I love Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. And I feel the need to say that up front because I’ve never been that huge a fan of Spider-Man. But I was hooked during Captain America: Civil War (2016) and fell in love during this movie. Tom Holland delivers a convincing performance of a young Spider-Man bogged down by other responsibilities such as school and his love life, and at the same time, an earnest child with superpowers who just wants to help make the world a better place.
His stunning performance is supported well by his co-stars. Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Michelle (Zendaya) are both quirky and funny and I was entertained every time the trio were bantering on screen. Michelle secretly wants in on what the dynamic duo of boys have yet sets herself apart by calling them lame or losers. She tries really hard to act distant yet reveals herself when she tells Spider-Man in concern, “My friends are up there!” Ah, isn’t high school great? We don’t say what we mean, and we do the exact opposite of what we secretly want. Ned is the perfect best friend to Peter, complete with secret friendship handshake and Lego models of a Death Star. He has all the makings of a great sidekick to the hero character but I was pleasantly surprised when he is given his own mini hero moment towards the end as well. Definitely would love to see his character grow more and hopefully take on a bigger heroic role?
Liz (Laura Harrier) fell a little bit flat to me and I felt no empathy towards her character. My take is that Harrier tried to play her too aloof, which put me off instead. That aside, Michael Keaton is terrifying as the Vulture. Adrian Toomes is disillusioned with the upper echelons of society and how his small company gets trodden on by bigger entities. He seeks to dominate and carve out his own place in the new world that’s aware of aliens by using Chitauri and other-wordly tech to create weapons and make a profit. Which is logically, not morally, a great idea up until Spider-Man tries to stop him of course.
I was greatly thrilled by the script that gave off a very youthful and adolescent feel. The gravitas of the life and death situations Peter keeps finding himself in is contrasted strongly by his high school life. His earnest recognition of the moment to prove himself is contrasted by Ned’s plaintive, “But we have a Spanish quiz.” We constantly go from ‘Peter is a superhero’ to ‘Peter is a high school student’, which was an emotion that was lacking from the previous two iterations of Spider-Man. The constant badgering of Happy and Tony throughout the film begging to be let into the Avengers is reminiscent of wanting to hang with the cool crowd in school, except of course, Peter has gone on to the big leagues and hanging with the big boys now. This is the heart of Spider-Man. His child-like enthusiasm and his steadfast morals is what saves the day at the end of the film. It also gets him into trouble as Ned unlocks his suit’s true potential at Peter’s insistence at not being treated like a kid. A classic case of a kid trying to grow up before he’s ready and it lands him in a troublesome situation instead.
Tony plays a slightly larger role than most supportive acts, and yet was controlled enough not to be overbearing in the film. His presence reminded us of the connection to the larger MCU, seeing as this was a new solo film for Spider-Man. Tony ‘s new found dad nature manifests itself in his brashness and over protectiveness with Peter and at the same time, his excitement at giving Peter new tech and new toys to play with. Tony’s overprotective dad nature was refreshing, considering that in his previous films, mostly, usually, he’s the f***up instead. Watching him parent Peter and look out for his safety probably reminded him of the hell Rhodey, Pepper and Happy previously went through. It was gratifying to watch Tony take on this new role almost reluctantly, yet adapting to it almost immediately. I’m excited to see how their relationship develops in the future.
This film is a true coming of age story. Peter makes grown up and mature decisions in the final chapter of the film that are wise beyond his years. Yet they are belied by his conscience. While we see this in other Marvel superheroes, what strikes me is his age. Peter has gained a perspective of the world that has been tinged with the violence and cruelty that he’s witnessed along his vigilante journey. However, he refuses to let it cloud his judgment, and he still sees the inherent good in people. All in all, Spider-Man is suiting up to be a great addition to the Avengers line up and Tom Holland has blessed us all.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Things to consider:
Warning: spoilers ahead of this point
- I’m so glad Tony Stark is actually happy in this movie. Mostly. Especially when he’s interacting with Peter. He’s all smiley and actually light-hearted, as opposed to when we left him in Civil War. It makes me excited for the possibility that he might have a kid in the MCU with Pepper now that we’ve seen the ring. Oh, the ring. My happy little heart.
- That said, what is Tony doing in India? Will that be a hint for something in the future?
- Damn, my heart sank like a stone when Adrian Toomes opened that door and you could hear a pin drop in the theatres, it was so silent. Him being in jail now however, and Liz moving to Oregon (was it?), makes me suspect that she might have some words for Peter if and when she finds out that he had a part to play in incriminating her father.
- How is Ned so skilled with computers that he could work around Tony Stark’s careful programming and hack his way into the many systems to help Peter in that final battle? Like, shit son, Stark Industries should hire you already.
- So is Michelle a new version of MJ since her name isn’t Mary-Jane? I like this version of MJ that’s a little quirky, a little unsure of herself rather than the ginger bombshell that we’re kinda used to.
- Real question though, how does Peter have time for homework after y’know, his Stark Internship? Next question, does he even have his homework, seeing as he’s had five backpacks stolen thus far. How has he not been expelled?
Favourite scene: That scene where tiny Peter Parker was trapped under the building Vulture had brought down around him, crying for help and waiting for someone to help him was by far my favourite scene. It really rammed the point home, that this was a kid’s coming of age film, and Peter was still very much a scared kid trying to be brave and be on the same level as the Avengers, who were trained and have been doing this for years. But watching him realise that there was no one who could save him, and that he was his own hero at that point, and furthermore the fact that he had more than sufficient strength to escape (which shouldn’t have surprised him since Cap collapsed some airport structures on him in Civil War and he did okay) was such a nice moment of triumph that it made my heart sing.
What I had wanted to see: I would have loved to have had a better actress for Liz. Laura Harrier looks great in the role but I felt no emotional connection to the character because I never felt any depth emanating from her. Whereas Michelle (Zendaya), later revealed to be MJ – short for Michelle Jones, is instantly quirky and likeable with her down to earth nature. Other than that, the actual Tony and Pepper proposal maybe? The movie is pretty much perfect, let’s be real.
Random fact: Tom Holland hates spiders. He’s terrified of them and so is Chris Evans. However, he did get a spider tattoo on the plantar of his left (right?) foot as tribute to his character.
The voice of Spider-Man’s suit, Jennifer Connelly, is married in real life to Vision’s Paul Bettany. A.I couple anyone?
Last but not least, Peter’s school principal is played by Kenneth Choi, who starred as Howling Commando, Jim Morita (Captain America: The First Avenger). He is credited as Principal Morita. There are photos of Howling Commandos displayed in the Principal’s office, suggesting that they are related and he is possibly his grandson.
Comments and discussions are welcomed by the writer.