If you grew up in the early 2000’s, then your life was bombarded with teachers and relatives spouting out the frankly overused motivational motto of the century—with great power comes great responsibility. Besides giving the world its default sermon for a decade, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy sparked an entire generation’s worth of superhero craze we haven’t seen since Batman.
Over the years, Spidey’s story has received as many reboots as our own modern Darna. Tom Holland’s iteration, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is the third (and the youngest) in a line of “teenagers” who have donned the red mask and tights. Additionally, this is the first Spidey movie in a realistic high-school setting. It’s also the first Spidey that mingles directly with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Have mercy on Uncle Ben
Finally, Hollywood has shown mercy on its cruelty against Uncle Ben. Unlike previous iterations, Homecoming doesn’t show the origins of the web-slinger anymore. Instead, it drops us right in the thick of things—Peter Parker is a high-school boy trying to balance his student life with his hero life. There’s no radioactive spider (although this was deftly handled by a one-liner explanation), no death of Uncle Ben, and no mumbo jumbo about power and responsibility. We all know the story.
This is precisely where Homecoming excels as a Spidey movie. Instead of retreading the same ground as Sam Raimi, it presents a fresher vision of a familiar superhero. Through and through, Homecoming is an enjoyable high-school drama that just happened to feature a superhero. For someone who doesn’t like school-centered dramas in general, I loved Homecoming in much the same way as I did Back to the Future.
Marty McFly vs. Walter White
Most, if not all, superhero movies today are obsessed with a save-the-world complex. The world is always in danger from evil villains who want to take over or destroy the world. The hero wants to save the world (and does so in explosive fashion). Homecoming isn’t like that.
Holland’s Peter Parker, undoubtedly, wants to save the world but most of his time is dedicated to either fitting as an Avenger or preparing for his trivia decathlon in school. It’s so childish that it’s realistic. Who didn’t want to be a superhero (or supervillain) as a kid? I did. I wanted to be Batman. That’s exactly who Peter Parker is. He just wants to be an Avenger but he’s got homework to deal with.
Conversely, Michael Keaton’s Vulture is the most down-to-earth villain in the MCU. He doesn’t want to take over the world or destroy it. He’s just a disgruntled scavenger put out of work by the machinations of the elite, i.e. Tony Stark. He makes use of his time by illegally scavenging from Chitauri alien weaponry, making human-sized weapons out of them, and trading them on the black market. His only motivation is to provide for his own family. (In a shocking but a bit ham-fisted twist, his daughter is actually Liz, Peter’s love interest in the film.)
Narratively, Homecoming isn’t the cookie-cutter good vs. evil we’re so used to. It’s a believable clash of ideologies where both sides have their own logical points to put forward.
Different, but similar
Fans of the comics will recognize some familiar names from Peter’s high school including Ned Leeds, Flash Thompson, Betty Brant, and MJ Watson. If you’re a purist, you might be disappointed to know that quite a lot of these characters have changed in various aspects, most especially in race. If you love good movies, however, Homecoming’s casting consists of excellent choices that simply transcend race.
Ned Leeds is played by the American-Filipino actor Jacob Batalon. Flash Thompson is portrayed by The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori. This universe’s MJ Watson is actually named Michelle Jones (only nicknamed MJ) and played by the singer Zendaya. Besides promoting equality, the terrific casting choices add a lot more realism to its US high-school setting. Each performance was unique and entertaining.
As for familiar faces, MCU regulars from the Iron-Man series star in supporting roles. As always, RDJ’s Tony Stark dazzles in every scene he’s in without stealing the show away from Spidey. Except for a surprise Pepper Potts cameo, Homecoming’s scenes with the larger MCU is unobtrusive and well-made.
This is not the last we’ll see of Tom Holland as your friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. As the end credits roll reminds us, “Spider-Man will return.” In fact, we already know who he’s going up against—Scorpion played by Michael Mando. He makes a cameo in the movie and in the after credits.