‘With great power comes great responsibility’. This clichéd quote from Sam Raimi’s classic Spider-Man is never mentioned, however. Uncle Ben’s words are said enough times for it to qualify as a speech from a nagging Grandpa. There are three franchise reboots in the last 15 years (counting Homecoming) but this latest reboot is akin to entering unchartered territory for the web-crawler. Marvel expectantly does a great job as the studio distinctly implies this moral dilemma of power and responsibility front and centre while juggling his years as a high school sophomore to create a fun and fresh reboot for the endearing character.
Following the events of Captain American: Civil War, Peter Parker is thrilled by the experience and returns home to Queens to live with his Aunt May. Under the disguise of the Stark Intention Program gifted to him by mentor Tony Stark, Peter learns to navigate his life in high school and as a superhero on the streets. Peter must however put his powers to the test when the new threat of the evil Vulture emerges to destroy everything he holds dear.
Outside of the suit and web-slinging shenanigans, ‘Spider-Man’ is not really a ‘man’ in the comics but rather just an ordinary teenager who ogles at the popular girl at school and geeks out at the newest Lego Death Star with his nerdy friend. Tom Holland being young enough to play a high school kid among other qualities, is able to access the frivolous, prepubescent side of Peter Parker and that’s where most of the movie’s charm comes from. This is a version of Spider-Man who is in high school, who doesn’t really know where his responsibilities lie, who doesn’t know the real meaning of being a hero. It is as invigorating a take from Marvel as much as it is novel affair for us to watch Peter grow up from a very young age to become the true hero he is.
Because by the end of the film, you are able to witness the transformation of Peter from someone who has a naive view of ‘world saving’ to someone who knows what it takes to be an Avenger.
Marvel does insanely well to build up its roster of heroes to be memorable personalities that we can relate. Credit be given where it’s due. But what epitomizes the term ‘Marvel movie’ to be what it is, is its weak villain. The latest culprit to join this infamous hall of fame for wasted Marvel villains is Michael Keaton’s Vulture. The threat of Vulture is never fully realized on screen. Whenever The Vulture tangles with Spidey, he merely uses the suit to go around wreaking havoc with hardly any repercussions for Peter or the public. Peter is supposed to be in real danger because of his inexperience with Vulture’s high-tech weaponry! The experience with the history of Marvel movies proves once again that the heroes will always be shrouded in an overwhelming cloud of safety and it doesn’t help to sew memorable feuds.
Vulture outside of the suit was a more intimidating character to watch. Amazingly, Keaton never raises his voice to put a stamp of his villainous side onto the people around him; the sheer intensity of his facial expressions and dialogue just scream ‘I will murder your family if you get in my way’ and that is enough for us to know that he means serious business. His performance as a human being was a redeeming quality of his otherwise underwritten villain. Since Keaton’s resurgence in the aptly named movie Birdman, it is clear that he still possesses the acting chops to make a character, hero or villain, truly compelling. But Marvel being Marvel, wastes the potential of great actor in the role once again.
Speaking of Marvel movies, what is a movie of theirs when it isn’t filled with tons of gags? Characters play jokes off of each other as expected, albeit more than usual. Some land, some don’t (most don’t), and the situational comedy is as awkward for us as it is for the characters although the awkwardness is intentional.
Spider-Man: Homecoming does Tony Stark right in a Spider-Man movie by limiting his influence to the bare minimum. There was fear of Homecoming being an Iron Man 4 as Iron Man’s role in the MCU was already very prominent. But Stark does well here, not so much as Peter’s moral compass but as his mentor; something Stark didn’t have when he was rising up the ranks as Iron Man. He appears in the film only to give Peter valuable advice on what to do when he is in his suit and that’s about it. Peter is after all, motivated to do better in order to qualify being an Avenger and that’s where the ‘Stark effect’ comes into play.
The last two Spider-Man franchises have been college versions of the titular character. It might just be me and my peculiar mind-set but I feel that you have to detach yourself from those versions in order to fully enjoy this high-school sophomore itineration of the character. This might apply greatly to the ‘90s kids’ since we grew up with Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Homecoming has a totally different vibe from the previous series, along the tune of a coming-of-age story for the character than a full-fledged combative Spider-Man who has a side job of being a photographer, and that aspect definitely accounts for some getting used to for hardened veterans of the cinematic character. While Marvel does offer a fresh take with this reboot, the safe formula which they use for most of their films is ever present and it is something people are gradually learning to despise.
Should you spend money on it? Yes
Director: Jon Watts
Screenplay by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chris McKenna, Jon Watts, Erik Sommers, Christopher Ford
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Donald Glover
Running time: 133 minutes