There have been six live-action Spider-Man movies over the last fifteen years. Half have been good, half have been bad. And if you just did the math, that means you’ve probably just figured out that I like this movie.
But what makes Spider-Man: Homecoming different or even better than some of the others? What material is there left to be dug out from a series that has, for all intents and purposes, been strip mined?
For one thing, this is the first Spider-Man movie to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We already got a hint of this in Captain America: Civil War when Spider-Man dropped in briefly to steal the show. The movie primarily deals with the conflict between the Vulture and Spider-Man, but it focuses on Spider-Man trying to find his place in this world larger than he is.
We also get to focus exclusively on Peter Parker when he was a teenager and on the lighter aspects of the franchise, something previous movies had either ignored or failed to do.
Casting Tom Holland as Spider-Man definitely does the character justice, partly because Holland is an actual teenager playing a teenager, but also because of how affable and earnest he portrays Peter Parker. These are essential qualities to Peter Parker that the Sony movies never managed to capture completely, just one of many problems they had.
But despite all these positives, I didn’t find myself falling in love with this movie. I’ve been a fan of Spider-Man since the 2002 film came out. There was something inhuman yet enduring about Spider-Man that fascinated me. He was also a guy who had all the power yet all the problems of the world.
Granted, the pathos might be a bit much and the origin story retold too many times. It’s likely why Marvel decided to keep the movie light. However, they ended up sacrificing a lot of what I liked about the property.
Spider-Man’s isolation is thrown away in exchange for an array of quirky side-characters and a couple of cameos, many played by people a little too big for these roles (Hannibal Buress and Donald Glover spring to mind). I also didn’t much care for how many character managed to find out about Spider-Man’s secret identity. Judging from this and other past installments, Marvel seems to have something against the very concept.
And while they keep Robert Downey Jr.‘s screen time to a minimum, the Marvel aesthetic seems to engulf the Spider-Man world to the point of suffocating it, such as Spider-Man’s costume basically being an Iron Man suit.
There is also the half-finished CGI, a decent but largely forgettable action scenes and a rather weak found-footage opening sequence to consider. Plus, something confuses me is why they made Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei) so young and attractive? It’s almost impressive that studio executives managed to twist it so a hot aunt would be seen as progressive.
But I am a little disappointed, especially since the movie got a lot of things right. The Vulture (played by Michael Keaton) is a solid villain with understandable motivations and a coherent plan, the Shocker is cleverly worked into the plot, the actors all give solid performances and we get to see a side of Spider-Man that movie-goers haven’t been introduced to yet. Best of all, Sony doesn’t have it’s clumsy mitts on the property anymore, unless you count that new Venom movie they got planned.
Maybe I just have too much attachment to the Raimi movies or overly high expectation going into the theatre. I can only hope that the following Spider-Man movies can separate themselves from the Marvel Cinematic Universe a little more. Out of all the superheroes out there, Spider-Man is the who can stand by himself. It should also be his curse.