This review contains light spoilers about the general plot of Spider-Man: Homecoming. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out our discussion of the best Spider-Man adaptations.
So I’m just going to go ahead and say it: we as a society may be on the brink of being over-saturated with superheroes. When I went to watch X-Men in 2000, half of my excitement came from the fact that it was still rare to see superheroes brought to life on the big screen; Batman & Robin preceded it in 1997, and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man wouldn’t debut until two years later in 2002. There were literal years in between movies we would be able to watch and geek out over. In contrast, 2017 has already seen the debut of four movies from major comic franchises: Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man:Homecoming. And it’s barely July.
On one hand, it is absolutely amazing that we live in an age where nerd culture is embraced and celebrated. But the downfall of this abundance of superhero movies is that after a while, they suffer from a lot of the same problems. It can be difficult to distinguish the movie plots from each other, there are major continuity issues, and sometimes it seems like the plot is taking a backseat to spectacle.
Well my friends, this is exactly why we need Homecoming. Here is a summary of why I found Homecoming took a step in the right direction for the future of superhero films.
There is No Origin Story
Listen, there are a lot of superheroes that no longer need introducing. We all know Superman is from Krypton. We know Batman saw his parents being murdered. And we know that Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider. We know. We get it. We really don’t need to see it again. And – thank the heavens – someone at Marvel has finally figured this out.
Instead of wasting time on the origin story that we already have engrained in our minds, the movie opens with… well, I’ll let you find out for yourself. But it’s clever, it’s funny, and you get a feel for who Peter Parker is right away. Big props to Marvel for trying something fresh and trusting that the audience doesn’t need every single detail in order to follow the movie. The origin story isn’t there, and I didn’t miss it for a second.
Peter Parker is a Real Teenager
For the first time, we have a Peter who doesn’t look like he must have failed 10 times to still be a high school student. Tom Holland isn’t a teenager, but his boyish looks, shorter stature, and lean frame makes it seem like he could be. Yes, he is a little too muscularly developed for a 15 year old, but maybe that’s a side effect from the radioactive venom (side note: I’d like some of that venom, please).
This version of Spider-Man is also sometimes very terrible at his job. He’s a kid looking to do something heroic but his plans aren’t thought out, he lacks experience, and he’s too stubborn or embarrassed to ask for help. He constantly screws up, and when he’s caught he complains about not being taken seriously. Yup, sounds like a teenager to me.
Though this can sound like a deep flaw for a superhero, you have to remember that Spider-Man is still just a kid. He’s not supposed to be a shining beacon of hope like Superman or Captain America – he’s a kid trying to save the world while also making sure he gets his Chemistry homework done or else he’ll be grounded. That’s what makes Spider-Man different, and this movie is able to capture the joys, disappointments, and extreme awkwardness that being a teenager is all about.
The Villain’s Motivation Makes Sense
In watching recent superhero films it seems like one of the biggest problems writers have is figuring out the villain’s motivation. Because the baddies are often just as powerful as our heroes (if not moreso), the writers often feel like they need to give the villains grand schemes and plans to destroy humanity (i.e. Ultron, Lex Luthor, Ares, Dark Elves, Apocalypse… shall I go on?). The literal world has to be in danger. And more often than not the third act of these films become too contrived, too rushed, and too… much.
In contrast, Homecoming’s Vulture (played by the ever-talented Michael Keaton) is simply a man in a mechanical suit who is doing bad things for selfish reasons. He doesn’t care to destroy the world. He has no great philosophical beef with humanity. He’s just a criminal with a big suit. If he didn’t have a big suit he would probably be a criminal on a smaller scale. That is all we get, and that is all we need. It’s okay that he doesn’t have a weird convoluted plan to take over everything. In fact, it’s nice that the audience doesn’t have to follow some scheme. He’s bad. Spider-Man is good. They fight. The end.
All in all, the reason I personally enjoyed Homecoming so much is because the movie doesn’t try to be more than it needs to be. The plot is straightforward and even the action packed scenes are shot in a way that is easy to follow (no crazy jump cuts and gratuitous CGI effects *cough*Transformers*cough*). The cameos (it’s a Marvel movie, there was bound to be a few) are fun but succinct, allowing the new characters to shine in the spotlight. By keeping the movie simple and not over bloated, the movie gets to instead show off its heart and humor – making this a refreshing take on the superhero genre.