A Look Back on the Tom Holland Spider-Man Films


©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett

Image courtesy of Style Caster

Anthony Millan, Staff Writer

I’ll be the first to admit that the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies have not been my favorite. I thought Homecoming was a solid movie with a great villain (due in part to Michael Keaton’s amazing performance), however, Tom Holland didn’t feel like the Peter Parker I knew. He didn’t have the same emotional baggage that Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield had (due to a lack of Uncle Ben), or the same “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” aura that made audiences fall in love with Peter in the first place. Peter Parker becoming Iron Man’s protege just wasn’t appealing to me, and makes Spider-Man seem more like Iron Man Jr. than anything else. However, for what it was, the movie was solid. 

Then, came Far From Home, which convinced me there was no hope for MCU’s rendition of Spider-Man. Mysterio, the film’s central villain, didn’t feel like a Spider-Man villain. The Spider-Man villains I’ve become accustomed to tend to have a personal connection with Peter, and they have personal reasons for what they are doing that the viewer can empathize with. This is best exemplified with the cases of Green Goblin (a mentally ill father who is suffering from violent schizophrenia), Doctor Octavius (a scientist who wanted to revolutionize prosthetics, before becoming controlled by his creation), and even Doctor Connors (whose motivation was to cure humanity of weakness). They all come from a place of good intentions, but have another force or desire driving them to fall into place as a villain. In the case of Mysterio, his personal connection to Peter was formed over an insignificant friendship that is barely fleshed out throughout the movie. It was so insipid that I was genuinely surprised when Peter gave Mysterio full control of E.D.I.T.H, because they did not convince me, as the viewer, that they had a great connection. Then, we discover Mysterio’s true intention – to be regarded as an Avenger. That is not a Spider-Man villain motivation, being much more reminiscent to that of an Avengers’ enemy motivation, which turned me off to the movie completely.

Then, on December 17th, 2021, after two years of waiting, we were given Spider-Man: No Way Home. I had no prior intentions of watching this film, but after watching the promotional material for the film, I had to watch in anticipation of seeing Tobey and Andrew as Spider-Man again. After having watched the film, it all clicked – I finally understand this trilogy. For so long, I was so confused as to why Peter Parker was so childish and why these movies felt so low-stakes. By the end of No Way Home, I realized that this trilogy is an extended origin story for Peter Parker. In these past three movies, we’ve watched Parker start as a Stark protege, who had no real motive for what he was doing. Peter had never learned what it meant to be a hero, he was just following the example set by his idols. From Homecoming up until The first act of No Way Home, Peter is still just a kid. He’s carefree, relaxed, and makes mistakes. This movie is a catalyst for Peter.

Once Green Goblin (along with Doc Ock, Electro, Sandman, and the Lizard), is introduced to the movie, everything goes haywire. Goblin, played by the brilliant Willem Dafoe, remains dormant for the majority of Norman Osborne’s introduction to the movie. He uses the calm and collected demeanor of Osborne to manipulate Peter’s naivety into attempting to save all these individuals, rather than let them go home and die. This is a key component to the story because Peter’s willingness to do the right thing ends up having severe consequences he’s never had. Once the Goblin reveals himself, he decimates the apartment building, and taunts Peter for being, “strong enough to have it all, too weak to take it.” Osborne is brought into this universe to teach a lesson the MCU’s Parker has never been taught – being a superhero is dangerous to you and everyone you love. No Way Home makes it abundantly clear that Goblin has a case to state, and just to prove a point, he kills Aunt May in front of Peter. In her dying breaths, May tells Peter the lesson he never learned, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter is crushed. He wants nothing more but to kill the man who did it, a feeling all too familiar with fans of the previous Spider-Man entries. 

Peter, devastated by his grief, is conflicted with the rage brought upon Goblin killing his Aunt and his own culpability in the situation. Tobey and Andrew are then brought into the film with their initial purpose being to help Holland’s Peter deal with this grief because they’ve experienced this situation with their Uncle Ben. Once the climactic fight occurs, Peter uses his window of opportunity to attempt to kill the Goblin, only to be stopped by Maguire’s Peter. Maguire’s Peter stops him because in his universe, he was just as mad. Maguire’s Peter wanted nothing more but to kill Uncle Ben’s murderer, and then he did. He got what he wanted, yet he felt empty. He felt empty and just as disgusting as the man who killed Uncle Ben. He realized what truly helped him honor Ben’s memory was to use his power responsibly to help who he could. He wanted to avoid Holland’s Peter from enacting the same revenge and going through the same guilt and self-hatred. So, he teaches Holland one simple lesson – “curing people; it’s what we do.”  Along with these words, Peter realizes being a hero is so much more than him. He realizes that Spider-Man and Peter Parker are two separate people, and they need to be treated as such. Peter is a young adult, he wants to go to college, he wants to treat his girlfriend, etc. Spider-Man, however, is a hero. His job is to help who he can – and to make his world the brightest he can make it because he knows what it’s like to live in darkness. He realizes what he needs to do, and so he asks Doctor Strange to undo the spell, which would cause everyone in existence to forget who Peter Parker is, meaning he loses everything. He is insistent. 

I don’t know what to expect from the next trilogy of Spider-Man movies, but the Peter we will have in those movies is going to be different, more mature. He’s not a kid anymore, and his story’s just begun.