Spider-Man: Homecoming 2017
Still finding it difficult to get back into the swing of watching superhero movies and writing on this site, but this past weekend I managed to watch one of the MCU movies that I missed last year even though it took me nearly a week having it from the library before actually watching it. Which is a little odd since I’ve heard almost nothing but good things about the latest Spider-Man even though it’s been such a quick reboot since the last iteration. I did quite enjoy Tom Holland’s full-fledged entry into the MCU but there were a couple things that I noticed while watching the film. First is how often the film side-steps many of the traditional superhero movie tropes. But on the other side of things, while it isn’t an origin story, it actually still manages to hit a lot of the origin story beats that we’re used to, just with a slight adjustment to them.
One of the great things that Homecoming does is right at the start. It doesn’t begin with Peter Parker, but instead it basically begins with the villain’s origin story. Not only that, but it’s a sympathetic version of a villain’s origin. Keaton’s Vulture isn’t looking to destroy the world or be evil for evil’s sake. He’s just looking to provide for his family by making the best of an awful situation regardless of how legal it might be. As long as he’s not hurting anyone and flying under the radar of the big guns. And when he does end up killing one of his minions, it wasn’t entirely on purpose as he thought he was using a non-lethal weapon even though he doesn’t actually show any remorse over the accidental killing. Keaton nails the blue collar criminal as someone just trying to make a less-than-honest buck but when pushed he can be as ruthless as they come like during his talk with Peter in the car at the Homecoming dance.
There are plenty of other moments where this superhero film dodges some of the superhero cliches. For one thing, this is one of the best films aside from James Gunn’s Super to show what some of the realities of superheroing would actually be. Peter spends most of his time impatiently waiting for crime to happen, and makes plenty of mistakes like stopping a guy “breaking into” his own car, or just being completely horrible at intimidation. Not only that, but during his first three dealings with more dangerous criminals he ends up making disastrous mistakes. He destroys the local deli, he almost drowns, and he cuts the Staten Island Ferry in half. And while the trailer version of the Ferry scene felt very reminiscent of the subway scene in Spider-Man 2, it played out in a very different fashion as he wasn’t so much trying to save all the people from a rampaging supervillain as he was trying to band-aid his own mistake. There are other side-steps like some of the off-hand comments from MJ, as well as how the Vulture actually reasons out Parker’s identity and how he starts monologuing, but with a good reason.
The real question is how does this Spider-Man stack up to the previous two incarnations? The youth factor is very much in favor of this film as the non-superhero sections play out very much like a teen drama, though some of the John Hughes nods were a little too overt. Holland does feel like the nerdy and awkward Peter Parker, helped greatly by his nerd-in-arms Ned. The other high school changes were also quite welcome. Liz was a good replacement for Gwen Stacy as the smart-but-popular girl that Parker has a crush on, as was Michelle as an alternative MJ who fits a more modern girl next door with her own confidence and a nice touch to have a subtle crush on Parker that’s not really commented on. The changes to Flash Thompson also work well to turn him from the traditional jock bully to more of a social bully who thinks he can get by with his money and natural intelligence but doesn’t actually put the work in to be as good as Parker. And on top of everything else, it’s nice to see some diversity put into a traditionally all-white cast of characters.
Now while the film isn’t an origin story, it does still follow many of the traditional origin story beats. Even though Parker has had his powers for quite a while, he still has more than a few moments getting used to his new high-tech suit. He also has his dealings with what is essentially his first supervillain. He also comes to terms with his role as a superhero, turning down an spot on the Avengers team which would likely make his life easier in order to continue operating at a more difficult and down-to-Earth level instead of the more traditional origin story of turning down a role as a normal person to make life easier in order to take responsibility as a superhero.
One surprising element of this film is the integration with Tony Stark and Happy Hogan as Parker’s superhero mentors. While they generally take a very hands-off approach, especially in regards to Parker’s repeated phone calls, it’s clear that they are taking him very seriously. This is evident when Stark casually mentions the “churro lady” who was someone that Parker mentioned in one of his many voice-mails to Happy. He’s also available to save Parker when he really needs saving. Not only that, but the lack of communication actually fits quite well and makes sense with Stark’s personality. It also adds weight to Parker’s heroic moment as he ultimately saves the day on his own merit rather than with the help of Stark-tech. Everything about this movie works well with Spider-Man as a character, and it fits right into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Glad I finally got around to seeing this one, I’ve got Atomic Blonde in my hands to watch & review soon and am looking forward to catching up with Ragnarok hopefully before Infinity War. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.