First Pitch: Day Twenty Nine – Spider-Man

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, skip this article. If you’re looking for links to Pirates coverage, I’ll include that above the article today.

Spoiler-filled review below the Song of the Day.

Daily Links

**Winter Leagues: Randy Romero Continues His Season in Mexico

Romero is having a great offseason. We’ll take a look at his progress next week.

**Taking a Look at Pirates Projections from ZiPS, Steamer

Danny Demilio recaps the recent ZiPS and Steamer projections for the Pirates.

**Which Pirates Relievers Could Improve in 2022?

Jason Gindele looks at xERA to see which Pittsburgh Pirates relievers might improve in 2022. You know, assuming there is a 2022.

**This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 30th, A Trade of Babes

Eight former Pirates born on December 29th, highlighted by Jack Wilson and Clyde Barnhart, two players who put in nine seasons in a Pittsburgh uniform.

**Card of the Day: 1916 M101-4 Jim Viox

Our first look at the 1998 Fleer Ultra set, featuring outfielder Emil Brown, who is also making his first appearance in this series. The article looks at an insert card from this set.

PBN Updates

First Pitch: Day Twenty Eight – Pirates Prospects

Song of the Day

First Pitch Topic of the Day

In the summer of 2001, I was with my family on vacation in Orlando. While visiting Universal Studios, we took a break from the July Florida heat to see a movie at Universal’s Citywalk theater.

That movie? Spider-Man.

Twenty years later, now living in Orlando, I went to the same theater to see Spider-Man: No Way Home. Watching on a massive screen, with a rowdy sold-out crowd on the very first show of opening day confirmed to me one thing: It’s all about the theater crowd.

The Sony logo appeared on screen after the previews. Someone shouted “Let’s Go” and the theater erupted. The energy stayed strong throughout the movie, with every reveal being treated like a run being scored by the home team at a baseball game.

And those reveals.

It’s difficult to avoid spoilers these days, especially with Marvel movies. The industry for speculation and reporting on who will be in what future movie is growing. I went into this expecting to see Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, while still thinking that those rumors might have been false. I didn’t know what to believe, but I expected anything.

Still, when Andrew Garfield first appeared, I was surprised.

Part of my surprise was at how much the theater exploded to see him. I always liked Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. The problem with The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel was not Garfield. I liked that they introduced Gwen Stacy, rather than going back to Mary Jane Watson again. The choices of bad guys — Lizard and Electro, were also fresh from the previous three movies.

The downside to these movies was that it came during the early stages of “Shared Universe Mania.” Marvel had just released The Avengers, bringing together characters from four different film franchises into one story. DC Comics tried to launch their own universe, which has really struggled. Sony also made this attempt with Spider-Man. The difference was that Marvel planned their universe out, taking years to build up to The Avengers. DC just opened with Justice League, after a sub-par Superman debut. Sony rebooted the Spider-Man franchise with plans for tons of spinoffs and obscure solo movies.

The problem was that they rebooted the franchise. They didn’t build off the previous three movies. We saw another version of Peter Parker in high school, only he didn’t look like a high schooler, and his responsibilities (outside of being Spider-Man) were advanced for any high schooler. It would have been cool to see Andrew Garfield as a Spider-Man in his 20s, almost where the Tobey Maguire franchise left off.

And that’s ultimately where Garfield returned in No Way Home. He wasn’t the mature, knowledgeable Peter Parker that we saw from Tobey Maguire (more on him later). Instead, this was a version of Spider-Man who was clearly still dealing with the death of Gwen Stacy, and still in that phase where he’s discovering the full might of his Spider-Man abilities.

There were some subtle jabs throughout the movie at the public perception of those former movies. The scene where Ned says talks about finding the real Peter Parker, after they previously found Garfield’s version, to which he responded “Ouch.” The scene at the end where he begrudgingly accepted that his code name was “Peter 3” between the three Peter Parkers.

Andrew Garfield may have been the best Spider-Man in this movie. He represented everything Spider-Man truly is. From the start, he’s implicitly trusting of potential allies in MJ and Ned. His curiosity of the new universe and the other Spider-Men was strong — notice that he was much more eager to learn than Maguire, but a bit more mature with the questions than Tom Holland. If they were the brothers he always wanted, Garfield was the middle child who could relate to either of the other two Peter Parkers.

The payoff was the scene where Tom Holland’s Spider-Man dove to save a falling MJ, only to be knocked off course by the Green Goblin. Garfield easily saved MJ by diving into action with his body this time, rather than firing off a web from up high like he did with Gwen, which ultimately broke her neck. I’ll admit, I teared up when he asked “Are you okay?” and was clearly thinking about Gwen.

That is Spider-Man.

Spider-Man loses people. People he loves. He had the power to save them. But the reality is that he can’t save everyone, and some things are out of his control, especially when goblins are constantly attacking his women across every timeline. And yet, with all of that loss — Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, Aunt May — he still finds a way to keep pushing on, and keep saving others as Spider-Man, fueled by the grief that he couldn’t save the one he loved.

Speaking of loss, there’s Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. I loved that this movie focused on him for the first two acts, ultimately ending in Aunt May’s death. I did not expect that to happen, and by that point, I had forgotten about Garfield and Maguire, who showed up almost immediately after this scene. This movie officially cemented Holland as Spider-Man.

One downside to the MCU is that we haven’t seen a true Spider-Man. A chatty hero in battle? Sure. A kid who has a great power, and has yet to fully embrace his great responsibility? Absolutely. But this Spider-Man had an advantage in Iron Man.

That was all removed from the start of this movie, with the fallout from Mysterio severing his ties to any help his connection to The Avengers could provide. I mean, if there are any Avengers left at this point. What we saw was a hero who had seen the public turned against him by a rogue media source (the return of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson was fantastic), and yet he still continued to do the Spider-Man thing and try to save the world.

What did it get him? The death of his aunt. The memory of Peter Parker erased from everyone he ever knew. Granted, a lot of these issues stem from bad choices he made early. The movie repeatedly nails home the idea that he was trying to have everything — be Spider-Man in public, but also be Peter Parker in private and never have the two worlds converge. When they converged, his solution was to go to Doctor Strange and find a way to have it all once again. By the end of the movie, he made the hard choice to commit to the Spider-Man side, leaving Peter Parker behind. He’s still Peter Parker — as this is a very Peter Parker thing to do — but the world will only know him as Spider-Man.

I’m not sure where this leaves him in the MCU. He’s obviously still there, and people would still think Spider-Man is a bad guy. No one knows who he is, which means the heroes who know he’s not a bad guy now have no clue whether he’s good or bad. This could create some interesting storylines in the future, especially if they introduce the Venom symbiote, as was teased in the after-credits.

The big payoff was the return of Tobey Maguire as an older, more mature Spider-Man. Since the end of Spider-Man 3, we learned that he and MJ worked through their issues, and are doing fine. He seems to have a grasp on being Spider-Man at this point. He’s also more self-aware at what he’s gone through, such as citing “existential crisis” as the reason for his “web block”, aka, the time he couldn’t shoot webs.

This Peter Parker was a mentor to both Spider-Men. He stopped Garfield’s version from negative self-talk, insisting that he refer to himself as Amazing. That plays on the title of Garfield’s movie, but also worked on a more meta level to help reinforce that Garfield was a good Spider-Man, and the fact that his big claim was “fighting a guy in a Rhino robot suit” was not a reflection on him or his abilities.

The bigger save from Maguire’s Spider-Man came at the end, where he stopped Holland’s version from killing The Green Goblin with his own glider. The older, more mature Parker had already been there before, taking his rage and out-of-control anger out on another version of The Green Goblin when he pumpkin bombed Harry Osborn in Spider-Man 3. He stopped the youngest Peter Parker from going down that path, allowing him to stay on the hero trail.

The three Spider-Men worked perfect together. An older, mature mentor. A middle-child with experience who still lacks confidence, due to beating himself up over mistakes in the past. And a still-child who has had everything easy to this point, until getting a shove into the real world and all the problems it can bring.

I’ve said before that we can all see ourselves in Spider-Man. I think in this movie, we can see different versions of ourselves over time, and imagine what might happen if the 38-year-old version of you could help the 26-year-old version or the 18-year-old version. More importantly, the three Spider-Men show the growth and maturity of one person over time, faced with similar issues across the multiverse.

The Spider-Men were great. But this movie was made by the villains.

It was great to see Sandman return. Lizard was on the same tier as a bad guy who it was good to see return, but who was clearly third-tier. In each case, these guys felt more like fillers, but their history with their respective Spider-Man boosted their roles and made their returns solid additions. This also ensured that there was one bad guy from each of the first five Spider-Man movies.

The second-tier villain was Electro, featuring a new look for Jamie Foxx. I liked this version a lot better, and it’s not hard to improve on the version in TASM2. This showed a huge difference between Sony and Marvel. Same character, same powers, same origin story, same history, and same actor. The difference was that Marvel provided a deeper character, torn between the desire for power and the desire to be good. That’s ultimately the tear between every villain, and they ultimately choose the wrong one. Electro made the same choice, taking a Tony Stark reactor to become the best version of himself. He might have been the biggest threat, if not for Doc Ock helping the Spider-Men.

Seeing Alfred Molina return as Doc Ock was one of the top highlights of the movie. My theater exploded when he appeared for the first time on the bridge, even though that was something seen in the previews. He was quickly neutralized, and ultimately cured, making him an ally throughout the rest of the movie. The reunion between him and Maguire’s Peter Parker was a great nod to how far Peter has come since then, and the relationship they had working together before Otto’s accident.

Having Doc Ock out of the way paved the way for The Green Goblin to emerge as the top bad guy, and in this case, Willem Dafoe delivered the best performance of the movie. This wasn’t just a return of The Green Goblin for the sake of the fans. This was a darker version than we’ve ever seen. The way the movie worked, this version was taken from his universe right before he was killed. This was moments after threatening to kill MJ and a cable car full of school kids. Then, he shows up in another universe confused and uncured.

Dafoe delivered a great performance as Norman Osborn, dealing with a troubled mind and the control the Goblin had over him. The Goblin took full control after Doc Ock mentioned to Norman that he’d finally be himself. That scene where Holland’s Spider tingle went off, alerting him to the fact that the Goblin had taken over Norman, was fantastic.

The trend with Osborn and Octavius highlighted serious mental health issues with the villains — hearing voices in their heads that control them and provide multiple personalities. That left the question — which personality is the real one? When Doc Ock took down Electro, he did it by feigning an attack on the Spider-Men, which Electro believed, even though Electro was in the room when Ock was cured. There was still a question of whether the real Ock, without the broken microchip that allowed him to control his robotic arms, was a good person.

Likewise, the movie never really resolved whether Norman Osborn was a good person. The Goblin is clearly a bad guy, but did the cure at the end actually work to make him an overall good person? He glowed out of the universe before we could tell.

Thus, my idea for where they go from here. Sony now has their Spider-Man universe built, thanks to Marvel. Each of the former Spider-Men exist in a different universe from the one that has Holland. Sony has already started movies with bad guys in other universes. Venom was revealed to be in a different universe in the after-credits scene, but he shares the same universe with Morbius, whose movie comes out in January. Who is the Spider-Man in this universe?

i would like to see that be Garfield’s Spider-Man. There has been a reference to Spider-Man in the Morbius trailer, with a picture of him having the word “Murderer?” written over it. When the trailer first aired, we could assume that it was a reference to Holland’s Spider-Man and the fallout from Mysterio. However, Morbius has been revealed to be in the same universe as Venom in a recent trailer. That means the Spider-Man in his universe is a different one who is facing questions of murder.

There was a key line in the movie by Garfield about how he stopped pulling his punches and was fueled by rage. It would be cool to see the aftermath of that, with Garfield returning to his universe a healed Peter Parker, but still facing a universe that remembers his actions, and needing to take on the likes of Venom, Morbius, and perhaps even Kraven the Hunter, who is rumored to get a Sony movie. Any of the three would be better bad guys than he saw in the first two Amazing Spider-Man movies.

The big thing I’d like to see is a Spider-Man 4 featuring Willem Dafoe as a “cured” Norman Osborn, rising to power as the mayor of the city, with the question remaining: “Was he actually cured?” He’s returning to his universe with a lot of knowledge, specifically of The Avengers, who don’t exist in his universe. This would be a cool opportunity to have a “healed” Norman Osborn create a Dark Avengers group full of questionable heroes, with Spider-Man being at odds with the group, and Osborn ultimately being a ticking time bomb.

As for the MCU version of Spider-Man, I don’t know where he goes from here, but I’m optimistic we will see more beyond this movie.

I’m interested in what everyone else thought of No Way Home. Leave your thoughts and review in the comments!

UPDATE: All of this and I didn’t even mention Matt Murdock! I’ll talk about him next week in my Hawkeye review. He’s a really good lawyer.



WEDNESDAY: Pirates Prospects

THURSDAY: Marvel/Comics

FRIDAY: Debate – This week’s debate topic has already been discussed on the site a bit this week.

SATURDAY: Music – Saturday will have my full top albums and songs of 2021.


First Pitch