SPIDER-MAN – Why we all love Spidey

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SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING! Why is Spider-Man Marvel’s most popular character? Why do we all love him? And… which Spider-Man is your favorite? Daryl and Jay are joined by Scott Niswander from NerdSync to dig deeper into SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and Spidey from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

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Ashley’s Take

The Story Geeks’ blogger Ashley Pauls responds with her own take on the questions discussed in the podcast.

1. Spider-Man is definitely Marvel’s most popular character. What makes Spidey/Peter unique as compared to other superheroes?

I think part of the reason for Spider-Man’s popularity is that he’s so relatable. He’s not ridiculously wealthy and loaded up with a gazillion high-tech gadgets like Iron Man or Batman, and he’s not this powerful ruler of another realm like Thor. Although all those other characters are awesome, their lifestyles are pretty different from the average superhero fan’s personal experiences.

Peter Parker seems like a regular guy who just happens to have superpowers. He still has to deal with lots of the everyday problems that we all experience (or at least did experience back when we were teenagers), like having this awkward crush, trying to find time to do all our homework + extracurricular activities, and, most tragically, dealing with the loss of a loved one. Peter’s character has always felt real and authentic to me, and I think fans really respond to that.

2. We’ll be focusing mostly on the MCU version of Spider-Man, but first let’s just take a quick pulse. Who is everyone’s favorite cinematic Spider-Man? What stands out to you that makes him the ideal version?

It’s easy to just pick Tom Holland, since he’s the current Spider-Man and his portrayal is the one that’s freshest in my mind. Yet to me, he still feels like the ideal Spider-Man because I think this particular version does the best job capturing all the aspects of the character. He’s a superhero who still feels (and looks) like a regular teenager. Like, he can handle himself pretty well in a fight, but when he has to talk to this girl he has a crush on, he’s adorably awkward. This version of Spider-Man is the one I’d have wanted to be friends with as a teenager. Plus, he and his friend Ned clearly have an appreciation for Star Wars Legos, so that’s always a win for me! 😉

3. Before we zero in on the MCU, what are some of the stand-out aspects of the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions of Spider-Man that may not be quite as present in Tom Holland’s version?

I have actually enjoyed all three versions of Spider-Man, because I think they allow us to see the story through different but equally important lenses. Since the MCU is (typically) lighter in tone, I feel like maybe the Maguire/Garfield versions have a little more gravitas. Their films dive into the grief experienced by Spider-Man more than what we’ve seen from the MCU so far. However, I think Holland is definitely capable of handling heavier stuff, based on his performance in “Infinity War.”

4. Walking through Spidey’s journey through the MCU movie by movie, how would you sum up the guiding theme(s) for him in…

Captain America: Civil War
In this film, Peter is really just figuring out where he fits within the larger universe of superheroes. He probably doesn’t know a lot about the Sokovia Accords themselves, and he fights on Team Iron Man because…well…Tony Stark asked him to. However, I think seeing these other superheroes in action really excites Peter, and he wants to be part of a team like the Avengers, even if he maybe isn’t quite ready yet.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
“Homecoming” is kind of a reality check for Peter. He’s super excited about fighting crime and helping others, and his heart is definitely in the right place. Unfortunately, he’s still young and inexperienced, and he tries to take on more than he’s ready for. He learns some important lessons from Tony, and in the end he proves that he IS worthy of being a superhero.

Avengers: Infinity War
I think “Infinity War” proves what a great, selfless superhero Peter is. Having to fight Thanos would intimidate pretty much anybody, but Peter is more than willing to jump into action because he knows the world is in serious danger. He’s willing to risk his life to help the Avengers. Although I’m 100 percent certain Spidey will be returning, his “death” in “Infinity War” is one of the most emotional and heartbreaking scenes in the film.

5. In the MCU, what motivates Peter to be a hero? What governs his sense of right and wrong?

I feel like Peter is one of the most purely motivated of the Avengers; he wants to be a hero because he wants to help people and because it’s simply the right thing to do. He wants to make his neighborhood, his city, and the world a better place. Because he puts others’ needs above his own, he has a pretty good grasp of what’s right and what’s wrong. Plus, I think his friends and family help keep him accountable.

6. What is it about losing a loved one that makes for such a compelling catalyst for a superhero’s journey? What do you think about the absence of Uncle Ben’s story in “Homecoming”?

Although Uncle Ben is such a key part of Spider-Man’s origin story, I was okay with them not covering his death in “Homecoming.” The audience has already seen two Spider-Man origin films that included Uncle Ben’s death, and I don’t think we needed to see that scene again. One of the things that really excited me about “Homecoming” was that it skipped the origin story and just picked up after “Civil War”; the film felt a lot fresher than it would have if it told the same story for the THIRD time.

That being said, I would have appreciated a few more mentions of Uncle Ben in “Homecoming,” because that is such an important part of Spidey’s character arc.

Losing a loved one is like a grenade exploding; it throws your life into chaos and sends flak scattering everywhere, requiring months and years to pick up all the pieces. It leaves scars that will never completely heal, and it will change the way you view your life and the world around you. Yet somehow, we have to let our love for that person keep us moving forward, finding hope and healing even in the midst of our grief.

While Uncle Ben’s loss is a difficult burden for Peter to carry, his uncle’s legacy inspires the current work he does as a superhero. Uncle Ben’s kindness lives on through Peter.

7. Why do you think the Vulture is such a good villain? Do you think the MCU is starting to make up for a trend of weaker past villains? How do he and Peter shape each other in this film?

The MCU has definitely had some stronger villains lately — from Vulture to Hela to Killmonger, and especially Thanos. Vulture stands out in a unique way, though, because out of all the MCU villains, he seems the most like a “regular guy.” I actually appreciated that his plan was pretty lowkey. He’s not looking to destroy the galaxy or even the planet; he’s just trying to earn a living and support his family, even though he’s going about it in an unethical way. Thanks to a great performance from Michael Keaton, Vulture feels like an incredibly realistic/believable villain.

Vulture’s interactions with Peter force the Vulture to take on more of a traditional villain role; he’s going to have to fight and maybe even kill this teenager — his daughter’s (sort of) boyfriend — if he wants his plan to succeed. In turn, Vulture gives Peter a true nemesis to fight, testing out Peter’s powers and the limits of what he’s willing to do to save the day.

At the end of the film, I loved that Peter chose not to kill Vulture and even saved him from the explosion. This firmly establishes Peter as a compassionate hero and sets the tone for his identity as Spider-Man.

8. How do you feel about the relationship between Peter and Tony Stark? What draws them together? Do you like Tony and Happy’s presence in the movie?

I love Tony Stark (he’s my favorite Avenger), but even I have to admit that if I was looking for a mentor for my teenage kid, Tony Stark probably wouldn’t be my first choice. 😉 I feel like Tony still has plenty of his own problems to work through. However, I do think mentoring Peter is good for Tony. It forces Tony to look at his actions from a different perspective and examine whether he’s setting a good example for Peter.

I think Tony and Peter are drawn together because they both know what it’s like to lose a father figure. Tony had a complicated relationship with his father, and with Peter, he sees an opportunity to be a better mentor than perhaps his own father was.

Overall, I felt like Tony and Happy’s presence in “Homecoming” was really fun and helped tie Spider-Man into the MCU. I feel like Spidey now being a part of the MCU really boosted excitement for the film. Plus, having Tony and Peter interact in “Homecoming” made their interaction in “Infinity War” even more meaningful.

9. “Homecoming” makes several tweaks to the Spider-Man mythos. We’ve already talked about a few of the big ones, but let’s hit some others too. How do you think the following updates affect this version of Peter?…

a. The Stark tech suit / Karen
I really like the Stark tech suit with its A.I. component (a.k.a. Karen), because it’s one of several things that helps this version of Spider-Man feel fresh and different from what we’ve seen before. I also like that having the tech suit teaches Peter an important lesson: simply having technology is not enough — you have to know how to use it properly and responsibly. And I do love that Peter defeats the villain using only his homemade suit, because that proves to him that he doesn’t need a fancy suit to be a hero.

b. A younger Aunt May
I really liked seeing Marisa Tomei as Aunt May; she’s a good emotional support for Peter, and I think he’s also a good support for her. I enjoyed seeing their relationship in the film. And even though the “younger” Aunt May generated quite a bit of discussion amongst fans, it makes sense that a 15 year old would have an aunt who is Tomei’s age.

c. The inclusion of Ned Leeds
I love Ned, and he was definitely one of my favorite parts of the film. I’m glad he learned early on in the film about Peter’s secret identity, and it was cool to see him play a role in the film’s climax and help to “save the day.” He’s more than just the film’s comic relief, although he does provide plenty of great lines.

d. A different take on Mary Jane / a different take on Flash Thompson
One of the things I appreciated about this version of Spider-Man was the diversity and authenticity of Peter’s peers at school. It felt like a real high school, with students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. We’ve already seen several versions of Spider-Man, so it was cool to see fresh takes on some of the familiar characters.

10. Where do you think Peter and Adrian Toomes’ relationship stands at the end of “Homecoming”? Are they still enemies? Is Toomes still a villain?

To me Toomes is definitely still a villain, because he sincerely tried to harm Peter and doesn’t seem too guilty about it. However, Toomes does appreciate that Peter saved his life, which is likely why he didn’t reveal Spider-Man’s secret identity. That was his way of making sure they were “even.”

When/if Toomes gets out of prison, I imagine he would try to steer clear of Peter. I think their relationship would still be somewhat antagonistic if they were to meet again, although I can see Peter wanting to give Toomes a second chance.

11. We get to meet Aaron Davis in “Homecoming,” who we know from the comics as the uncle of Miles Morales, another version of Spider-Man. How would you like to see Miles incorporated into the MCU? How do you think he and Peter would affect each other?

I’m really enjoying Tom Holland as Spider-Man, so I hope he sticks around a while. That being said, when he does decide to bow out of the MCU, I’d love for them to introduce Miles as the new Spider-Man. This would be a way to keep the character fresh and interesting, since we’ve now seen three different “Peter Parker” Spider-Mans. Maybe you could have Holland serving as a sort of mentor to Miles after Peter retires.

I’m pretty excited to see the animated movie featuring Miles Morales this December called “Into the Spider-Verse.” I think this is a great way to introduce audiences to Miles without conflicting with what’s currently going on in the MCU.

12. Let’s wrap up with a little bit of dreaming. Assuming Peter will be alive at the end of
Avengers 4 (safest assumption ever?), what would you like to see in future Spider-Man films? Are you excited about the possibility of Mysterio? What other villains would you like to see?

Since I’m not as familiar with the original comics, there aren’t any particular villains I would like to see. I’d just like them to be villains we haven’t seen before; I don’t really want Peter to have to fight the Green Goblin again.

I’d like to see them touch more directly on Uncle Ben’s legacy, and I hope Peter keeps Ned around as “the guy in the chair.” I’d also like to see what Aunt May’s feelings about Peter’s crime-fighting activities are, now that she’s (presumably) discovered Peter’s secret identity.

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