After making a scene-stealing appearance in Capt. America: Civil War, it was only a matter of time before Spider-Man returned to the cinematic spotlight. Too bad his latest outing is more of an afterthought than something a pop-culture icon truly deserves.
Spider-Man: Homecoming follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as he impatiently waits for a chance to prove himself to his impromptu mentor, Tony Stark (Robery Downey Jr.). His time finally comes when the webslinger uncovers Adrian Toomes’ aka The Vulture (Michael Keaton) arms dealing operation. But Parker soon learns that he may have bitten more than he could chew when balancing his high school life with his superhero duties proves harder than expected.
Homecoming finds itself in a unique position, since it’s the only Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) entry made in the shadow of previous, well-known films: Sam Raimi’s critically-acclaimed Spider-Man trilogy and the fucking stupid The Amazing Spider-Man movies. But when given the chance to surpass its predecessors, Homecoming gives the bare minimum amount of effort before settling for mediocrity.
Highschool Life, Highschool Fun
Just like every Marvel stand-alone movie, Homecoming combines its superhero antics with another genre (ex. Capt. America: The Winter Soldier is a superhero and an espionage movie). In this case, Homecoming emphasizes Parker’s highschool life in the style of old teen-centric movies. Where previous Spider-Man films dedicated roughly 30 minutes to Parker’s formative years before cutting to life in the Daily Bugle, Homecoming gives his teen days an entire movie – and it works.
Not only does Parker’s mundane student life reinvent Spider-man’s supporting cast in a relevant, diverse manner which leads to fun downtime moments, but it also doubles as the perfect contrast to the usual bombastic superhero fare. This came to a point where the serviceable action scenes became a hindrance to the character development and Parker’s school life, which were infinitely more interesting than whatever bullshit Vulture and his friends were up to. Homecoming gives a good look at the MCU from a bystander’s point of view – a perspective that has been sorely missing in the 20 fucking Marvel movies or so.
A criticism of the superhero genre as a whole is that it feels elitist, accidentally glorifying the idea of a select (and privileged) few defending the lowly masses who are too dumb to wipe their assholes after a shit. Homecoming acknowledges this with its bystanders’ perspective, but fails to capitalize on it. This turns Spider-Man’s return into just another Marvel movie that just so happens to have spiders and “Penis Parker” in it.
Working Class, My Ass
Homecoming was billed as the “blue-collar” approach to the MCU since its primary antagonist Toomes was a regular working Joe who got screwed over by Stark after the thwarted Chitauri invasion from The Avengers (2012). Rather than try to dominate and/or destroy the world like almost every dumbass comic movie villain, Toomes just runs a small racket to scrape a living for himself and his accomplices. Interesting as this premise may have been, Homecoming is a blue-collar movie as much as Ant-Man was a heist movie: it’s a description that only fits the advertising.
This “blue-collar” approach is only brought up whenever Toomes is onscreen, and nowhere else. A smarter, creative, and daring Homecoming script would have had Parker, who himself is from a working class environment, question his adoration of a controversial public figure like Stark due to his unintentionally callous attitude towards those below his economic status. Stark would then have to prove himself to Parker, and the two would understand that Toomes doesn’t represent all Working Joes despite his claims and motivations. Instead, Toomes is portrayed as a spiteful petty thief who must be stopped not because what he’s doing is illegal and dangerous, but because he’s fucking with Parker’s homeboy Stark.
The ending of Homecoming hammers in the movie’s inconsequential nature when everything is wrapped up just in time for the mandatory happy Marvel ending that promises future superhero adventures. Without spoiling too much, Homecoming concludes on a hollow uplifting note where the status quo has been successfully defended and the most generic cliches about heroism were espoused. Nothing too dire occurred and nothing too drastic that could shake or strengthen moral foundations and friendships was learned. Instead, the day is saved from some bland bad motherfucker wearing funky power-armor and more Marvel movies are coming your way.
Spider-Man, Does Whatever Marvel Demands
As harsh as I may sound, Homecoming is far from bad and it’s one of the better stand-alone Marvel movies. There’s a distinct lack of connections to the larger MCU and the human moments are fun to watch, making Homecoming stand strong as a solo-feature in contrast to boring shit like the Thor movies prior to the upcoming Ragnarok.
But this doesn’t change the fact that Homecoming is just another MCU movie that’s a slave to the superhero formula. Rather than go the extra mile and delve deep into its ideas, Homecoming scrapes the surface of its core conflicts to prioritize the quirky young adult shenanigans geared towards a younger audience.
Homecoming is a serviceable time-killer that corrects the errors of The Amazing Spider-Man, but pales in comparison to Raimi’s Spider-Man. While it can stand on its own, it’s still forgettable and disposable. Ultimately, Spider-Man: Homecoming represents not only another wasted narrative opportunity that could have taken advantage of the superhero genre’s foundations, but Marvel’s continued refusal to take risks.
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