Nearly 15 years have passed since Peter Parker made his big-screen debut in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and yet, the character’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War has some fans claiming that the film is the best Spider-Man film to date. While that claim is a bit extreme — after all, the wallcrawler isn’t featured in the bulk of the film’s 147-minute runtime — actor Tom Holland does offer the best interpretation of Peter Parker and his alter-ego we’ve seen on the big screen.
Although Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield both brought a certain charm and likability to the character, Holland takes Marvel’s most famous hero back to the core of what makes him so popular with fans of all ages. Spider-Man is arguably the third most recognizable superhero in pop culture history (after Superman and Batman), and much of his appeal relates to the universally relatable concept of an ordinary teen who stumbles across superhuman abilities and is burdened with a sense of responsibility to help people with his new powers.
More than his predecessors, Holland gets that message across in a single scene with Robert Downey Jr., distilling the message of Spider-Man into a short speech that skates right over the origin story that everyone already knows. Much like Captain America is just a kid from Brooklyn, Peter Parker is simply an awkward high-schooler from Queens who is in over his head and has to rush to catch up to the many heroes that already populate the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Armed with raw scientific talent and a good heart, Parker shouldn’t feel like anything special, and Holland nails that tone more perfectly in just a few minutes than any actor who has had entire films to develop the character.
When he suits up as Spider-Man, Holland might be even more perfect. For years, fans have complained that their friendly neighborhood webslinger has been sadly lacking his tendency to quip in mid-battle. In Civil War‘s epic superhero smackdown, Spider-Man spends the entire time marveling (pun intended) at the heavyweights he’s fighting against and alongside. Just like the inexperienced teen he is, Parker channels his nervousness and unbridled excitement at this battle though endless chatter, and the prospect of hearing Holland’s Spider-Man relentlessly taunting villains in his own film should be exciting for any true fans of the character.
Most importantly, Holland’s Spider-Man has tons of room to grow. With such a promising young actor in the role, this new version of Spider-Man has countless film appearances in his future. It’s a simple enough solution to cast an actual teenager as the character, but remarkably, Holland is the first actor to play Spider-Man on the big screen that wasn’t already in his late 20s when he debuted in the role.
Considering that the webhead is slated to headline Spider-Man: Homecoming next year (with Downey along for the ride), the character can conceivably continue to learn how to wield his power and develop his technology, combat style and even his mission for years to come. Even though his role in Civil War is a small one, the film solves the issues Sony had in building a Spider-Man franchise in one fell swoop, leaving audiences the world over clamoring for another adventure with Peter Parker.
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