Why Ned Leeds from Spider-man: Homecoming Has Blessed Us

There is a lot to celebrate when it comes to the latest Spider-Man “reboot”—besides the movie actually being really, really, really amazing. The best Spider-Man movie yet in my humble opinion. I am totally biased though, Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel hero. Although, I admit, Spider-Man 2 with Tobey McGuire still holds a special place in my heart. Alfred Molina as Doc Ock. Can’t deny, fam.

Still, Spider-Man: Homecoming did an amazing job casting a diverse group of actors and since I am Filipino, I had to talk about the outstanding performance by Jacob Batalon as Need Leeds.

Seriously… Batalon is a gift.

It is always exciting for me to see a Filipino actor on the big screen in a huge Hollywood movie… and not only that, a Spider-Man movie by Marvel! I love all the updates to the Spider-Man universe in this film. I love that the character is able to move on from its very rigid structure and this is truly a Peter Parker for a new generation. This movie didn’t have to rehash the Uncle Ben story because it was smart enough to assume the audience already knew.

Batalon as Ned Leeds is a great update and having him as Peter’s best friend truly grounded the story. As someone who hung out with mostly outsiders and nerdy kids when I was growing up (these new movies making me feel old though), Ned made Spider-Man truly relatable. Finally, Peter isn’t surrounded by ridiculously good-looking, white people all the goddamn time (though, yes, James Franco as Harry Osborn holds another special place in my heart…). Batalon and their crew of awkward, teenage misfits had me smiling from start to end of the movie.

Tom Holland did an amazing job as Peter Parker, but Batalon held his own when it came to screen presence.

He is the best friend that Spider-Man needed. Funny, smart, fearless and loyal. Their banter and relationship was so down to earth, that I recognized the distant memories of being that young and having your whole life revolve around school and friendships. I kind of miss having a best friend who I could just hang out with at the end of a school day and do random things with like build Lego Star Wars death stars.

So, here’s a huge shout out to my boy, Jacob. I am excited to see him in future Spider-Man movies and hope to see him in other projects because— let’s say it together, boys and girls!— representation matters.

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