If you read my review of Spider-Man: Homecoming (if you haven’t, it’s right here) then you know about my reluctance to buy all the way in on how they’re doing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But after two more chances to see Tom Holland’s take on Spidey in Infinity War and Endgame, I’ve accepted that this is what they’re doing. Holland is Spider-Man now so at this point it’s best to not be a sourpuss about it and enjoy a good performance on his part in some entertaining films.
The film deals a lot with living up to the standard of and escaping the shadow of your mentor after he’s passed on, and serves as a bit of grief therapy for all of us after Tony Stark’s Stark’s Iron Man sacrificed himself to save the day in Avengers: Endgame. We see several memorials to Iron Man throughout the film as not just Peter but the entire world try to pick up and carry on after the Snap took half of them out and they all returned five years later. There are some funny bits referring to all that in different points of the movie.
For all intents and purposes, Tony Stark has become Uncle Ben here for Peter. I know they showed Ben Parker’s initials on Peter’s suitcase and all, but I don’t see them ever making Uncle Ben the major influence that he usually is in this iteration of the character. I’ll get to that a bit later; it’s become quite the controversial topic when discussing these films. There were some other things that have been pretty heavily debated since the film’s release that I’ll get to. But later for all that, what did I think?
Gotta start off with Mysterio. Now if you’ve ever watched Spider-Man cartoons or read any comics you know what the deal is with him, but they did a really good job presenting him in such a way that Peter’s initial trust in him was believable. If you were uninitiated before (thank you Bane), then while you may have suspected something along way you may have fallen for his act as well. For those of us who knew the question was how much of his story was a deception and just how would they make it all work?
And boy did it work. Jake Gyllenhaal was great from start to finish both in his virtuous act that suckered everyone in and after the big reveal. Also props to the costume designer for making what has always been a ridiculous looking suit look really damn good, even the fishbowl helmet. Score one for comic book accuracy here. And when we got the full display from Mysterio, it was a truly epic moment. The actions sequences were top notch and a big step up from Homecoming. And the principle cast members all did great in their roles from Tom Holland to Zendaya to Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei. Great casting choices all around here. And I liked the story here more than I did for Homecoming, which I thought was good but not great.
To be honest I don’t have any major gripes with anything. The mid credit scene took things in a direction that’s going to require some major shenanigans to undo or it’s going to really piss off people who’ve been reading Spider-Man comics. I do take some issue with just how loose Peter is revealing his secret identity to people (or how easy he’s getting found out) – Aunt May, MJ, Happy Hogan, Ned, Nick Fury, and seemingly all of SHIELD, I mean come on that’s doing too much.
But there is some important stuff to get to……
The Big Debates
There’s a lot of stuff going on with the MCU’s iteration of Spider-Man that, at least at this time, is being done differently than the source material. Peter’s relationship with Tony Stark for one is pretty damn similar to Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s, so much so that there was even an in joke in Infinity War about it, and it promises to overshadow anything they choose to flesh out Uncle Ben’s role in Peter’s life down the road. Happy Hogan, formerly Stark’s right man, so far has been like Alfred to Tony’s Bruce and Parker’s Grayson.
And that relationship also does a lot to water down the working class hero aspects of Peter’s character. We know Peter is never going to have any real money problems because Stark Industries is always going to be there as a backstop. It also changes how Peter goes about suiting up from piecing together material on his own to simply choosing from all the different options available thanks to existing Stark tech. Yes he’s still building the suits but it’s not the same thing.
Then there are the supporting characters, namely MJ, Aunt May, and Peter’s best friend Ned. From the characterizations of MJ and May to very existence of Ned (who is clearly based on Ultimate Spider Man Miles Morales best friend Ganke) they are all departures from how they’ve been depicted in pring or on film. They fit this story here just fine but they sure aren’t what you’re used to if you’re not new to the Spider-Man party.
These things have been grounds for some serious back and forth on the internet, as a lot of long time Spider-Man devotees have expressed their disagreement with these choices and been met with some pretty vocal pushback from a lot of other Spider-Man devotees. My personal take is that these things are fine, but they are indeed a different spin on the character and his story and should be acknowledged as such.
I haven’t seen a whole lot of that, though. Instead there have been a lot of what I consider to be mental gymnastics to explain just how this stuff really isn’t that different, which to me defies all logic, or that things will eventually be fleshed out in future films so that everyone is happy. Personally I don’t need all of that. I don’t need to see Uncle Ben die again and I don’t need dramatic moments of Peter and Aunt May trying to come up with the rent just so that you can say ‘see, they addressed it, you happy now?’ Just call what they’re doing what it is, a different take. And that’s fine!
This isn’t the first they’ve done this, either. Captain Marvel had a lot of changes to the character’s story and persona, and like with this Spider-Man there are people who are longtime fans of the character who did not like all of them. And I don’t think the right response is to slap them down and tell them they’re wrong. Unfortunately that happens way too much here now; the need to be right or to tell someone else they’re wrong on a totally subjective matter supersedes stating one’s personal opinion as just that and living with the responses. You may or may not like the changes they’ve made but they are indeed changes.
I really enjoyed this one, much more than Homecoming. And look, this is still not the Spider-Man I wanted at first, but they’ve won me over. Love the cast, the action, the story, and really dug Mysterio too. There is a conundrum for long time Spidey fans in that this is a very enjoyable film but it may not be ‘your’ Spider-Man. I think that ship has sailed and if you’re not aboard I understand. But strictly on it’s own merit I give it a 5/6 on my scale (very good).