As the introductory logos flashed on the screen, I was a tad disappointed by the absence of Danny Elfman’s iconic score from Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy.
2002’s Spider-man is one of the best superhero movies ever made. And its 2004 sequel is probably a hair better. Since then we’ve had three subpar Spidey films ranging from the laughable Spider-man 3 to abysmal garbage under the guise of The Amazing Spider-man 2. But how does Spider-man: Homecoming rank?
Although it won’t affect many people’s opinion of the film, the title is perfect. Not only is it the first Spider-man film to include a tagline “homecoming” in its title, but it works on two levels. Being a high school film, it nods to the annual school dance, and it celebrates Disney’s long awaited legal victory of bringing the Spider-man film rights back home to the Disney owned Marvel Studios. While Sony still holds some power, executives at the two studios agreed to a rare creative joint venture where Sony would reap the profits if Disney had final cut.
As far as the 134 minutes after the title flashes on screen, Homecoming is as good an incarnation of the characters as the classic Raimi films of 2002 and 2004. Peter Parker and Spider-Man are especially well realized on screen by British actor, Tom Holland. The supporting cast – namely Peter’s best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon) – is charming in a funny, kids-will-be-kids kind of way. And there was a more meaningful villain than I’m used to seeing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). However, the film as a whole falls short of Raimi’s too classics for one simple reason: world-building. Leave these moments on the cutting room floor and we would have a better-paced film clocking in under two hours.
At least three characters were given screen time for the sole purpose of teasing their importance to future films. I say “at least” because I’m not deep enough in the gaping crevasse that is Marvel comic book lore. Hollywood doesn’t seem to care that teasing Movie B during Movie A only makes Movie A worse. The insecurity it shows in Disney is sad, really. I can picture show runner Kevin Feige panicking should we, for just one split second, be unaware that this Sony film is actually an extension of the Disney owned MCU. Calm down, Kevin. I know you were part of this.
Thankfully there is less world building here than The Amazing Spider-man 2, a film whose franchise only made the world better by spawning this meme:
Homecoming begins with the events of Captain America: Civil War. Peter Parker is on a high after getting a brief glimpse of a very grown-up, Avengers-filled world. But Peter is a 15-year-old high school sophomore. He’s got homework, detention, school dances, and Spanish quizzes to worry about. This high school element, Ferris Bueller references and all, is delightfully funny . . . for the audience. Peter, on the other hand, wants more. He wants to drop out of school and be an Avenger.
With the impatience of any teenager, Peter gets tangled up with neighborhood thugs armed with alien hardware scavenged from the aftermath of previous Avenger battles. Luckily nobody is killed, but Parker’s favorite deli is destroyed. No more sandwiches for you.
Would this deter a normal person from endangering the public further? Yes. But in Hollywood this leads to Peter further meddling where he should not. Michael Keaton, portraying one of the MCU’s best villains to date, gets involved. There’s lots of fancy set pieces where Spidey saves a few people here, almost saves a few people there. Tony Stark gives him the obligatory responsibility speech. Maturing happens. Yay Peter.
At least the power/responsibility speech wasn’t as bad as The Amazing Spider-Man. In effort to not directly copy Raimi’s classic dialogue (“with great power comes great responsibility”), the 2012 reboot replaced the brevity of six words for an onerous 29 word lecture: “[Peter’s father] believed that if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things! That’s what’s at stake here. Not choice. Responsibility.”
At least Tony Stark trimmed it back down to 11 words: “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”
Despite the Spider-man franchise being attached at the hip to the power/responsibility motif, the importance of patience is the real theme of this film. This refreshing change of pace comes with a dose of irony. An irony that even Marvel is aware of as evidenced by a comical post-credit scene.
With the virtue of patience on my mind as I left the theater, I wondered how long my patience with the MCU will hold out. Sixteen films in and I’m still waiting for a plot with any sort of finality. There have been no meaningful character departures, as Marvel is too scared to let Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, or any of the franchises A-listers, die in battle.
Marvel has tested the patience of endless fans by waiting until its 18th film to headline a black superhero (Black Panther, coming February 2018), and its 21st film to headline a female superhero (Captain Marvel, coming March 2019).
And don’t get me started on Marvel’s own lack of patience. Beginning in 2017 they’ve squeezed three films a year into their schedule for the remaining MCU films. By moving so fast, they’re undoubtedly cannibalizing their own hype and leaving many earnest fans with empty pockets, trying to keep up.
All things aside, if you fancy an endearing high school movie and have managed to stay current with the MCU through Captain America: Civil War, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Spider-man: Homecoming.