Spider-Man existed before me. Spider-Man will exist after me.
A grim thought.
Not a character, an idea. He, she, they, Asian, Latino, African, white. It does not matter what vessel Spider-Man takes, no part of their body or backstory or abilities is written in stone, let alone a piece of film or on a thin spotted piece of paper.
In a poll last year Americans named Spider-Man as their second favourite hero after Superman, not because he is wealthy, suave or brooding, rather because Spider-Man is built on ideals we can all aspire to. He (or she or they, although predominantly he) is broke, receives no help from above, and it is those around him who lift him up. This is what the Raimi trilogy is about at its core.
You can’t do it alone, and you can’t do it for yourself.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Peter Parker is someone we can all be, a frequent criticism of American media.
He wasn’t born into an arms dealing dynasty or a European merchant fortune from pre-colonial times, he was simply a hard working high school student (at 26 in Maguire’s case) in the lower-middle-class who was bitten by a spider, and employed his good nature and hard work into making himself his best self, which is truly at the core of the idea of Spider-Man. And he fails a lot.
I don’t remember the first time I watched Spider-Man, it might have been the Unlimited or Spectacular cartoons, dubbed in Turkish, or my neighbours Raimi trilogy boxset. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.
As I matured I understood what Spider-Man was about – doing the most good you can possibly do with the hand you’re dealt.
What matters is how I would try every few days, climbing up my wall while looking closely at my fingers if I could see those little spurs, or a little hole in my wrist, from the Tobey movies. Believing it could one day be me.
That is what I got from Spider-Man as a child, could I have the powers, as most children would. But as I matured I understood what Spider-Man was about – doing the most good you can possibly do with the hand you’re dealt. It is this progression in myself and in my interpretation of the character that makes me love the character.
It is here, I must talk about this year’s No Way Home, and why it means so much to those in my age group, give or take five years. Spoilers ahead.
In what is perhaps the worst kept secret since Watergate, the previous two cinematic Parker’s make an appearance in NWH, and this is incredibly important to not only the Holland trilogy, but completely changes all previous films.
It is redemptive for Andrew Garfield’s Peter, and gave Holland the compassion and wisdom of an older Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, a different approach from the iron man he knew. It’s more than being a hero, it’s about being a human.
This could all be assumed from the trailer, however, (and from some sneaky paparazzi photos from around the set) that this would always be how this film would go. What was truly surprising was that Uncle Ben, the catalyst for all other spider-men never existed in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), that role being taken by Marissa Tomei’s Aunt May.
Nineteen years of cinematic Spider-Man all rolled into one film, none of them aesthetically alike.
Perhaps shamefully on me, I never considered this an option, but it is far more effective than watching a new representation of Spider-Man losing the same uncle thrice, instead giving us a pure, likeable character who we must lose once we too are attached.
This is ultimately the biggest asset of this film, time. Nineteen years of cinematic Spider-Man all rolled into one film, none of them aesthetically alike, but all carrying the same ideals; compassion, responsibility and aspiration to do all the good you can do with what you have.
Whether it’s Tom Holland on the ferry in New York, Garfield failing to save Gwen or Maguire with Uncle Ben and the revenge fuelled rampage that followed, it’s about learning from your mistakes (especially with half of the movies ending in a funeral, that’s real look it up) and turning tragedy into positivity. Taking personal responsibility.
We love Spider-Man because we have known him since before we could read, put a disc in a player ourselves, before we could even understand why we loved him.
The most human superhero, someone, anyone could emulate. Someone who takes pain and loss and turns it into positivity, not just for themselves, but for everyone, even those who hate them.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas now.
Main image by Marvel.