Spider-Man Homecoming’s existence is a bit of a miracle. Set within Marvel’s cinematic universe, but produced by Sony, its nature is that of a laughable infrequency in today’s world of risk-free movie making. It is a completely baffling notion that a studio would dare make a movie for the profit of another, but it all makes sense nonetheless, if one considers that Tom Holland’s iteration of the character from Civil War in 2016 is probably the best version of the character to date. For one thing, he is believable as a teenager, his voice has a certain squeak to it, and he plays the part of someone who thinks he is mature enough to handle anything, but absolutely isn’t.
The world of Spider-Man is actually the most engaging thing about the film. Action is fun, but there is an infectious vibe to just seeing Peter going about his everyday routine. Dogging his way through classes, and bantering with the storekeeper of a New York deli before sneaking into an alley and changing into his suit to become his alter ego. Homecoming is, by the way, probably one of the first movies I’ve seen in a while that realizes that high school climate has in fact changed since 1995. Peter’s existence as the stereotypical nerd is sort of downplayed in favor of a general shyness that is much more effective in portraying him as an underdog, and Flash Thompson is less of a “Jock” than just a competitive jerky person.
Most relieving of all, to my memory, the words “With Great Power Comes Great responsibility” are not spoken once throughout the whole movie, nor is Uncle Ben mentioned at all. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the original origin story and signifigance of that line, but I did see it in a theater five years ago, and it would have taken a lot out of this film’s enjoyability were it to echo this thematically. Responsibility is still important to the story’s moral however. This time around Peter is eager to do good, and he possesses a youthful passion for heroism that is admirable but ends up causing a lot of trouble. The lesson that must be learned here is not to throw oneself at every problem there is, but to realize one’s own limits. At the same time, he learns to trust in himself, and his inner abilities.
Although the film’s action is not used as a crutch, it is phenomenal nonetheless. It is a credit to director Jon Watts, and cinematographer Salvatore Totino that, after seeing blockbuster superhero flicks steadily for about ten years now, this film creates a fresh sense of dread and fear. When Spider-Man climbs to the top of the Washington Monument, and the camera looks down with a pov shot at a 555 foot fall, It is completely understandable is you feel some butterflies in your stomach. The villain, played by Michael Keaton creates a different sense of dread when in action; with his haphazardly pieced together metallic suit, and slightly demonic appearance it feels like Parker is in actual danger, like he really could lose. Granted, Vulture is no less dangerous than any MCU villian of the past, but from Peter’s point of view, he is terrifying. Its this type of on-the-ropes, barely-hanging-on variety of action that marvel hasn’t shown us since The Winter Soldier that sets this film apart, and makes us feel the way Peter does; as if we were the ones fighting for our lives.
Speaking of Keaton’s vulture, he may also be the most complex villain ever to grace the frames of an MCU production. Definitely the most relatable. He is simply a scavenger, trying to make money to support his family and his crew, who he believes have been disenfranchised by Tony Stark and his capitalist influence. In a weird twisted way he sees himself as something of a working class hero, and Homecoming‘s real triumph is that we catch a glimpse of a reality where that is actually true.
Last month’s Wonder Woman was an undisputed smash hit, both critically and financially. Many viewers, myself included, were absolutely blown away by the film. Some even testified to being moved to tears. I can honestly say, nearly without a doubt, that Spider-Man Homecoming will not make you cry, but then it isn’t really trying to. Spider-Man (2002) ends with a funeral. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) ends with another funeral. Spider-Man: Homecoming ends with a joke and a Ramones song in the credits. The change of pace could not be more welcome.