(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
The 2000s have seen six Spider-Man movies and three different incarnations of the character. Tobey Maguire played bookish, nerdy Peter Parker while Andrew Garfield possessed all the charisma of the web-slinging superhero. However, the issue with both of these portrayals is that there was no balance. Audiences received a timid Spider-man or a Peter Parker who seemed a bit too cool to get bullied the way you’re supposed to believe, and nothing in between.
Here is what “Spider-man: Homecoming” does right: Peter Parker is first, and foremost, a teenager.
The vlog-style recap of “Civil War” at the beginning of “Homecoming” sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is funny, earnest, and a little hopeless. His Spider-Man makes mistakes and finds himself way out of his depth as he tries to keep up with his “Avengers” counterparts. Holland perfects balance between Peter Parker and Spider-Man, especially as a Spidey so new to the game. The core of the film lies in Parker’s ability to maintain a double life while pursuing his crime-fighting dreams, and the tension that double life is destined to bring. It’s fun and hilarious to watch Peter juggle events like school decathlons and bank robberies, all the while appealing to adults content to ignore him, determined to prove himself as worthy.
But when that journey to prove himself suddenly isn’t funny anymore, when the audience witnesses a sobbing Peter nearly crushed beneath a collapsed warehouse begging those same adults to save him, everything changes. It brings a new, much needed dimension to the typical hero’s journey, and it’s uncomfortable to watch.
Superhero movies these days are all about portraying the main character as unbeatable. When the going gets tough, you never truly believe someone like Iron Man or Captain America is going to bite the dust. Even if they do, it’s never for very long. The trend of reviving characters has notoriously removed the gravity from fictional death. However, recent films like “Logan” portray broken versions of the mutants we’ve been seeing on screen for over fifteen years, and to rave reviews. Is it possible that the tide of invulnerable protagonists is turning?
At it’s heart, “Homecoming” is a coming-of-age story. Lacking the drag of another overdone origin, the movie jumps straight into the action with Peter’s hilarious misadventures in being a superhero. What a relief to not see Uncle Ben get clapped again. (Take a hint, Zack Snyder.)
Surprisingly comedic, Peter Parker is surrounded by a diverse cast of friends and fellow students who really flesh out the high school world Parker inhabits. Traditionally, that all gets pushed to the side in favor of a solo Spider-Man on his revenge quest with the occasional appearance of love-interest Mary-Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy. Depends on the movie franchise you favor.
Michael Keaton’s performance as Vulture easily ranks in the top five Marvel villain portrayals. Smart and savvy, Vulture is a working-class family man named Adrian Toomes with a justified cause to mirror Parker’s own background. Refreshingly low-key, the Vulture is not a villain with the ability to destroy all of New York City, nor does he want to. The threat he poses is much more sinister, and directly affects Peter’s ability to maintain his newly developed alter-ego. The film’s climax sees an innocent Peter cross-over into true Spider-Man territory with the full understanding of what this future path will cost him.
While it’s inevitable that Spidey is going to join the Avengers, it was satisfying to see Peter pick “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” over the isolating Avenger lifestyle. In an MCU where secret identities are virtually nonexistent, I’m glad Peter gets to keep his for a little while longer.
Check out our review on Youtube!