He’s here ladies and gentlemen, your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Again. For like the third time.
** Spoiler Alert! Nothing film-breaking, but I am going to hit on a few specific story details. **
First I have to say I wasn’t excited about this film, at all. Not because I don’t want to see Spidey in the MCU or that I have a particular fondness for either of the previous iterations, but because I was dreading yet another Peter Parker origin story. Oh, no! Uncle Ben dies after telling Pete that, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Then a green bad guy shows up and Spider-Man can’t afford web-fluid… Groan… Yawn…
We’ve seen it. Not just once, but twice. Two times. And yet here we are again as another young, spider-bitten high school kid gets almost $200 million to reboot a dead meme. At least that’s what I thought going in. To get the right angle on this, let’s set the way-back machine to fifteen years when director Sam Raimi helped open the doors for today’s wave of comic book awesomeness.
Kicking things off with a trilogy, Sam cast Tobey Maguire as a very emo Peter Parker in a world where the only superhero was Spider-Man. Each film grossed over $780 million at the global box office, raking in piles of dough for Sony Studios. Jump ten years from one origin to the next and this time we get Marc Webb (yep, that’s really his last name) directing the less emo but more rapey (see the first Gwen Stacy “love scene” and tell me I’m wrong) Andrew Garfield as the red and blue wall-crawler. Each film passing $700 million worldwide and also making Sony loads of cash.
So with the second successful version of the franchise still in production, why would Sony hit the reset button again and throw in with Marvel? One word: Billions. Looking past just the box office numbers, Marvel are masters at cross-promotion, cross-merchandising and crossing off being rich-enough-to-buy-your-own-island from your bucket list. Not only has Marvel’s film universe turned into a mega-franchise the likes the world has never seen, its related toys, games, cartoons, clothing, et cetera, et cetera are a license to print money. Money Sony will now have access to.
Jump back to 2017 and enter Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not Homecoming like Web-head’s finally back with Marvel. Homecoming like the dance you wore your dad’s old suit to in high school (I’m not overlooking the ladies, you just have better taste than us, especially back then). Directed by Jon Watts and introducing Tom Holland as Peter, Homecoming is the sixth Spider-Man Film in fifteen years and the first of the third franchise. Ok, long lead-in, lots of numbers, let’s actually talk about the movie.
This time around, Spidey has far more than villains to worry about. There’s a reputation of box office success to live up to and don’t forget the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s finally able to join. Inclusion into the latter is the real make-or-break factor, in my opinion. Trying to blend a well established character into a very well established film-based continuity could ruin both if done incorrectly. Spoiler alert (again): they nailed it!
I’m going to go as far as to say Spider-Man: Homecoming utilizes the pre-established mythos better than any Marvel film or show yet. This is why you want a shared universe. To have events, global and local, shape perspective, behaviors, politics and really just everything. Living in a world where you can get globe-spanning information by simply tapping on your phone, you should also have that level of connectivity and social awareness reflected in this scale of storytelling.
Situations and events permeate almost every title on the comic book store shelves, for the most part. And while the impact one title has on another varies wildly, a New York happening in Daredevil will more than likely be mentioned, at some point, in Fantastic Four. But it needs to feel effortless and natural to work, and it works to perfection in SM:H in a way yet to be achieved by its peers.
The story had to do more than fit in, it had to be great. Great without tripping over the previous five films despite them already using many of the comic’s main cast. Drawing inspiration more from the Ultimate Comics version of Spider-Man than the long-running Amazing Spider-Man title, Homecoming avoids every pitfall while striking new ground for an overused character. It offers the best version of Peter yet, while dialing one of the page’s worst villains all the way up from super lame to unbelievably cool. The story we get is funny, suspenseful, endearing and, most of all, entertaining.
So important to this kind of story is that you feel for the bad guy, even while you’re rooting for his downfall. You watch, holding your breath a little, as Peter tries to get the girl. And then later, you gasp out that held breath when the twist finally hits. It’s a masterful adaptation while feeling interesting and new. No Uncle Ben’s dying mantra, no gloomy, down in the dumps Peter Parker, and we finally get to see a comic book movie without the obligatory origin story. Instead, it’s simply a new beginning.
Making all of that work is the typical Marvel casting. Actors you either said, “who’s that?” or “really, that’s who they cast?” about when you heard of their inclusion, but they end up blowing your mind once you see them in the role. Tom Holland does that. I hated Tobey Maguire, really liked Andrew Garfield and absolutely love Tom. Jacob Batalon is the perfect sidekick/comic relief and Marisa Tomei is such a welcome update to the character of Aunt May. Really, everyone that’s part of Peter’s day-to-day feels Goldilocks-level just right.
If you’ve read the books, the Vulture is a garbage villain. But when you strap those wings to my generation’s favorite Batman, you get movie gold. Michael Keaton hit both the vital bad guy notes perfectly: he’s motivated to be evil, and he’s relatable through his plight. That way you can root for and against him throughout. He makes it work in really awesome ways.
Do I even have to talk about Jr. and Jon? They’re perfect. Next.
So we’ve got an amazing story and a spectacular cast, but does it look and feel like Spider-Man? Short answer: yes, very much so. With the second lowest production budget out of all six films, Homecoming is by far the coolest and best looking one toting the moniker. The action filled transitions between live-action and CG are seamless the majority of the time, and when you can see the card up the sleeve you won’t care.
As far as sets and wardrobe go, there’s nothing particularly exotic, but the level of cinematic continuity is outstanding. Person to person, scene to scene, everything feels organic and alive. Apartments feel like apartments and classrooms feel like classrooms. When it’s time to visit the villain’s lair or a high-security facility, nothing feels too cliche or overdone. It’s an excellent balance of comic book cheese and realistic-ish action flick.
With all that praise generously heaped on the film, there are still a few flaws. At times I didn’t think the camera was pointed at the most interesting moments and there’s a plot hole or two you might stumble on, but never something so egregious I was pulled back to reality. The strengths are so dominant that the missteps are nearly invisible (not a hint at a new villain 😉 )
Considering that it’s bearing both the burden and benefit of the shared Marvel universe and using the film’s intentions to measure its successes, Spider-Man:Homecoming is pretty much perfect. The story is new and fresh and awesome and totally leaves behind all the franchise’s old baggage. Add in a wonderful cast given great direction in front of a tremendously manicured background and you not only have the best Spider-Man movie yet, you just might have the new comic book champion of the world!
Did you see it yet? Huh? Huh? Well, go see it! Then click on over to Facebook and let’s talk about it.