Within the realm of live-action adaptations, the Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly distinguishes its Spider-Man from all the other versions that have come before him. Tom Holland plays Peter Parker as the humble, quirky high school kid that everyone can almost relate to, which is one of the reasons why both Spider-Man: Homecoming and now Spider-Man: Far From Home have been so well-received by both critics and audiences.

However, there's one point of criticism about the hero  that hasn't been addressed in the recent film: his over-reliance on Tony Stark. In fact, Spidey's recent European adventure makes him even more reliant on the now, which is a problem for those of us who enjoyed Spider-Man for being the friendly neighborhood hero who relies solely on himself a lot of the time. That isn't the web-slinger we've come to know in the MCU.

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When we were first introduced to Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War (directed by Joe and Anthony Russo), he had only been Spider-Man for six months and was still adjusting to it. Ultimately, Peter Parker was still just a 15 year old kid who did his best at school and didn't have much money or experience being a superhero. That changed when Tony Stark entered his life, eager for another recruit in his fight against Captain America.

Peter Parker's initial depiction in that film wasn't too far off from depictions of him in the comics. In the early days, he was usually strapped for cash and struggling to make ends meet. He worked as a photographer for the Daily Bugle through high school and college, then briefly became a teacher until finally he was offered a job at Horizon Labs, which is when his luck with money turned around for a little while.

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Significantly, these were realistic issues that everyone could relate to, and these issues were a big part of what made Peter Parker stand out from the superhero crowd. Civil War briefly touched on these ideas  by revealing that Peter went dumpster diving, but it would have been an interesting aspect of Spider-Man to expand on. Unfortunately, Spider-Man's first MCU solo film, Spider-Man: Homecoming (directed by Jon Watts), failed to explore the matter entirely.

Even if we look past his resources and explore Peter Parker's character, the MCU's Peter Parker is still lacking because of Tony Stark's prominent role in guiding his life.

What Homecoming succeeded in doing, if only momentarily, was showing that Spider-Man was strong enough on his own. In the third act, he was forced to free himself from rubble, a scene that mirrored the classic moment in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man #33 in which Spidey uses sheer willpower to summon the strength to lift himself out from under heavy machinery in order to save Aunt May.

It was an emotionally impactful moment in the film, but it was surrounded by relatively low stakes and a largely impersonal struggle that wasn't enough to make the hero anywhere near as admirable as his comic book counterpart.. So far, the only real thing Peter has had to suffer through has been his encounters with supervillains and turning to dust for a little while, although the emotional impact of the latter is still largely unseen at this point.

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Compared to everything that Peter Parker had experienced in the comic books before being influenced by Tony Stark in the mid-2000s, the MCU's Peter Parker has had it easy. He lost his Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, he almost lost Aunt May, he'd been buried alive, his loved ones were constantly under threat by psychotic supervillains, his closest friend went through a difficult addiction and for a while, the love of his life went missing. He got through it all thanks to the teachings of his Uncle Ben and his Aunt May and often, no one else. Even after he had become close friends with Iron Man, Tony Stark had minimal impact on the life Peter had already gotten used to living, and Peter had already come into his own as a superhero.

Turning Tony Stark into a father figure for the MCU's Peter is an interesting twist that's been well-executed quite thanks to the writers of the MCU and the natural chemistry between actors Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland. However, this relationship has completely changed Spider-Man as a character in the MCU. In both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man jumps into battle, in large part, to impress Tony Stark and make a case for his spot in the Avengers. That has never been who Spider-Man is.

Since Avengers: Endgame brought about Tony Stark's heroic demise, he's been able to replace Uncle Ben as Peter's source of parental guidance in Spider-Man: Far From Home. If Tony Stark's influence had ended with him cast as a lost father-figure, the recent film might have been able to direct Spidey toward the far more recognizable lifestyle and characteristics akin to those of the comic book character. As it stands, the film does nothing to steer Peter away from Stark's shadow, and only pushes him further into it by proclaiming him the next Iron Man in almost every way possible.

Peter Parker isn't just a kid from Queens anymore, and Far From Home shows that he now has Stark's gadgets, assistance from Stark Industries, the support of Happy Hogan and the scientific knowledge he needs to replace Iron Man. Ultimately, this just feels wrong.While the Spider-Man of the comic book Marvel Universe has to struggle and fight for everything in his life, these advantages feel largely unearned for the MCU's Peter. Instead of developing Spider-Man's unique qualities, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has reshaped him into something that is almost indistinguishable from the franchise's other high-tech heroes.

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There are sure to be more Spider-Man focused films in Phase 4 of the MCU. Given the uncertain place the film's mid-credits scene leaves him, we can only hope that the wall-crawler gets his chance to become the hero comic books fans have loved for decades. The MCU's Spider-Man already has many of the more superficial qualities of the hero: he's funny, humble, intelligent and has a good heart. Now, he just needs to explore the responsibility that comes with his power on his own, and he won't be able to do that until, he swings out from Tony's grand shadow.

Directed by Jon Watts, Spider-Man: Far From Home stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon and Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.

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