“Tom Holland has been cast as the newest web-slinger” was the tagline heard around the world nearly a year ago. That news was met with much chagrin as people began researching a little known actor that they figured would be unfit to don the mantle of Peter Parker. What they did not know was that Tom Holland was not only a great fit to be the cinematic universe’s next Spider-Man, but that Marvel Studios had bigger plans for him entirely.
Most importantly, they had plans to make him the face of a new era and use him to bring a new type of movie to the screens where what is seen is a mirror of the world: Youthful, diverse characters that are relatable despite their powers and are evolved from their classic, straight forward iterations that sometimes feel too “in the box” and not very reflective of modern-day society.
What is so different this time?
There is a certain anxiety that follows the silver screen’s Spider-Man and arguably for good reason. Audiences have been met with two different versions, both received with mixed reactions. They did their own thing and for the purists out there, just did not cut it. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has a great opportunity here and he has already found a way to stand out from his counterparts. Why? With about twenty of minutes of screen time in a movie that had no true focus on him, Holland was able to establish a genuine connection with the audience.
Some of that can be attributed to the material he was given in Captain America: Civil War. The rest falls on his shoulders. He carries an uncanny charisma in his performance and portrays Peter Parker in a light that many have been waiting for: a jovial, confident hero with a mouth who actually enjoys the responsibility of saving people (to some degree) unlike his adult allies (minus Scott Lang, he’s like half an adult at best) and temporary enemies. In the little time he is given, he manages to show how much he differs from that persona when he is not wearing his suit, the thing that makes him feel the most powerful. That dynamic matters and in fact, drives the character entirely. His internal fortitude never changes. The person who carries it does and audiences will be brought front and center to this in a way they have yet to experience with Spider-Man in cinema.
This combination will bring a unique movie to comic themed film.
Spider-Man: Homecoming will be among the most unique and diverse films in the comic-centered, cinematic universe…yes, even next to Black Panther. This story will follow Peter Parker, who lives in Queens (Diversity, USA), who is a freshman in high school, and has to juggle his multiple responsibilities: school, home, and crime (because crime is selfish and waits for no man, not even for Spider-Man). And for the first time, the struggles Peter has to deal with between them are the focus and not just plot devices.
Peter Parker is the embodiment of caring about people enough to try to make powers and normal life work, even if it is not successful many times. To see someone fight for balance in a realistic setting is something that all people can and will relate to because that same power struggle is constant for almost everyone, not just a few. That matters and that alone will muster up empathy, sympathy, and at the core of it, be relevant to the audience. He will be the first superpowered hero to be broken down in this aspect. Without his suit he has to deal with insecurities. He is a shadow. He has to maximize the few things he does have. And he is in high school, a place where most people have dealt with the same exact issues he will be facing. From that alone, he sincerely looks like many of the fans who are going to see him in the movies.
That focus helped Jon Watts land the role of director. It was his vision to do so. He says in an interview with the Daily Beast, “It’s been really fun to just look for things that none of the other Spider-Man movies have really explored before, and decide if that’s something we want to work into that. And really making it a high school movie, and committing to that, and not having that just be the beginning of the movie. The John Hughes sort of tone. When you’re looking at it through that prism, it really opens up the door to a lot of possibilities.” This movie has already set itself apart and will most likely be the first of many more to come.
The New Era is a diverse era.
This “new era” of the comic universe has not necessarily been met with great applause. In return for the diversity of characters, some fans find themselves on the giving end of great criticism. It is understandable. It is easy to get used to something and never wanting to see it change and fighting any alteration of it no matter the benefits it may have. In spite of that, there has been a giant push for diversity in the comics and Spider-Man will be the first full on representation of that in comic film. After all, the generation we are in now and the generation that comes next deserves to have comic characters that are like them and share their issues too.
As Dan Slott (if you do not know who he is, please do yourself a favor and look him up) would say, “It’s okay to share the toys.” And that is correct. Though some characters will never be altered from a diversity standpoint, it is okay to intervene and make adaptions to others. Every one deserves representation even if it is not necessarily well received.
This movie is set up to make big strides in diversity in its setting as well. He is Peter Parker with a cast of nothing but diversity. There is Zendaya, Tony Revolori, Logan Marshall-Green, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier and Kenneth Choi, and many other names as well. Most of the actors named here are different from each other and definitely represent different things, not to mention there is an emphasis on youth and that is for a reason.
Jon Watts says it like this while talking to the Daily Beast, “Peter Parker goes to high school in Queens and Queens is one of — if not the — most diverse places in the world, so I just wanted it to reflect what that actually looks like.” If he is reflecting what Queens looks like in the most realistic of ways, then there is a strong possibility that even the extras will represent that. This is an age where the environment, the characters, and their issues should reflect the world around. With that being said, that means classic iterations need to have room to evolve especially if the industry has any chance of surviving with its mainstream appeal now. The focus on diversity is unlike any other film in this genre and that is a GOOD thing and will hopefully set the bar for others moving forward. This version of Spider-Man has chosen to take that by the horns.
Marvel is sold and that is what matters.
Marvel has more than established that they at least have a working idea of whom to cast and how to portray them…and it is not just Marvel Studios. They give tremendous freedom to the directors they choose for their projects and this one is no different. As stated before, Jon Watts came in with a vision to shed light on Spider-Man and Peter Parker in a way that we have never seen before. Focusing on the character first, then the story. That alone sold Marvel, Kevin Fiege in particular, on how they would cast their new Peter Parker.
Tom Holland and his ability to imitate the Spidey that they were looking for made waves with them and even the heart and soul of the Marvel brand, Stan Lee. In an interview during Denver’s Comic Con he praises Holland and says, “Oh, he’s wonderful. I was with him the other day. He is great. I can’t believe it. It’s as if we created a living being to be Spider-Man, and it turned out to be Tom.” This is Stan Lee’s character. He literally created him and for him to give such high adulation to Holland speaks volumes for him to be the face of a new era where youth, different orientations, and a plethora of races and their issues are the centerpiece.
Time will tell if Holland lives up to expectations. Whether he does or not, he is being poised to be the face that carries this generation into a new era. It is hard to think that Marvel, Holland, and Watts do not have what it takes to capture the magic of the friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.
Any thoughts? Feel free to leave comments. Let’s talk!