‘Captain America: Civil War’: Why Spider-Man Looks So Different

Just when you thought fan anticipation for the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie couldn’t get any higher, Marvel dropped a trailer that gives us our first look at the new Spider-Man in costume. Filled to the brim with the superhero-on-superhero carnage that the title suggests, the latest trailer also gives fans their closest look yet at two of the other new characters making their debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: namely Crossbones and Black Panther. And while we could spend all day going over the finer details of Crossbones’s costume, or talking about Black Panther’s apparent imperviousness to bullets, it’s the appearance of Spider-Man that will undoubtedly be generating the most buzz among fans.

Not only is this Spider-Man’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thanks to some behind-the-scenes negotiations between Sony and Disney), but it also marks the debut of Tom Holland in the role. So what did we learn about everyone’s favorite web-crawler during the approximately 4 seconds of screen time he had in the trailer? Here are a few things we noted.

1. The new Spider-Man’s costume is brighter than before

Two different Spider-Mans
Spider-Man in Civil War (L) and The Electric Company (R) | Source: Marvel and Children’s Television Workshop

When it comes to big-screen adaptations of their favorite superheroes, one of the favorite topics of discussion among fans is how close a movie sticks to the original comic book that inspired it. And while fans will endlessly debate about whether a superhero movie plot should or should not strictly follow a particular comic book storyline, one thing that most fans don’t mind seeing changed onscreen is a superhero’s costume. For various reasons, superheroes’ costumes in comic books tend to be loud, brightly colored affairs, and that look usually doesn’t translate well to a live-action movie unless you want a superhero to look like they just stepped off the front of a sugary cereal box. Just look at Wolverine’s classic bright yellow jumpsuit from the comic book (or cartoon) and compare it to the costumes he wore in the various X-Men movies. Sure, some versions may have kept the yellow and blue scheme, but the colors are definitely more muted.

Spider-Man followed a similar costume redesign philosophy in both the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy and the two Marc Webb-directed films that followed. The Spider-Man costumes that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield donned both kept the basic color scheme and web pattern, but turned down the brightness. In contrast, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man costume almost looks like it was lifted directly from the pages of a comic book. In fact, the only time we’ve seen a live-action Spider-Man with a costume brighter than this one was on The Electric Company (see image above).

It’s actually not a terrible look, but it does stick out a little next to the other character costumes in Civil War, especially Captain America and Iron Man’s. Both of them have similarly bright red colors in the comic book versions of their costumes, and both were toned down for the movie versions. Is this just one of the unfortunate side effects of having a character crossover from another studio’s franchise?

2. The eyes on Spider-Man’s costume move?

So while the bright colors of Spider-Man’s new costume can be explained by the fact that he is on loan from another studio with a different design philosophy, that doesn’t explain another slightly disturbing aspect of his costume: The eyes. Keeping with the retro comic book costume design, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man features the classic white eyeholes, instead of the mirrored sunglasses look that was used in the two previous iterations. Cool. But how are his eyeholes narrowing like that?

Sure, there’s probably a cool technological explanation for his cartoonish eyes, like a miniature device in his face mask that reads his facial expressions and adjusts his eyeholes accordingly. After all, Peter Parker is a scientist, and if Watchmen’s Rorschach can have an animated mask, why can’t Spider-Man?  On the other hand, it’s another incongruous aspect of Spider-Man’s costume that looks out of place next to the other superheroes. Note that Tony Stark’s Iron Man mask doesn’t widen its eyes when he’s surprised, and it doesn’t appear that Black Panther’s cat ears perk up when he gets shot at. Well, at least Spider-Man’s mask doesn’t have weird lips like Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (image courtesy of CinemaBlend).

3. Spider-Man definitely sounds young

Tom Holland, the new Spider-Man
Actor Tom Holland | Stuart Wilson/Getty Images

Besides the costume changes, the most apparent difference between Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and the two cinematic versions that proceeded him is the age difference. Both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were in their late 20s when they played the role of the high school-age superhero. In contrast, Holland is a mere 19, allowing him to provide a much more believable depiction of a high schooler. Just hearing him greet the embattled Avengers with a friendly “Hey everyone,” already makes him a more believable high schooler than any other actor who has ever donned the bright-red costume of the web-slinger. Now we just need a believable explanation for those crazy eyes.

[Update, 4/26/16: Added new TV spot featuring more footage of Spider-Man (see below).]

A new TV spot released by Marvel shows more footage of the web-slinger as he battles Bucky Barnes.

Captain America: Civil War lands in theaters on May 6.

All movie cast, crew, and awards information courtesy of IMDb.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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