For everyone who is absolutely in love with Marvel’s newest take on Spider-Man starring Tom Holland, there is someone who absolutely hates it. And these people are definitely not silent about it – a few days ago, the trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home was released, and millions immediately took to Twitter to say just how much they did NOT like the series. Why is that? Stick around for the rest of the article as I untangle this spider(-man)’s web to find out.
A Little Bit of History
A beloved character by millions, Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker) first graced the Marvel Comic’s universe in 1962, when he appeared in Amazing Fantasy, no. 15. Written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Dikto, Spider-Man represented a novelty amongst superheroes, as he was young, inexperienced, and seemed like just a regular dude. Yet, it was exactly his mundane characterization that made him so appealing to readers.
The hero’s debut had such staggering success that he quickly landed another comic series in March 1963 (The Amazing Spider-Man, vol. 1, no. 1), and even more afterwards, such as The Spectacular Spider-Man and Spider-Man. In the late 2000s, Spidey made his final appearance in comic books (as of now) in the series Ultimate Spider-Man, which concluded with the character’s apparent death. The role of Spider-Man was then claimed by Miles Morales, a Black and Hispanic teenager from Brooklyn, who later made his on-screen debut in the 2018 animated film Into The Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man first arrived on the big screen in May 2002 thanks to Sony, with a movie which later wound up becoming a trilogy. The films were critically acclaimed and had massive success right off the bait, as the first one eventually earned over $800M worldwide. However, the tale of Spider-Man in cinema didn’t end here – the series underwent a “reboot”, and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) were released.
Finally, Marvel, which had been acquired by Walt Disney Company in 2009, made an exclusive deal with Sony in 2015 that allowed the hero to appear in films produced by either studio. Spider-Man then made his first debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: Civil War (2016), and soon enough became a recurring character in the MCU, appearing in the following Avengers movies. The hero proceeded to have a successful solo movie series, with Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), and the soon-to-be-released and highly-anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).
Not Your ‘Friendly-Neighborhood Superhero’ Anymore
The thing that disappointed many fans about this more recent Spider-Man cinematic series is that they’re actually great movies, but they’re not great Spider-Man movies. The narrative is coherent and flows well, the actors are awesome, the cinematography is fine… but that’s just it. The movies are good for Disney films, but they just don’t cut it as Spider-Man stories.
Too many details are either twisted or flat-out disregarded in this version, thus tainting the essence of the superhero millions have come to love. For instance, Uncle Ben is never even mentioned in these films, so much so that it wouldn’t even surprise me if newer fans didn’t know about his existence. In a nutshell – following the death of his parents, Peter was raised by his aunt and uncle, May and Ben. However, due to tragic circumstances, Uncle Ben was murdered soon after Peter had gained superhuman powers. This series of unfortunate events may seem very cliché, but it’s actually of extreme importance for the character of Spider-Man, as it was after Ben’s departure that Peter decided to dedicate his life to helping people.
Yes, I will admit that I understand why Marvel chose not to depict this in the movies – this origin story has been told and retold, and fans want something new. Nonetheless, acting like Uncle Ben never existed and that his death didn’t impact Peter, completely eradicates Spider-Man’s raison d’être.
Taking away what made him become a true superhero means taking away the essence of the character, and changing his motivation means irreversibly changing his personality.
Taking away what made him become a true superhero means taking away the essence of the character, and changing his motivation means irreversibly changing his personality. But alas, that’s not the only way Marvel screwed up this Spider-Man…
Daddy Stark’s Money
The thing that is probably the most hated and the most loved aspect of the MCU’s Spider-Man is Peter’s close relationship with Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.
A staple character that is always present in hero stories is the figure of the mentor, and Spider-Man is no exception to this – the first trilogy has Uncle Ben, Into The Spider-Verse has Miles’ father and Peter Parker from another dimension, and MCU’s Spidey has Tony Stark. In the latter series, Peter becomes part of the Avengers through Iron Man, as he grants him resources, such as a high-tech suit, and offers advice as the young boy is settling into the superhero role. However, according to plenty of fans, Marvel has actually made a big mistake by associating Peter to Tony in such a close way.
For starters, Spider-Man and Iron Man represent two completely different kinds of heroes. The latter is a zillionaire, who built a high-tech suit to fight bad guys, and basically relies on his wealth to do justice. Whereas, the former is known for being a “man of the people” – just an ordinary kid who was bitten by a radioactive spider and fights crime by jumping around in a flamboyant bodysuit. He is the “working-class superhero” and his money struggles and humble background help shape Peter Parker as a character.
It’s good to note that Spider-Man was created as a way of saying “fuck you” to the idea of the Batman-esque superhero, i.e. the rich vigilante who counts on his money in his quest for justice, so pairing Peter with the likes of the Dark Knight (i.e. Iron Man) is such a travesty for the Spidey character. They represent polar opposite values and have strikingly different motivations, so it’s puzzling that Marvel thought it was a good idea to put them together.
Andrew Garfield, who played Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, shared some insightful observations during a press tour in 2014, which in hindsight are ironic if you take a look at the MCU’s take on the hero:
“[Spider-Man] wouldn’t get along with Tony Stark… Too arrogant, ethics are dubious, and Peter’s a man of the people, Peter’s the working-class hero, whereas Tony’s this rich gajillionaire that is arguably not all that responsible or heartfelt.”
Yet, that doesn’t seem to be the case for MCU’s Peter, who idolizes Tony Stark and constantly relies on his help and assets, e.g. the super high-tech suits he wears to fight (what happened to the self-sewn costumes, uh?). This stripped away one of Spider-Man’s key characteristics – his relatability. Previous portrayals of the hero showed him struggling with things most normal people experience – e.g., financial issues and heartbreak -, as well as having to use solely his intelligence and wit to make his suits, since he had no other means available. Au contraire, the MCU’s Spider-Man gets everything handed to him. He needs a suit? Iron Man’s got it covered! He’s in trouble? Tony is there! He never really has to struggle, because Daddy Stark is always there for him.
A Z-list Avenger
And that’s not all – Spider-Man appears to constantly be cast in the shadow of Iron Man and the other Avengers, even in his own movies.
It is no secret that Tony Stark is one of the most popular heroes of the MCU, so a new character (i.e., Peter) being associated with him meant they were going to be instantly likeable. After all – a fans’ favorite character taking someone under his wing? Must be a recipe for success!
Well, there is some truth in that, since Iron Man’s involvement in the Spider-Man movies made Stark’s fans tune into the new hero’s films, thus securing a bigger audience. However, according to several fans, it didn’t work out as well as Marvel probably had hoped. Tony’s presence greatly overshadows Peter, as he is constantly mentioned and referenced in Spider-Man’s movies even when he’s not physically there. It makes it seem like Parker’s journey revolves around Iron Man and his quest with the Avengers, instead of his own struggles.
And even the struggles he faces throughout the movies can be traced back to the Avengers. The villains he fights in the films all relate to the superhero group in one way or another and are not Spider-Man’s antagonists per se. For instance, the motivation of Mysterio (i.e. the villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home) that leads him towards being evil is his personal issues with Tony Stark. He has nothing against Peter, yet he happens to fight him simply because there are no other superheroes available. Parker’s entire character arch within the MCU is just a mere stepping stone in the Avengers’ journey, nothing more and nothing less.
Ergo, the MCU’s Spider-Man doesn’t feel like Spider-Man because that’s not what he was ever intended to be. He is supposed to be no more than a Z-list Avenger, a pawn in Marvel’s chessboard to further develop the MCU.
you can make a movie about a spider-man, but that doesn’t make it a Spider-Man movie.
Nevertheless, if this Spidey remake is your favorite so far, that’s okay – after all, it’s a perfectly fine film! However, there’s a reason why die-hard fans of the hero are not that enchanted with this version – you can make a movie about a spider-man, but that doesn’t make it a Spider-Man movie.
Edited By: Pritha Ray