Let’s get right into this.
The hype surrounding the film has been astronomical is size, due in no small part to the fact that Marvel finally worked out a deal with Sony Pictures to include Spider-Man in their Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was apparently a heavy negotiation, and it seems like both sides are still not entirely clear on the paperwork they signed. But they did it, and this was the Spider-Man movie to finally nail the character and get everything right.
Does Spider-Man: Homecoming finally get things right?
Yes and no. But mostly no, in my opinion. It’s a difficult place from which I’m writing this review. I saw it opening day, but took the weekend to process it and debate it with friends and family before finally sitting down to write a review. The hype and desire to adore this film is thick as molasses, and I felt it just as much as everyone else. But, we didn’t start up The Second Draft with the intention of just praising things we like and ignoring things we don’t. One of the main tenants we stand by is this place being a platform for discussion and friendly debate. We won’t fuck around and post bullshit for likes and retweets. So… yeah, with the entire internet wanting to White Knight this movie and drown out any naysayers, it’s tough to say that Spider-Man: Homecoming has a lot of problems.
There’s gonna be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, then tread carefully.
The film prides itself on being the first reboot in the franchise to skip over the origin story, citing that everyone and their mother already knows it. That’s all fine and well. The film’s earliest problems lies in the fact that the film has also glossed over the gravity of that origin story, and it does the character of Peter Parker / Spider-Man no favors.The film makes the immediate decision to remove Peter from that tragedy by six months, and removes that feeling of guilt and duty that makes up so much of the character. We don’t need to see Uncle Ben get shot for the umpteenth time on screen, but we do need to feel the weight of it on Peter because it informs his entire superhero career.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is still very much an origin story, though.
And it’s weird! Homecoming still wants to introduce Spider-Man as a fledgling hero who frequently falls flat on his face (literally) and fucks things up more often than not, but he’s been doing this for six months. In his introduction in Civil War, we see him stop a car with his bare hands. He goes toe-to-toe with Winter Solider, Falcon, Giant Man and even Captain America and comes away looking good. Great, even. Yet, he enters Homecoming a bumbling, rookie hero who gets bested at every turn by street-level lackeys. Marvel wanted their coming of age origin story without the burden of drudging through the traditional backstory, and in this particular case, it doesn’t work.
Spider-Man sucks at being a hero, and the story is inconsistent.
Tony Stark takes Peter under his wing and provides him with a new Stark-tech suit, which creates a whole new set of problems. Key factors that make Spider-Man interesting are his quick problem-solving skills, his agility, and his “spider-sense”. This new suit simultaneously negates each of those aspects of Spider-Man, while also presenting a new set of obstacles for him: it slows him down and confuses him with too many options and protocols. And when it does function right and he uses it to its potential, it does all the work for him.
It was a way to link Tony and Peter together narratively, but it makes the character boring and redundant in a universe that already has Iron Man. Take the Washington Monument scene, for example. It ends up being the suit making the decisions for Peter and guiding him through steps towards saving his friends. Making Peter’s powers irrelevant, and deleting his Uncle Ben-related trauma make Spider-Man only mildly compelling as a hero. Even more so when it reduces him to being just Iron Man, Jr. instead of a hero with unique and interesting powers all his own.
Spider-Man isn’t given much to do.
The odd choices just continue to pile up. Early scenes of Peter going through the routine of being a hero are probably the highlights. Everything after the main plot establishes itself ranges from oddly unsatisfying to straight-up frustrating. There’s minimal web-swinging and none of the awe-inspiring jaunts through New York we’ve come to expect. Like I said before, Spidey stumbles through each of his encounters with bad guys, often played up for slapstick comedy. He fails at almost every turn, and his final confrontation with the Vulture ends up being a victory only on a technicality. Aside from his willingness to put himself in harm’s way, the film really never gives Spider-Man a moment to be heroic and victorious.
And there’s a completely fucking weird sequence where Spidey is driving around in a stolen car instead of swinging around. I get that there was a need and desire for Homecoming to differentiate itself from the other five movies. But this film crosses a line into almost being afraid of being a Spider-Man movie.
Tom Holland and the rest of the cast are perfect, though.
Marvel’s track record for casting continues it’s near-perfect streak. Tom Holland absolutely shines as Peter Parker, and he deftly sells Peter living a dual life. Homecoming went for a strong John Hughes sensibility, and it works. The strongest stuff in the film centers around trying to navigate high school as a teenage superhero. Holland is charming, affable, sympathetic and hilarious at all once. Were the film as careful and caring while he’s wearing the mask, it’d be my favorite on-screen Spider-Man, hands down.
Adrian Toomes ends up being another weak Marvel villain. Michael Keaton absolutely kills in the role, but inconsistency and paper-thin development hamstring the character. There’s an effort to make him sympathetic and play him as the 99%, struggling under the boots of the superhero 1%, but that motivation quickly gives out from beneath him. There’s never a decision made as to whether we should relate to Toomes, or hate him. Did he turn to crime to make ends meet and provide for his family? Is he really just a mustache-twirling bad guy who’s invented a reason to be a thief, arms dealer and murderer? The character could have easily tanked completely with a lesser actor.
Some final thoughts before I wrap this up.
Sadly, the MCU itself doesn’t come out of Spider-Man: Homecoming unscathed. Tony Stark is wildly inconsistent, and Marvel refuses to grow him as a character. After the ferry sequence in Homecoming, Tony chastises Peter for being reckless and takes the suit away. He fears that Peter isn’t ready and his overeagerness will get someone killed. In the film’s final act, Peter directly disobeys him a second time and goes after Toomes, which results in a plane full of Stark tech being destroyed. Peter gets his ass completely kicked, showing no aptitude for fighting bad guys at all, and fails again. Stark rewards him by giving him an even more advanced suit, and welcoming him to the Avengers with pomp. Uh… what?
And he’s right back to tinkering with unmanned Iron Man suits, despite two films establishing it as a bad idea. Pepper Potts left him because of it, and now she’s suddenly back and apparently fine with it. More strange is that she’s okay with Tony bringing a 15 year old kid into a world that has nearly killed them both on multiple occasions.
The events in Captain America: Civil War apparently carried less weight than we thought. Tony is holding press conferences to introduce a new Avenger, despite the team’s leader being a wanted criminal. And Tony himself turned his back on the military, but is still publicizing the Avengers like everything’s great.
What it comes down to is Spider-Man: Homecoming arriving way too late in the game to make these mistakes. Years of waiting for Marvel to secure the rights should have resulted in an iron-clad take on the character. This film feels reckless and uninterested in getting the characters right beyond a superficial level. And it’s a real shame because it’s on Spider-Man to lead Marvel’s next wave, with RDJ and Chris Evans exiting soon. The film has its moments, but it’s not an especially great film, and it definitely doesn’t feel like firm footing for Marvel to take the next necessary step.
You’re likely to have an entirely different opinion on this film — and that’s okay! Share your opinions in the comments below. Or better yet, let’s talk about it over at our FORUMS!