To any follower of the film industry, Anton Yelchin was an immense talent. He was charismatic, likable, and notably diverse displaying range in each of his performances. Whether it was a studio blockbuster or becoming a critical darling, Yelchin was undoubtedly on course for even more success. Perhaps it would have hit him years ago when in 2010 his name appeared on the shortlist for the role of one of the most iconic superheroes of all-time, The Amazing Spider-Man. As it goes, Andrew Garfield would eventually don the tights in 2012 for the short-lived franchise reboot, only to be handed off to Tom Holland to join the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe in this year's "Captain America: Civil War."
With the good will from that film, and the amazing cast line-up for next year's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," which include the likes of Michale Keaton ("Birdman," "Spotlight"), Hannibal Buress ("Broad City"), and Abraham Attah ("Beasts of No Nation"), there seems to be resurgence of excitement to see yet another Spider-Man that is too infectious to fight. Yet this buzz mixed with the untimely tragedy of Yelchin's death, calls to mind just how things would have turned out had he been given the chance to take on "great power, with great responsibility."
Yelchin's career began at an early age, with him acting in shows such as "E.R." and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He would evolve to be an emotionally diverse talent. From his enigmatic and competent turn in “Charlie Bartlett” (2007) to his exhausted, desperate, and cutthroat performance in “Green Room” (2016), Yelchin never fell into the pitfall of typecasting like so many other young actors do. He was also able to pull off the ever-coveted ability to obtain indie credibility whilst having a foothold in the realm of blockbusters, with perhaps his most recognizable role, as Pavel Chekov in the J.J. Abrams-helmed “Star Trek” reboots. Yelchin showed promise that was screaming for leading man material, and although he was given his turn in a handful of films ("Terminator Salvation," "Fright Night"), none of them ever quite took off. Despite his commended performances in each one. His presence could have likely been overshadowed by his co-stars, which included the likes of Felicity Jones, Colin Farrell, and Robert Downey Jr. Yet, it was his presence and capability that built the support around each actor’s respective own, proving his worth as an ensemble player. Nevertheless, it was only a matter of time before he landed something that would resonate with the mainstream public
However, in observation of Yelchin’s demeanor, mannerisms, and charisma, it's very hard not to ponder what could have been if he ever did take up the mantle. One of the most defining attributes of Yelchin’s craft was his ability to appear endearingly shy. This came across evidently during his courtship of Felicity Jones in “Like Crazy” and as the naïve prey in “Alpha Dog” (2006). There was an awkward innocence to him, a boy-next-door charm, something that defines the early portrayals of a young Peter Parker. Although Garfield was charismatic in his own right, it is debatable on if he lacked the physically awkward relatability to Peter Parker, making him seem more like a handsome loner than a geeky but sweet kid. Yelchin, perhaps, could have balanced both looks and personality to provide a happy medium for the “Web-Head.” However, one of the most herald aspects to Garfield's performance was his natural capability as a romantic lead, with scenes of him and co-star Emma Stone spotlighting the short-term franchise. But Yelchin proved himself of such similar capability alongside Felicity Jones (she herself eventually appearing in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), with a tenderness and innocence not only carried in his appearance but in his delivery as well. Such innocence and awkwardness exuded from Yelchin, but it was this awkwardness that made him one of the most natural, normal, and human actors working.
The image of an awkwardly relatable Spider-Man can be commented to Tom Holland’s current portrayal, who many fans have already praised to be the closest to the genuine thing. However, what's rather interesting is how, in his early twenties (the same age as Holland), Yelchin seemed to look, sound, and act eerily similar to Holland in this year's “Civil War.” One only needs to watch Yelchin in "Charlie Barlett" to see this connection, living the double life of an ex-prep school student and a makeshift psychiatrist/drug dealer all while carrying baby-faced charm. Holland is pulling off the same duality, albeit with less cockiness, but has to siphon it all with the same charm as Yelchin did. The character of Bartlett carries the same wit and sass as a John Hughes protagonist, a source that the new portrayal of Spider-Man will base itself creatively off of. It doesn't make it easier not to see the connection further considering Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., is playing the neurotic authority figure over each of the boys' respective films. Even the pitch of their voices seems to be in sync, with Yelchin being able to portray youthful characters well into his twenties in voice over roles such as "The Smurfs" (2011) and "Aardman’s Pirates" (2012). Audiences will have yet to see how Holland carries a solo performance before "Spider-Man: Homecoming" swings into theaters, but if it can be as good as Yelchin was in Bartlett than we should be in for a real treat.
We'll never know what Yelchin would have brought to the role of "Spidey," but through his other performances, it's not hard to imagine he would have done a respectable job. However, perhaps such a role would have impaired him from the creative opportunities he was offered later in his career, or maybe even face overexposure, preventing him from doing the work he was very passionate about. In not securing a huge role like that, one has to assume that perhaps Yelchin saw more to life than the dollar sign or fame. Those who worked with and were close to him commend him as a brilliant mind and a great philosopher, very much following in the footsteps of numerous "Stark Trek" alumni. Such a mindset is rare to find in an industry where it is easy to fall into superficiality, yet many of his collaborators found him to be everything but. In fact, before his passing, Yelchin was set to make the transition from actor to director with his debut film “Travis.” What vision he would have brought will never be known, but given the praise for his brilliant mind, it was certainly a film that showed promise. Yelchin may never have taken off as a household name, but no one can say that he was "not accomplished.”The impression he left within his twenty-seven years is one any actor should be deeply proud of, and it was just going to continue to flourish.
R.I.P. Anton Yelchin-- thank you for the laughs, the tears, and your humanity.