In the days leading up until the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the question was never “will it be good.” Marvel is the undisputed master of the superhero movie. We’ve already seen their proof of concept for the character last year in Captain America: Civil War. The cast includes amazing newcomer Tom Holland alongside industry powerhouses like Michael Keaton, Robert Downy Jr. and Marissa Tomei. Of course it was going to be good!
The real question to ask was how good the movie was going to be. This isn’t the early 2000’s anymore. Just the fact that they’re making a Spider-Man movie is no longer enough for Spider-fans. We’ve had good movies with this character before, maybe even great ones. We’ve also had some unremittingly awful ones.
Where this movie fell along the spectrum of Spider-Men. How the changes made to the character would be accepted by audiences. Whether they needed to give this version of Peter Parker the origin story that they already decided they could do without. These were the issues that would either make or break the latest cinematic outing for Spider-Man.
And by and large, Marvel succeeded at everything they set out to do with both this character and this movie. They didn’t need to stringently keep to Peter Parker’s comic book characterizations. They didn’t need to show yet another Uncle Ben getting shot in Queens. All they needed was a dynamite script that understood the essence of what is Spider-Man.
So be warned: this isn’t your father’s Peter Parker. This isn’t the same sadsack, Kennedy-era dork that was a loser just because he had glasses and couldn’t play sports. This is a truly updated, Millennial take on the character: one that feels fresher and rings truer than anything Sam Raimi or Marc Webb came up with in the last decade and a half that Sony had with the franchise.
When I think of ‘Spider-Man’ — and not any old Spider-Man, but ‘Peter Parker Spider-Man’ — there are really only two necessities. The first is that he’s motivated by guilt, that the impetus for his crimefighting comes from the preventable death of his beloved Uncle Ben, who teaches him with his last breath that “with great power, there must also come great responsibility.” The second is that, at least in-costume, he’s funny: not an awkard, gangly teen kind of funny (which he certainly is out of costume), but a quippy, quick-witted kind of funny — the kind of humor that comes as much from well-timed puns as his overly familiar, overly friendly report with the ne’er-do-wells he fights with day in and day out.
Every film version of Spider-Man — including this one — nails that first criteria to a T. For as good as they Raimi movies were, though, they never got beyond Parker as being a mopey, depressive little dork, and the biggest laughs of that first trilogy came from the embarrassing street dancing he does in the infamously terrible Spider-Man 3. But for as generally lackluster as the ‘Amazing’ Spider-Man movies were, they at least made a nominal attempt at inserting humor back into the franchise.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the first movie to cross both of these off of the list in addition to being a genuinely good movie in its own right. They didn’t need to show Uncle Ben getting shot in order to have his absence loom large in the background of the narrative. You can see him in the exasperated cries of Aunt May as she worries about where her missing nephew’s gone and in Peter quivering voice when he defeatedly asks Iron Man if everyone from the ferry he accidentally destroyed made it off okay.
But by not showing Uncle Ben’s death — by not making this movie about the immediate shock of Peter losing his de facto father — the movie can skip right over the a-characteristic anguish that, by and large, neither the character nor the franchise has ever been about. It gives the movie the chance to be the teen rom-com it really is. Sure, there’s the unspoken absence of Ben and superhero punch-outs aplenty, but the heart and soul of this movie is an awkward teenager finding the courage to ask the girl he likes out to a school dance, get in and out of trouble with the adults in his life and, when push comes to shove, make a hard decision that he recognizes as ultimately being the right one.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is, without question, the single greatest Spider-Man movie there is. It not only understands who Peter Parker fundamentally is as a person, but how he fits into the larger Marvel Universe. He’s not a globe-trotting Avenger. No matter how much he, and sometimes others, want him to be: that’s not who he is. He’s just a kid from Queens who wants to make the world a better place.
After all, he’s your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Buy on BluRay: Absolutely!
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