The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home.
The mid-December 2021 release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the ninth solo Spider-Man film, has spun into the Spider-Verse slinging with it a beacon of hope, nostalgia and ingenuity that the early 1960s character has always aspired to represent. The dangerous realities of the pandemic crowned digital streaming a king, and traditional movie-going took a gruesome hit. The opening blockbuster success of No Way Home reminds us of the community of moviegoers: local crowds gathering to root for a generational neighborhood hero, swelling soundtracks and scores and inspiring visuals that remind us to take a second look at the not so ordinary world around us.
Spider-Man first appeared in Marvel Comics in the early 1960s, by legendary creator Stan Lee. A growing adolescent interest in comic books led to his desire to create a character that would resonate with a younger audience, ultimately leading to a young hero, whose inexperience was protected by a now-iconic mask. The character has almost always been popularly received. Even its lesser-grossing films (Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) are heroically beloved by fans for even their cringier moments (i.e. the jazz number from Spider-Man 3). We, the audience, routinely give Spider-Man a pass, because each of his mistakes brings him closer to us and the heroic acts we dream of taking.
The original Spider-Man film premiered in 2002 with the herald actor Tobey Maguire embodying the student-turned web-slinger. The actor’s portrayal catapulted the character into mainstream success and has widely been regarded as the best capture of Peter Parker: a nerdy underdog super spider boy who maintains his ordinary character through an alias “the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”. Tobey embodied the relatable struggle of falling for a girl painfully out of his league, yet still admirably wooing her in one of the most notable cinematic kisses in history.
Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, my personal favorite, put a swanky spin on a Peter Parker that was less of an outcast and more of a loner. He had cool hair, rode a skateboard and delivered breath-taking swinging scenes. A talented actor, he exuded coolness in both his persona as Parker and Spider-Man. Garfield navigated the agile demands of the character with the swag and ease of a worn-in suit.
The release of Spider-Man: No Way Home sees Tom Holland’s bouncy naiveté through trials and tribulations worthy of the hero’s catchphrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Holland’s young hero splashed onto screens with refreshing fun and comedic relief, but the most admirable component of the new installment is the recognition of Spider-Man’s own moral compass. Sony and Marvel’s separation of Spider-Man from its other Marvel Cinematic counterparts shines through in this film, signifying the strength and independence of the character without the support of the Avengers franchise. This is a remarkable tribute to his spider predecessors, Maguire and Garfield, who had to navigate a world of financial hardships, school, girls and villains long before billionaire superheroes joined the fight. The movie marks a transition from youth to a hero hardened by the loneliness of great responsibility without losing its trademark hope.
No matter which era of Spider-Man tangles your heart, No Way Home pays tribute to them all, even bringing us some much-needed closure: Andrew’s rescue of Tom’s MJ was met with cheers of fans who hurt for Gwen. An added bonus, the third generation cast even continues the tradition of falling in love with each other off-screen.
Sony recognized the concessions Spider-Man would have to make to continue to fit in with the Marvel franchise and delivered the perfect plot to sever the break bringing the character back to its roots as everyone’s favorite neighborhood vigilante. He’s Spider-Man, an agile empathic local do-gooder, just a little older and more matured by the bittersweet realities of his superhero status. No Way Home returns the decades-old character to the healthy median where it belongs, and in doing so pays respect to the humbler beginnings of the franchise.