Review: In establishing his own ‘Sony’ world, the all-new Spidey (Tom Holland) has to swing across Marvel Cinematic Universe, find a more established mentor in Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and make an experimental entrance in Sokovian Accords feud—which made it into Spider-Man: Homecoming as Peter Parker’s vlog. Head-started with the Civil War (2016) stunt, director Jon Watts (Cop Car, Clown) along with five other writers deconstruct the web-slinging hero’s origin story, infuse it with coming-of-age gusto and redefine the old formula to make this third cinematic incarnation of Spider-Man a frivolously clumsy one.
As you’ve seen in his Captain America’s hijack, Holland’s Spidey is no more than a high school chap—barely 15 and a member of school’s decathlon team. Homecoming highlights his return to school after that ‘Stark internship’ in Berlin, where his mundane geeking/being bullied/being unpopular life has waited. Tenure with Tony Stark has given him high hopes of big action and great vigilante stunts; but a month has passed and he’s only becoming ‘the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, as an extracurricular activity.
Yet, things start to turn out differently when Adrian Toomes a.k.a. Vulture’s (Michael Keaton, as another Birdman but on a different pole from his dark knight) story arc collides with Peter’s. Fueled with grudge towards Stark, Toomes becomes an arm-dealer of modified alien weapon who operates in Queens, which happens to be the titular hero’s domain.
Spider-Man: Homecoming juxtaposes Peter’s newly acquired superhero niche with his coming of age issues—including his surplus of energy, his desire to be acknowledged, and his swinging moods. Similar to Watts’s Cop Car, Homecoming also underlines juvenile restlessness and irresponsibility. Peter is simply too young to control his arachnid ability; and he’s lost in curiosity and teenage angst. In short, he’s a frustrating antithesis of previous Spidey’s ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ In putting balance to the unstable character, Tony Stark’s role comes into light as that mentor and a daddy figure who introduce a new quote “if you are nothing without the suit, you don’t deserve it” which might resonate for some times.
Tony Stark’s grown-up roles in Homecoming indirectly confronts Adrian Toomes’ roles. Stark works as a pacifist to Peter’s ever-exploding vigilant obsession; meanwhile, Toomes becomes the trigger for Peter to actually become a ‘real hero’—a Spider-Man not a Spider-Boy. Homecoming treat Keaton’s Toomes seriously to somehow overcome Marvel’s villain issue. Keaton’s new birdman has depth in characters and motivation. Menacing with or without the suit and fueled with multi-dimensional force, Toomes is a villain to actually challenge Spidey’s lack of maturity. Notice that he’s barely called Vulture in the film for a reason; Toomes is simply menacing as ‘Vulture’ or as his own persona.
Aside from Stark’s effectively used father role and Toomes’ menacing villain, Homecoming also has rosters of vibrant characters reflecting Queens’ diversity. Some characters find themselves fit into the plot efficiently. Veterans, such as Marisa Tomei’s May (without Aunt) who reprises the role from Civil War and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan who makes comeback after long hiatus easily tune into the story. Meanwhile some of the new characters quickly find a place in the universe. Jacob Batalon’s Ned immediately finds himself to be a future investment as he transcends from an annoying side-kick to be Spidey’s assistance. Laura Harrier’s Liz (who bears a clever little twist) is a great ephemeral love interest and conflict catalyst at once; while Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson (a.k.a. You-know-who… wait, but we have Tom Hardy, too, right?) defines Peter’s caste in the school.
While those characters made eminent entrance to Sony’s Spidey universe, some other potentials are simply underused. From Donald Glover’s thug (proves a hint to Miles Morales’ existence in this universe) to Zendaya’s nerdy Michelle (this one with unsatisfying twist) are simply abused with neglect (unless for future development). Some other, like Betty (Angourie Rice from The Nice Guys) and Abe (portrayed by Beasts of No Nation‘s Abraham Attah), even only work as mere attachment—a tongue-in-cheek reference to some comic book characters, possibly Betty Brandt and Abe Brown.
Jon Watts’ attempt to build the world—which acknowledges events in MCU but is independent enough to contain (and sustain) stories for itself—is a positive aspect. Queens’ diverse neighborhood plays ‘real roles’ (including presenting Peter with various choice of cuisine—from Italian sandwiches, churros, to Thai foods) as a setting that further differentiate Spidey’s world to the counterpart in MCU. To put a John Hughes-influenced coming-of-age story in such world makes it more compelling, especially to the growth of the titular hero. And, for the first time, you might be able to expect a superhero grows from a teenage boy to finally become a real man, speaking of the future.
With a future ahead, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s narrative flaws can temporarily be forgiven with its inventive world, high-energized pulse & myriads of fan-pleasing moments. Hopes are finally swaying high again as the web-slinging hero swinging into his own world. A promising world.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Directed by: Jon Watts Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jon Watts Starred by: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei Runtime: 133 mins Rated PG-13