Back in December of 2014, legendary comic book creator (and father to many of Marvel's styles) Stan Lee hinted at Marvel's concern about the different properties that they had sold the rights to before the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No one knew what the hell he was getting at until the following February, when it was officially announced that Sony was giving Spider-Man back to Marvel so that he could live within their shared universe. It's an easy sell for Sony, who's made us suffer through some horrendous Spider-Man adaptations, and can now sit back and reap the benefits of tying this character to the most dominant superhero shared universe around today. That union brought about the bigger issue though: with their powers combined, could Sony/Marvel bring us the Spider-Man we've so desperately needed? A Spider-Man who could wash the stench of Andrew Garfield's Amazing-ly awful series (and that stinker of a Spider-Man 3) from our collective psyche?
If you've seen Captain America: Civil War, you're laughing right now, possibly shouting "Excelsior!," and nodding your head "yes" at a rapid pace.
Warning: Mild 'Captain America: Civil War' spoilers ahead.
We had our own thoughts on who the new Spider-Man should be, and I'll admit it: I gave a quick "huh?" when it was announced that Tom Holland, a relative unknown from the UK, would be leaping into the role. Part of that is because I'd never seen The Impossible, and a hint of it was also the fact that I was secretly pining for a Miles Morales version of Spidey in the MCU. Either way, I had literally no clue what Holland would bring to the table. But I was pleasantly surprised at the recent Collider IMAX screening of Captain America: Civil War, where a theater full of fanboys made sure anyone with doubts knew that once we headed to QUEENS, Spidey was going to be everything. And he was.
While it is a little convenient that Tony Stark just happens to have 1) been tracking the teen's exploits for months and 2) figured out his identity quickly, Stark paying a surprise visit to Peter Parker's apartment post-spider bite and Uncle Ben's death was a great MCU moment. While it made sense for the first true Spider-Man films to rehash how Uncle Ben's death impacted Peter's life (and his choices as Spider-Man), rewatching that in The Amazing Spider-Man just felt unnecessary. Marvel deciding to forgo that origin story and presenting us instead with a teen boy who's hyper-aware of his abilities while being young enough to be starstruck by Tony-freaking-Stark sitting on his living room couch—with his (hot) Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei)—was a bold choice that paid off.
One of the critiques people had immediately after hearing Stark shout "Underoos!" and Spider-Man grabbing Captain America's shield in that trailer was the actual look. Spider-Man's mask was more responsive—similar to how Deadpool's eye holes are used to convey different emotions—and some thought that his new duds were a bit too CGI-dependent. While that might be a valid concern, it's pretty nitpicky—we're talking about a teenager who is hurling himself (and objects) into the air at a frantic pace here. During that massive airport battle of super heroes? Spider-Man held his own against the heavy hitters, taking on a number of challenges (including one GIANT Star Wars nod) while zipping and flipping through the air. There's no way they wouldn't CGI those bits, and even so, it didn't take away from the film. Hell, it did more to bolster the importance of Marvel being at the wheel.
Another plus for Holland's Parker was his voice. Not his literal voice, but how Tom Holland owns the Peter Parker/Spider-Man voice. In the scene where Parker first meets Stark, Holland is comedic while also embodying Parker's "with great power comes great responsibility" motto. During battle sequences, Holland's Spider-Man is a spot-on callback to the comics, which featured a Spider-Man who never knew how to shut up. Spider-Man doesn't duck the easy one-liner, and it's almost like part of his game is to keep the dialogue flowing (something that Deadpool also engages in, to the crudest degree). Spider-Man jumps right in the Winter Soldier's face for battle, and then marvels at his metal arm two seconds later. You get a sense of groundedness from these interactions, and remember that we're in a world that features heroic "A-list" superpowered beings, while B-listers like Peter Parker can both aspire to do great things and still be in awe of the OGs before him.
What's most interesting about Tom Holland's entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that he brought a friend along. Jon Bernthal made his mark as The Punisher in season two of Daredevil, and said that they worked with each other on their respective audition tapes for Marvel. Bernthal loved working with Holland, telling us back in March, "In all my years in Hollywood, I'm probably more impressed with Tom Holland than anyone else I've ever met. For a guy his age, he's a force of nature." Bernthal was right, as anyone who's seen Civil War can attest to. If you have any doubts about Holland slipping on the mask and doing the damn thing, they'll be erased about as quickly as Crossbones is in the film.