It’s been a couple of months since Spider-Man: Homecoming came out, but it hit the screens when I was in a period of basically never getting anything up on this blog. Fortunately, it also came out while I was in Asia and had access to relatively cinema tickets, so I was able to freely go with my two younger daughters (the oldest, and their mother, were back in Australia). Good times!
And it was a good movie, a fun watch.
Much opinion was spilled over the internet when this movie came out amongst movie and comic book bloggers. Basically, most people seemed to like it, treating it as if we’d at last had the Spider-Man movie that we’d always wanted, or the Spider-Man movie we’d always deserved. Some seemed to behave as if all those other attempts delivered only pale imitations of the character, but now that Marvel itself had their carefully-negotiated hands upon the character, we finally were getting a more definitive interpretation of the property.
I’m probably overstating it, but I’d say opinions like that overstated it as well. In the five films that Sony put out before a new version of the character debuted in Captain America: Civil War, we’d had a lot of good Spider-Man stuff. Though Sam Raimi’s version of the character certainly had missteps, and also feels a bit dated in light of the 75 mainstream superhero comic book movies that have come out in the meantime, he still did a good job and Spider-Man 2 especially is a good movie with a villain who was better done than most of Marvel’s big-screen attempts. And with all of Marc Webb’s film’s storytelling missteps, Andrew Garfield’s performance as the wall-crawler was exemplary and his romantic chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy perhaps unbeaten in a superhero film.
So all that to say, we’ve had some decent Spider-Man stuff since Tobey Maguire first went swinging along the rooftops in 2002, but of course we’ve had some ugly material as well. Spider-Man: Homecoming comes along, and it’s a good movie–probably somewhere in the pile of the “second best” Marvel films–you know, below Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, but better than Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. Maybe in the realm of Ant-Man.
But this is a movie that only works because it’s working against all those other Spider-Man big screen adaptations. I guarantee that if we hadn’t had five other cinematic outings, all us fanboys would be pretty up-in-arms about the whole thing.
Liz Allen? The Vulture? A suit with a built in AI? A socially awkward, tech-savvy sidekick? Really? we’d all be crying. What in the world? Where’s Uncle Ben? Where’s Mary Jane? Where’s Norman Osborn? Where’s “With great power comes great responsibility”? Where is the swinging from the rooftops? Where’s the Daily Bugle? Where’s the angst??!
But because we’ve had literally hours of that stuff–some great, some terrible–Marvel and director Jon Watts made the wise move of taking a completely different approach with this whole thing. Homecoming features a relatively guilt-free Peter Parker, solidly entrenched in high school, dealing with issues like finding a date for the homecoming dance and winning the academic olympics. It portrays Spider-Man as a junior hero in a world of heroes, just learning the ropes from the “big boys” (aka Robert Downey jr as Iron Man). It takes Spider-Man into some fairly fresh environments, like Washington, DC, a high altitude airplane, and in fact, Queens.
And the results are pretty promising. Tom Holland is not really “my” Peter Parker, but makes for an engaging hero. His friendship with Ned doesn’t remind me of anything I’ve seen in a Spider-Man comic before, but it makes for a fun dynamic. The Vulture is one of the least interesting villains that I’ve seen Spider-Man fight in the comics, but Michael Keaton is great in the part, and makes for one of the more believable and motivated bad guys that the Marvel films have had.
And the story ties nicely into the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Adrian Toomes’ crimes showing us some of the seediness going on in the background of all the other movies. I also enjoyed seeing a bit more of Robert Downey jr. as Tony Stark–what I assume will serve as a nice breather for the character between the events of Civil War and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. Hmm, the lull between two wars, I guess.
The climax of Homecoming nicely avoids the fairly standard superhero film trope of having the final battle be a semi-cosmic earth-shattering conflict, instead opting for something a bit smaller scale and more intimate, while still being exciting. Again, it’s not what we’d want to see in every such movie, but it was a wise move to help distinguish this from the @20 other movies this is directly connected to, and the @20 other films that we can’t help be reminded of when we’re watching this.
So there’s a lot to enjoy about Homecoming, and I’m game for this version of Spider-Man for however long they can keep it going.