Spidey in the early stages of his career was a great choice. Yes, Spidey was 15 when he started his career in the comics, but there's plenty of reasons why this works so well. Actors do age. Starting young gives you a longer window to explore the character. Having a high school kid stand with the Avengers is a nice contrast to well establish characters in their 30's and 40's. Variety is good. This also enables Holland to grow with the role figuratively and literally which is an exciting prospect in the long form storytelling MCU.
I don't know if it's intended, but I love how Spidey's entrance into the film serves as a metaphor for his cinematic life. He was once alone and isolated, separate from the other "super" events occurring in the universe. Then, seemingly at random, the pioneer of the MCU appears and strikes an unusual deal that immediately enables Spidey to be thrust into the action.
"When you can do the things I can do, but you don't, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you."
I love that line delivered by Peter. It covers so much ground while being simultaneously poignant and full of teenage uncertainty. Holland has the humor, the chops, the look, and the skills. I hope he's Spider-Man for the next 15 years.
Punching Bag Man
The airport battle in CA:CW is pure cinematic bliss. It's beautiful seeing the twelve heroes trade glorious blows. This is also the point in the film that we get to see Spider-Man in action. He gets a good chunk of screen time and engages several other characters in satisfying combat which is filled to the brim with comic book goodness.
However, this debut of Spidey's skills was met with disappointment by some fans. I've engaged with quite a few and observed others from afar who feel Spidey was served the short end of the stick. The complaints usually shared the same basic concern: he simply served as a punching bag for the other characters. Now, this isn't a concern I took lightly as I can be defensive of the Webhead. That being said, I enjoyed the portrayal and have no problem with it. I think that when examined within the established context, its reveal of Spidey is spot on.
"I've had these powers for..."
When examining how Spidey faired in the big fight I think its critical to consider how much of a rookie he really is. He's had his powers for only six months. When Stark has a laugh at the expense of Spidey's goggles, he explains that he needs them because his senses are dialed to 11. There's too much input. He's clearly still adjusting to his abilities. The suit and lenses he gets from Stark seem intended to help with this, but we don't know how much. Not only that, but he's only had the suit for a few hours and this is his first test drive. Spider-Man unleashed is extremely powerful, more than most realize, and we see flashes of this, but this is all new to him. He's just getting started.
We also need to consider his experience thus far. What has Spidey been doing, and who, if anyone, has he been fighting? The footage we see from Stark shows Spidey preventing the car crash and webbing a car thief. I think it's safe to assume this has been the extent of his adventures so far. He's been saving people and stopping simple crimes. Contrast this with those he throws down with at the airport: super soldiers, an elite soldier with flying tech, and a literal giant-man. These guys not only have crazy abilities and training, but most have copious amounts of experience. Just like Wilson (Falcon) said to Rogers in Avengers: Age of Ultron before he became an Avenger, "Avenging is your world, your world is crazy." This world that Spidey enters is crazy, yet, he handles himself just fine.
"Catches thieves, just like flies"
So what does Spidey do right off the bat? He goes right for Sam and Bucky, that's what. A super solider assassin with an "awesome" metal arm and an elite soldier who can fly. I can't tell you how many times I've watched the part where Spidey catches Bucky's punch like it was nothing. I still smile so hard it hurts. While the fight ends with Redwing snatching Spidey away, I think it's clear that he overpowered Bucky and Sam. Spidey: the kid, the rookie, and he leaves Bucky and Sam defeated and webbed to the ground.
Rogers gets the win in his showdown with Spidey, but I think this is ,an outcome we should be able to accept. Spidey got a good lick in, but this is MCU Rogers we're talking about here. This Cap is stronger than comic cap and has extremely advanced training and experience. He also has his shield that "does not obey the laws of physics at all." I think it's also important to consider the characters' convictions. Cap's will and conviction is matched by no one in the MCU. He's the one on the mission here. Spidey just got thrown into this mess and is along for the ride. Despite the battle ending with Cap victorious, it still takes the opportunity to showcase how incredibly strong Spidey can be. In an effort to occupy Spidey, Cap damages the supports on the jet bridge, and it comes crashing down. Spidey is underneath and not only catches the jet bridge but manages to have a brief conversation with Cap where he reveals he's from Queens. The film, at least three times (catching the car, easily stopping Bucky's punch, catching the jet bridge), clearly demonstrates Spidey's capacity for incredible strength.
That Really Old Movie
Spidey absorbed some big blows throughout the fight. He also delivered enough of his own and was instrumental in stopping Giant-Man. We experienced Spidey's strength, agility and webbing skills in the massive brawl, and he was the key to Team Iron Man causing Lang to need some orange slices. Let's not forget the most important feat of all: Spidey was the funniest guy on the tarmac. He's surrounded by the highest order of quippers, but Spidey's knee-slapping moments stand tall.
He wasn't in the film very long but we got a little taste of everything. He's funny, chatty, charming, extremely strong, fast, agile, a skilled webslinger and even showcased little Spidey Sense. This is the Spider-Man I've been waiting for. In just over a year, we will be able to see him lead his very own film. 20 minutes of Spidey in Civil War was a joyous treat. Seeing him lead his own film for 2 hours will be a cinematic feast.