Spider-Man has finally come home. With the inclusion of Peter Parker to the MCU not only do we finally have a Spider-Man film done right (something we haven’t seen since 2004’s Spider-Man 2) but we are also greeted with a young Spider-Man, getting back to the character’s teenage roots.
This version of Spider-Man is young, fifteen years old. Andrew Garfield was 29 when he starred in the terrible Amazing Spider-Man films. Tobey Maguire was 27. Tom Holland is 21. Having cast such a young actor has allowed Marvel and Sony to focus on Spider-Man’s origins in a way that none of the previous incarnations have. This is the film’s greatest draw: a young, awkward teenager with poor impulse control and a desperate desire to fit in. Whether it’s with his high school peers or with The Avengers, Peter wants to belong somewhere. As such, this film is primarily one of self discovery, which is suitable for an origin story.
The inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark posed the risk of making the film too bloated. Instead, Marvel decided to downplay Iron Man’s role. This is fitting, considering this is a film about Spider-Man afterall. Tony Stark instead plays a fatherly role, something that has always been lacking in the young Peter Parker’s life after the death of (spoilers) his Uncle Ben.
Speaking of Uncle Ben, we never learn Spider-Man’s origin story. It’s hardly mentioned, and this is a breath of fresh air to the viewer. There are three superheros who have so much media saturation that we don’t need another origin story about them: Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. We all know what happens to Spiderman. Marvel doesn’t waste any precious screen time giving us the same old origin story.
Since we never have to suffer though Uncle Ben’s death, the film never has to get too dark. This has been a problem with all of the previous Spider-Man films as a death scene right at the end of the first act brings the tone of the film down, and at Spider-Man’s core he’s a lighthearted super hero. Yes, Spider-Man has been through some truly horrendous tragedy, and his stories are filled with pain and angst. But Peter Parker uses his Spider-Man persona hide his pain. That’s why the comics are filled with so many Spider-puns. Spider-Man may feel pain, but he hides his pain with his light-hearted persona. This is an easy thing to pull off in a comic book, but a lot harder with a 2-hour film that needs to keep moving.
Spider-Man: Homecoming never got too dark. There is emotion, but it’s undercut by moments of comedy. This is where the film tends to undercut itself. Although Spider-Man needs to be light, Marvel has always been afraid to let their films become too emotional, especially during the third acts. It’s a bit of a balancing act, and although for the most part Marvel has done it well, the moments of comedy that the studio injects into detract from the emotional content of the scene. We’ve seen this in several films, most notably during the airport scene in Captain America: Civil War, where the tone shifts from serious to comedic so many times it was hard to feel anything during the fight. With this film the tonal confusion isn’t so bad, but there are moments during the penultimate battle with the villain that were undercut by injection of too much comedy.
Regarding the villain, it was a good decision by Marvel to use a completely new villain in this film. The Green Goblin, although an excellent villain, has featured in one way or another in the last five Sony Spider-Man films. We didn’t need to see the Osborns featured in yet another Spider-Man film. Instead, this villain is relatively new. Technically Michael Keaton plays The Vulture, a character who uses a suit to allow him to fly and steal the youth from people. Instead this villain is very straightforward. Without getting into too many spoilers, Michael Keaton’s villain just wants money. And this is a good change for Spider-Man, as most of the other villains in his stories have had some deeper connection to Peter Parker. A character that doesn’t have much connection to the protagonist, and hence doesn’t require much development, gives Peter Parker room to grow. And grow he does.
At the beginning of the film Parker desperately wants to belong. And this desperation drives the story. He’s in over his head and gets himself into trouble, which is the crux of the conflict. For an adult Spider-Man this would be ridiculous, but for one who is 15 years-old it works. We all remember our 15 year-old selves: brash, overexcited and incapable of understanding the consequences of our actions. That’s the young Peter Parker, the kid who breaks into the Fantastic Four’s hideout because he wants to belong, the kid who takes a job selling photos to someone who hates him in order to earn a little money, the kid who has to pretend to be a weakling as he is bullied in order to preserve his secret identity. That’s who Peter Parker is, and that’s the Peter Parker Tom Holland portrays.
This film has its flaws, but they are not enough to detract too much from the film. The comedy felt a little out of place at the end, and Zandaya’s role in the film was too overhyped for what it turned out to be. The twist at the beginning of the third act, without getting into too many spoilers, was a bit obvious, but enjoyable. Spiderman is a solid film and one of the better entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.