Geek Couples: Tom Holland's Spider-Man & MJ - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Geek Couples: Tom Holland's Spider-Man & MJ

Chris Morley does whatever a spider can.
As our annual Geek Couples feature begins another run (followed by a web-sling), can we really afford not to take the opportunity to look at Spider-Man & his good lady, Mary-Jane Watson across their many different on-screen pairings? And as Marvel seem to be quite happy with hopping between universes, we can allow ourselves to do just the same here, starting with the most recent cinematic incarnation of Spidey as played by Tom Holland, with Zendaya as MJ.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe's approach to the character of Spider-Man presents, what fans of the comic books might term, the most recognisably teenage romance of the fair few he's enjoyed on the big screen. Although Holland's first solo film in the famous red & black suit, Spider-Man: Homecoming was radical for how it presented MJ - and not just because this one isn't actually even really called MJ, she's Michelle, the initials intended to play with the viewer's perception - as producer Kevin Feige said around the time of its release, she's"not obsessed with" Peter, "she's just observant". Right you are, then!

Peter Parker's actual love interest in Homecoming is Liz, the daughter of Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture, a whole new take on the idea of your girlfriend's dad not liking you! Toomes himself is presented as an ordinary working family man, at least until his morally dubious sideline is revealed....
“Things are never gonna be the same now. I mean, look at this. We’ve got aliens, we’ve got big green guys tearing down buildings.”

That's just one of many problems facing the here fifteen-year-old Peter. Tom Holland admitted that while his Spider-Man took inspiration from predecessors Andrew Garfield & Tobey Maguire, he was keen to bring a sense of teen realism alongside the whole saving the day thing. Hence, having got his girl & worked up the courage to ask her to the high school dance, he then has to dash off to stop the Vulture, saving him from almost certain death & leaving him for the police to deal with - who among us can say we've not been in similar situations in the name of love, eh?

The high school setting in itself was a conscious move away from what had been tackled in previous films - Feige making clear that
“There are so many things from the comics that haven't been done yet ... stories [that Spider-Man is] in high school for a lot of it.

We want to explore that. That also makes him very, very different from any of our other characters in the MCU.”
And indeed, arguably makes him Stan Lee's most genius creation - the hero not put up on a pedestal but presented as an ordinary human being who just so happens to acquire incredible powers. And here never more ordinary than when navigating the potential minefield of the cusp of manhood, with Holland himself preparing for a version of the American school system by experiencing it, as he told Slash Film.......
“ Marvel actually sent me to a school in the Bronx where I had a fake name, and I put on an accent, and I went for like three days. I basically had to go to this science school and blend in with all the kids, and some of the teachers didn’t even know. It was a science school, and I am in no way a science student!

Some of the teachers would call me up in front of the class and try to get me to do science equations and stuff – it was so embarrassing.

But it was actually really informative because schools in London are so different. I would go to school every day in a suit and tie, with just boys. To be in a school where you can be free and let loose, and be with girls, it was so different. Like SO different. But yeah, it was a really great experience. “
From that side of the teenage experience to another perhaps more familiar motif of that difficult age - social media.
“You’re the Spider-Man. From YouTube!”
Quite correct, as his friend & peer Ned Leeds points out. However, even that pales compares to getting used to being the hero!
“Just a typical Homecoming on the outside of an invisible jet, fighting my girlfriend’s dad.”
It's not until Toomes is in prison & his family is forced to move away that we begin to see something resembling what we recognise is quite the bond between Peter & MJ, with Far From Home going some way to cementing it as well as presenting a Spider-Man still very much learning his craft.

Remarkably, MJ's not the least bit surprised to learn of his up to then secret identity. Her parts in that little exchange above going quite some way to giving Zendaya the freedom to stray as far from, say, Kirsten Dunst's take on the role as possible. The pair do at least get trips to those loveliest of destinations, Paris & Venice respectively!
“Go to the Eiffel Tower. Should be great. Yeah, I read it was secretly built as a mind control antenna to create an army of the insane.”
Another zippy little verbal back & forth just to show how far both have grown as people & indeed characters since being freed from the constraints of what went before in both film & comic formats, while retaining a natural playfulness between the pair which sizzles along nicely throughout.

And in perhaps an on-point victory of sorts, Quentin Beck aka Mysterio seemingly gets one over on Spider-Man through the very medium which had up to this point served only in a sense to heighten his own fame.....
“I managed to send the Elemental back into the dimensional rift but I don't think I'm gonna make it off this bridge alive. Spider-Man attacked me for some reason.

He has an army of weaponized drones, Stark technology. He's saying he's the only one who's gonna be the new Iron Man , no one else.”
Thanks to a bit of clever editing, the world then hears the five words least likely ever to escape old web- head's lips.
“Do it. Execute them all.”
Technology and the rise of online 'news' also bring about what is now potentially the most difficult chapter in young Parker's life, all set in motion after his what should've been a romantic swing through New York with MJ in his arms, rather it turned into a nightmare first date and the unmasking of his secret identity.

For us, it's time to dip a toe into The Amazing Spider-Man, tackling similar themes but in oh so different a manner despite the harking back to March of 1963 & where it all began for the besuited young buck.

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