Spiderman: Homecoming is the third attempt by Sony at successfully running a film series for the titular character, while also being its second attempt at kickstarting a cinematic universe for the webslinger. Whether you’re a fan of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy that ended just over a decade ago, or for some reason you actually liked the Marc Webb directed films starring Andrew Garfield, you probably want to see your friendly neighborhood Spiderman finally settle in on one iteration for a change. With Marvel Studio’s and, by extension, Disney, behind this new installment, people knew exactly what they were getting into with this film. The only question left was whether or not it was going to be a film worthy of the weight that Spidey himself carries, as one of the world’s most iconic and beloved superheroes. The answer to that question is, as always: well it does if you like the way Marvel has been doing the rest of their movies, because this one isn’t exactly a mutant cousin to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Although Spiderman: Homecoming succeeds in part at distancing itself from the rest of the MCU, it also contains many of its trappings that Disney and Marvel simply refuse to shy away from due to their desire for full-on visual and tonal continuity. This may be the first MCU film to be about a younger protagonist, with the 15 year old Peter Parker, played by the fairly young Tom Holland, as its frontman. However, the story immediately connects itself to the Avengers saga by having its main villain, Adrian Toomes (AKA The Vulture, AKA Birdman, AKA Michael Keaton is back in a fucking superhero movie), be villainously motivated only by Tony Stark’s arrogance, as Iron Man had played a large part in the destruction of New York, and now Stark has the nerve to take the jobs of blue collar workers by funding and operating the cleanup initiative himself through some miscellaneous thing he comes up with because he’s Tony and he runs the MCU and he’s a manlet and so on and so forth. The entire film is lousy with references to the MCU, from bank robbers wearing Avengers’ masks, to the technology the antagonists wield being of alien origin from the first Avengers film, all the way to Captain America being included in physical education assistance films, whilst being referenced as a war criminal (by a gym teacher played by none other than comedian Hannibal Burress, holy guacamole). It doesn’t matter what kind of gravitas Spiderman and his mythos carry, Marvel insists that the MCU be heavily influential throughout the film, regardless of whether or not it allows Spiderman to breathe as a character.
Thankfully, it does. Spiderman himself, as well as Peter Parker, is at his best in this film. An undersized, nerdy, timid, and incredibly awkward young man who hides just beneath his stammering exterior the most bombastic and witty hero in Marvel’s pantheon, this version of the character is the first on the silver screen to capture the essence of both Spidey and Pete in a way that can satisfy most of the more familiar fans. However, that is not to say that everything in this film is faithful to the comics, but that’s a separate issue. For now, the positivity should continue with the note that the Vulture, in his first ever feature film presentation, is excellent. Not only is Michael Keaton a convincing and threatening figure, something sorely lacking in most MCU villains, but the actual CGI work for the criminal in the suit is something unmatched in Marvel’s previous films. Instead of hurling blue balls of energy out of some random tool or orifice, the Vulture sports a look befitting an actual pilot, with wings comprised of a number of moving parts. Despite the emphasis that the character has on flight, the CGI artists managed to give a great deal of weight to the character, and he feels much more impactful given his mechanical nature as compared to his classic look of an older gentleman in a green bird costume. This is one of the few instances in which straying from the comics does this film a great deal of good.
The film is also packed to the brim with memorable and engaging action sequences, from the car chase leading to the first encounter with the Vulture, to the sequence in, on, and around the Washington Memorial, and all the way up until the final encounter with the Vulture, the film knows how to stylize its action. Instead of bland shots of Spiderman dealing with one foe at a time as if they were paper mache, like the Avengers films are ever so fond of depicting, the film gives respect to all of Spiderman’s obstacles, and because of this, though we know as an audience that Spiderman cannot possibly be in any fatal danger, we wonder about whether or not the day can really be saved. We as an audience are supposed to worry not about Spiderman, but about Peter Parker, and the consequences that failure will bring to himself and those that he cares about. Because of this, the imminent introduction of J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle as a means of slandering Spiderman’s public image is an exciting prospect, as it was very effectively utilized as a major plot point in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy.
As glowing as many reviews have been, and as this one has started off, there is much to criticize about this film. The one thing that I hated the second that I walked into this movie, and that I have never heard positive feedback about, is Ned. Ned was an incredibly shallow character meant to be played specifically only for laughs, or at least one would hope that was the point of his character, because his death would have meant nothing in terms of emotional impact. Ned was added to the film because Peter needed a nerdy friend for comic relief, and of course, in the year 2017, studios saw it appropriate to make this character a fat Asian boy. (Side not: I am not offended because I am a fat Asian boy, the point about overdoing the diversity comes later.) The character is meant to be smart, but shows no common sense, wanting to reveal to the entire school that his best friend is Spiderman, displaying a disturbing lack of foresight. The character is meant to be funny, but instead his pathetic nature and inability to emote anything other than “dumbstruck” leave him entirely stale right out of the gate; Ned never changes, Ned never improves. The only characters to do anything resembling this are Peter and Toomes, whose development is intrinsically related to Peter’s actions and existence.
The absolute last thing that anyone ever wants to bring up with a film is where it lands on the political correctness scale, but this is an important factor. Disregarding Ned’s fat Asian ass, there are a plethora of things that make this film scream “DIVERSITY” and “PROGRESSIVISM” directly at its viewers. For one thing, Peter Parker has not one, but two Black love interests, those being Liz Allan and Michelle Jones. There’s nothing wrong with Black girls, certainly, but taking a preexisting white character in Liz and changing her race to fit some sort of agenda is a bit baffling, although thankfully it was done with a character that not many would consider iconic. However, regarding Michelle Jones, played by Zendaya, the entire twist to her character is that she goes by the moniker “MJ”, meaning that she is effectively a reimagined version of the incredibly iconic Mary Jane Watson. While some may think Mary Jane to be overplayed, and do not wish to have either her or Gwen Stacy back as Peter’s love interest, it must be understood that the women in Peter’s life are all defining characters to his growth and his journey as a hero. To write off arguably the most iconic of these characters so that Zendaya could be cast into the role is both insulting and annoying, as she could simply have been a completely original character that has no relation whatsoever to the existence, or lack thereof, of a Mary Jane Watson in the MCU. Instead, we now have a character that we all will refer to as MJ making quips about how she won’t set foot in the Washington monument because it was built by slaves. You know what else was built by slaves? Most of the American South. I also hear absolutely no whining about the tourism of the Great Wall of China despite how many people died making it and were never properly cared for or treated by the empire that decreed it should be built. Fucked up shit happens, it’s a part of the world you live in, try to appreciate it maybe instead of having to always act as if the world needs to stand still and appreciate just how sensitive your film can be to people. Pandering is an ugly look no matter who the audience is meant to be, and as a fat Asian kid who was supposed to like Ned I see no reason why anyone in the audience would have to fawn over the new MJ’s century late complaint regarding one of our nation’s most recognizable monuments.
Overall, this is a very solid standalone film, and as far as comic book movies go, it is definitely one of the best produced in this recent onslaught. The oversaturation of the genre has left many wondering whether or not they can really continue to keep shelling out money to see these, and despite the instincts to say no to this one’s existence, its quality slings it into the territory of must see cinema for any fan of Spiderman, Marvel, or good old fashioned fun.