Captain America: Civil War marks Spider-Man’s sixth appearance on the big screen. It also happens to be his best.
Spider-Man is so good in Civil War, he practically steals the spotlight from seismic MCU veterans Captain America and Iron Man. So much of Tom Holland's incredible performance is grounded in authenticity (which I know is odd to say considering he plays a teen bitten by a radioactive spider, but stay with me here). Simply put, he is effervescent -- a kinetic spark that completely reinvigorates the friendly neighborhood superhero after years spent hanging in Iron Man's shadow.
Under Marvel's hand, Spider-Man sure feels like he's home.
Spidey's spark is a direct result of his age, which has always been one of Peter Parker's defining traits. Parker is essentially the original teen superhero, or at least the first one that resonated with comic book readers. The balance between his teenage life and the great responsibility of being a superhero is what helped make him Marvel's most popular character.
Now, for the first time in the character's live-action history, an actual teenager is portraying the teen webslinger. It may seem like a novel idea for Hollywood, but it’s the right one for the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Casting a 19-year-old in the coveted role gives Civil War an exciting new dynamic, one that juxtaposes Marvel's current crop of effortlessly cool, imposing superheroes, led by Captain America, with Peter Parker's wide-eyed brand of enthusiasm. He's a teen tech nerd obsessed with superheroes who, when given his powers, struggles with the notion that he's now the thing that he holds so dear.
When Tony Stark begins to assemble Team Iron Man, he heads to New York to get a closer look at a curious young dynamo from Queens, who has been all over the local news as a masked, web-slinging vigilante. During a brief, yet poignant, conversation in Peter's bedroom, we learn that he has already been bitten by the radioactive spider, and, as he strongly hints, lost his Uncle Ben. He's been fighting local crime in his red and blue pajamas, using the DIY tech he's scavenged from dumpsters, because he believes it's his duty as someone with extraordinary abilities. Sure, he doesn't know what type of person he's supposed to be, but he feels like he's supposed to change the world somehow.
There's a certain kind of fearlessness you possess in your teens. It's often described as recklessness by adults, but really, it's the idea that you can do anything if you try hard enough. There are zero limitations to what you're capable of.
Peter Parker is fearless, even if he doesn't know it yet. In fact, when Tony asks him to join the fight against Cap, he's most concerned about missing a math test. That, and he doesn't want to cross his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), who will probably ground him for the rest of his adolescent life if she found out he was gallivanting around Germany with Iron Man. But he does it anyway. If given the opportunity to fight alongside your heroes, wouldn't you take a leap of faith and do it?
During the film's booming splash-page sequence, which sees Team Cap go head to head with Team Iron Man, there's a likable moment of outer-borough bonding between fellow New Yorkers Cap and Spidey. He stops, midway through detaining Bucky Barnes, to tell the Winter Soldier that his metal arm is cool. And when Ant-Man suddenly becomes Giant-Man, well, it's Peter who has the most appropriate response. The kid has no chill, and that's exactly the kind of exuberant energy the MCU needs right now.
Civil War kicks off Phase Three of Marvel's grand plan. It's the 13th film of the franchise. Iron Man isn't getting any younger, and neither is the Avengers's fearless leader. In fact, as it currently stands, with Captain America's trilogy now complete, Chris Evans is only contracted through Infinity War Parts 1 and 2. Meanwhile, Robert Downey Jr. can re-up on a film-by-film basis -- something he will undoubtedly take advantage of to the detriment of Marvel's bank account -- and while that's great news for fans of RDJ's Iron Man, there's no denying that Tony Stark's superhero days are numbered. (FWIW, Hawkeye is already retired, but does anyone really care?)
Enter Spidey. He cuts through all of Cap and Iron Man's angst with his overeagerness to stunt all over his older superhero counterparts. He's young, relatable, and he's naive to how this whole hero thing works, and let's face it: He probably asked to take a selfie with Ant-Man before Scott Lang was handcuffed and carted away by the government. And that's what will endear him to audiences.
Marvel is going to need new recruits after the dust settles from Infinity War. Captain Marvel will make her MCU debut most likely before her solo movie in 2019, and hopefully her #1 fan, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), will follow suit. Kamala is a Muslim teen from New Jersey who writes Avengers fan fiction and worships Captain Marvel. She also happens to have the extraordinary ability to shapeshift and embiggen. Kamala is, for lack of a better word, a badass -- and she'd be a perfect partner in crime for Peter.
Whatever Marvel plans, Peter Parker's long-awaited introduction into the MCU certainly feels like a new beginning. Not only for Spider-Man, but also for the studio. Marvel owes its indomitable foundation to Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye -- but Spidey, with his blinding enthusiasm, is its future.