Jon Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming is an admirable disappointment, introducing the web-slinger to the MCU with a focus on a younger version of the character that's different and worthy of his own film, yet crippling the action, the origins and the overall need for yet another Spider-Man reboot.
Sony has finally joined forces with Marvel Studios to both earn themselves a lot more money and give the fans what they’ve always wanted…Spider-Man with The Avengers. Spider-Man: Homecoming is (sigh) yet another reboot of the character, this time focusing on a younger Peter Parker as he battles not just the responsibilities of protecting the streets of New York City as a gifted new superhero, but also battling with the complexities of being a teenager and growing up in today’s world.
Director Jon Watts and star Tom Holland bring a fresh, youthful approach to a character that we’ve all grown to love, but also hate to see rebooted again (and again), giving Homecoming bursts of originality that warrant its existence.
The good thing is that Sony seems to finally understand the importance of patience, especially when it comes to the end-game of building a cinematic universe. I’m not saying that the past versions of the character failed at this (more on that below), but I will say that Sony rushed things in previous installments, because they wanted to get “in on” the whole character-building universe, without first building up the character and smoothing out the rough edges.
I’m a die-hard defender of both Amazing Spider-Man films, but that isn’t to say that I won’t admit that they were flawed. Heck, even Sam Raimi‘s film’s had their fair share of flaws, much like Watts’ new film does too.
The only difference here is that Marvel Studios is involved, which means passionate fans of the character are in somewhat control and that Sony has an end-game, mostly because of Marvel’s agreement to let Spidey play with some of their characters.
That’s also what hurts Homecoming and holds it back from truly being its own entity amongst a universe full of comic book characters.
The inclusion of Happy (Jon Favreau) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is complete bullshit and a horrible way to book-end guidance roles for Peter that were once reserved for Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Uncle Ben.
I understand why they skipped out on the origins story. I mean we did just get Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb‘s take on the character nearly five years ago, but by bypassing such moments you also cripple the potential emotional connection between the character and the audience.
Homecoming substitues Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) learned life lessons and growth for brief appearances by RDJ, which hands Parker the costume, explains to him the powers it holds and then leaves little room for Parker to actually learn things on his own.
Yes, the film has a pivotal moment where Peter learns the true meaning of Stark’s words, which were paraphrased as, “if you’re nothing without the costume, then you don’t deserve it at all.” Sure, Parker learns how to save the world without the high-tech advancements of Stark Industries, but has he really learned the value of what he’s doing?
Homecoming‘s story returns the character to his youthful years and does a great job of actually showing us a version of Peter Parker that’s in school and dealing with girl problems and fitting in problems that previous franchises sort of skimmed over. It also shows us the nerdy side of Parker and his friends, which was a welcoming addition.
But there’s also a great deal of alteration and missing information that feels forcefully progressive. There’s no “traditional” MJ or Gwen Stacey? Flash is played by Tony Revolori, seriously?
Setting aside those problems brings us to larger problems that are also hard to forget. Director Jon Watts understands his characters and how to keep the film flowing, but his eye for action is awful. Nearly 90% of the film’s action takes place at night and features very little thematic weight or importance. The ferry bridge sequence harps back to Tobey Maguire‘s subway days of Spider-Man 2, but with much less impact, while The Amazing Spider-Man‘s action sequences dance around Homecoming‘s with infinite more grace and sophistication. There’s just something very pedestrian and amateur about Homecoming‘s visual presentation that struck me as dull and unimaginative.
Admittedly, Tom Holland gives us a boyish and excited Peter Parker that we haven’t seen before. He’s not as emotionally conflicted as Andrew Garfield‘s or bizarrely old as Tobey Maguire‘s, but he does capture the innocence quite well. I love how he seems to need to commentate on everything that is happening on-screen as Spider-Man is battling thugs or attempting to climb to new heights.
Micheal Keaton‘s Vulture is also one of the better MCU villains to date, giving the character a genuine sense of purpose and backstory that isn’t simply a bad guy being bad for the sake of it. There’s a clever mid-film reveal that involves Keaton and Holland that wasn’t exactly surprising, but played out very well, because of both men’s on-screen presence.
Spider-Man himself is gifted with some absolutely cool tech, but a horrible-looking suit that I cannot shake, especially after Webb and Garfield perfected the suit in Amazing Spider-Man 2, which followed a not so radical, but still awesome re-design from Amazing Spider-Man. The teased “future” suit in Homecoming is an improvement that I hope we actually get to see on screen.
As far as universe-building goes, I give Homecoming credit for sticking with the “grounded” friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that’s out to help the “little guys”. I can appreciate his small-scaled adventures, while also being bothered with the fact that he’s going to be seen as “just some young punk kid” for the foreseeable future. I really do hope Marvel/Sony treats this as a Harry Potter progression and not just a never-ending butt of a joke, because Spider-Man deserves so much more.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a film that I had more problems with than I wanted, yet I still found bright spots to highlight and appreciate. Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker — he’s not my personal favorite, but he brings a unique youngness to the character that we haven’t quite seen. Director Jon Watts doesn’t exactly bring the confidence to a flagship tentpole origins story that should be on display with pride and ease, but that might be because of Marvel’s constant control over production and Sony’s inability to let another one of their Marvel properties fall by the wayside. I look forward to seeing future installments, because I want to watch the character grow and change with the times and not simply be rebooted again and again, but I still hold the Amazing series high up as the definitive Spider-Man films for the time being.
I hope Marvel and Sony can change that and make this new iteration into something that I can be proud of and support fully, but until the kinks get worked out, Homecoming sits fairly low on my Spider-Man radar. The action, characters and suit need lots of major work.