There are some movies where you can tell the writers read and loved the source material. Deadpool was one. Spider-man: Homecoming is another. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker could have stepped straight off the pages of Amazing Spider-Man (with a little linguistic updating to make him feel current).
*WARNING: Do not read until you’ve seen Spider-man: Homecoming unless you don’t mind a few spoilers. They’re light, but they’re here.*
One major pet peeve of mine is when teenage superheroes in movies look 25 and act like parodies of real teens. They’re used as jokes by adult writers, with whiny lines and “haha, look at this kid who can throw a bus but can’t get a date for prom” scenes. Spider-man: Homecoming completely sidesteps that kind of condescension. Peter’s struggles are shown with such compassion that you laugh with him, not at him.
The dizzying recruitment and battle sequences in the beginning sweep us up in Peter’s excitement over making it to the superhero big leagues. When he’s sent back to “lay low and wait for the call” his abandonment is just as intense. We know from the outside that Tony Stark had a stupid amount of grief to cope with after Captain America: Civil War, but Peter doesn’t know that. He only knows he was good enough to fight by Iron Man’s side one day, then abandoned in Queens with a trackable suit the next. Happy wasn’t even pretending to answer his texts. (Also, kudos to Tony for realizing he’s a terrible mentor, but leaving Happy in charge? Why not Pepper? They were fighting back then, but they’ve clearly made up since.)
The only thing Peter can do is Spidey On and prove himself through actions. He makes mistakes – wow, does he make mistakes – but his mistakes are continually magnified by Tony’s insistence on keeping him out of the loop. At least twice Peter has good intel that he thinks is being ignored. If Tony had given him even a courtesy brief a lot of damage could have been avoided.
Rather than dwell on angst, though, Spider-man: Homecoming keeps things light. Every character gets their moments of humor and victory, and the film as a whole feels hopeful. It’s pure fun from beginning to end. Tom Holland is charming, and any doubts about (scroll over for small but widely discussed spoiler) Zendaya’s ability to play MJ have been squashed. Her name is changed from Mary Jane Watson to Michelle Jones, but otherwise she feels like what MJ would be if she grew up today.
Representation – well, I still would have loved for this Spidey to be Miles Morales, but I think the movie did a decent job of diversifying the cast. They changed some traditional characters around to do it, which worked out for the best on screen.
I’m also a fan of the little political digs scattered throughout the movie. Wondering about Michelle’s Washington Monument comment? FYI, there’s not conclusive proof that the Washington Monument was built by slaves, but at least the donated components were. It’d be pretty unusual for there to have been no slave labor at all in the mining process – hence the “ehhh” gesture from the guard.
Bonus points for anyone who spotted the Miles Morales reference: Aaron Davis, played by Donald Glover, is Miles’ uncle as well as a sometimes-foe sometimes-friend of Spidey’s called the Prowler. Does this mean Miles could show up in the MCU down the road? Introducing him slowly would help studios reconcile the desires of hardcore fans who want to explore other Spider-men with the fact that casual fans don’t really know there were others besides Peter.
After some Spi-disappointments in the past, Spider-man: Homecoming is a return to the true spirit of the character. If I have one critique it would be how intensely dismissive Happy is of Peter’s warnings. Happy is decent at his job – wouldn’t he have at least put a few guards on a plane full of incredibly powerful artifacts? It was necessary for Peter’s final fight scene, just a little far to stretch the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Have you seen Spider-man: Homecoming yet? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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