Welcome back to The Weekly Nerd! With the release and success of Spider-Man Homecoming, it seems the wall-crawler has had a bit of a resurgence as of late. While this film still has a lot of familiar tropes of Marvel films and Spider-Man stories in general, Homecoming does some really interesting stuff with the source material. Let’s take a look at some of it!
The Kids Are Alright
This may seem like an obvious thing, but the first thing that I noticed about the film is that Spidey looks, sounds and acts like a kid. While Tom Holland himself is 20 years old, he plays a 15-year-old Peter Parker. The previous two series of movies started with Peter graduating or close to graduating, here he is a sophomore, knee deep in high school life. The opening of the film shows various events that took place during Captain America: Civil War from Peter’s perspective. He was recording short videos on his phone documenting his experiences while pissing off Tony Stark’s ever suffering body guard, Happy Hogan. After his adventures with the Avengers, he reluctantly shuffles back to his high school.
Another thing that is striking is the fact the focus on high school life in general. Many of the secondary and tertiary kids at school are well cast as they are young and diverse. Peter spends a lot of his New York time in the suburbs of Queens. It makes sense that his neighbors and classmates would be made up of many different races. This goes a long way towards making Peter’s home of Queens feel like an actual place. His high school feels like it is part of his life. While Peter starts to feel the mundanity of his regular life is fairly inconsequential, it is ultimately his desire to keep the streets of Queens safe that helped him choose to stay there rather than join the Avengers in the end. Small touches like having his best friend be a bit overweight, Flash Thompson being a rich East Indian kid who is just a bit of a prick and having Liz Allan be half black and taller than most of the other kids in her school go a long way really make his high school look and feel like an actual high school. I love the Sam Rami films, but the first movie having a bunch of adults pose as kids in high school looks weird as hell.
Web-Slinging In the Suburbs
“This sucks!” is the line that Peter yells out as he pursues a van full of criminals selling illegal Chitauri technology. Peter’s disdain for the situation was pertaining to the fact that he is chasing these miscreants through the suburbs, so there are no tall structures to web-sling from. The wall crawler ends up having to run, jump and stumble through back yards to keep up the chase. Spidey manages to scare small children and interrupt house parties in a hilariously blatant Farris Bueller style sequence. This scene is interesting as it is the first time in the movies that Spidey’s limitations to web-slinging in the suburbs have been displayed. It is great to see Spider-Man in a hilarious sequence that makes sense given the context of the scene.
This movie does not really feature the now signature moment of Spider-Man swinging through New York. Homecoming’s closest moment to this is when he is swinging through the boat that is about to sink while trying to keep it together with his webbing. While this iteration of Spider-Man skips his origin story, he is still somewhat new to the job and getting used to his suit. At this moment, the ship sequence is the most dangerous scenario he has been in, so he is going all out. The stakes have never been higher for him as there are a lot of civilian lives at risk. Overall, there is a lack of major web-slinging sequences. At various points in the film, Spider-Man needs to travel by riding on trucks, fighting on top of an automated airplane and… stealing a car? I can certainly understand fans being disappointed by this aspect of the film. Even in the Amazing Spider-Man movies, these sequences were impressive and fun to watch. They were often used as a triumphant moment at the end of the film when Spidey has overcome his opponent and is celebrating his victory, giving the viewer an impressively CG choreographed action sequence. It is a bit of shame that this is not in Homecoming but Spider-Man’s victorious moment is at the end of the film when he turns down Tony Stark’s offer to join the Avengers. Peter knows that he can help out the Avengers if they need him but he does not need fame or recognition. He just wants to keep his home safe, and sometimes that means you need to take an Uber from Queens to downtown. It seems some of the comments made by his adversary in the film actually resonated with Peter.
The Return of BirdMan
In this film, Spider-Man faces off against the Vulture. The Vulture is a bit of a punching bag as far as villains go. He is often portrayed as a doddering, bitter old man. He is a scientist who is shown to have his technology stolen by corporations, screwed out of a grant or just plain down on his luck. In order to get his, he develops his vulture armor, which is basically a flying muscle suit, to steal back his tech or simply get revenge on those who have wronged him. He often threatens the lives of anyone who gets in his way which puts him at odds with the web head. In this film, he is a blue collar worker who got screwed out of a massive clean up job. After the battle of New York in The Avengers, Adrian Toomes and his team were set to make a lot of money for their crew by working on cleaning up New York. Their contract, however, is taken from under their noses by Damage Control, a subsidiary of Stark Industries. Seeing as Toomes and his crew are pissed as this will threaten their livelihood, they end up stealing some alien tech, using it to make modified weapons and selling them on the streets of New York. Toomes is not an unhinged scientist, nor is he bent on taking over the World. He isn’t even the head of a criminal empire. He is just a man who is trying to get by so he can support his family and friends. When he callously kills one of his crew members who threatens to expose their operation, Toomes reaction seems a bit out of character. To be fair, he does state more than once that he will do anything to take care of his family. The interesting thing is that Toomes is not really evil. He is clearly willing to kill Spidey if he got in his way but really all he wanted was money to support his dependents. He is intimidating but he actually treats his two crew members with respect as they are his friends.
Near the end of the film, Toomes explains to Peter that guys like Stark and the rest of the Avengers have their heads in the clouds and don’t care about guys like the two of them. They are too busy fighting aliens and dropping cities on people to realize how everyone else is suffering below them. Toomes is partly right as some of the major threats the world has faced are direct results of Tony’s actions. During the climactic battle of the film, neither Spidey or Vulture are skilled martial artists. They are two people smacking each other while trying to achieve their main objective. Vulture is trying to steal some major tech to make even more weapons. Spider-Man is trying to ground the Vulture so he can get arrested for the very chargeable crime of selling weapons illegally. At the end of the third act action scene, Vulture sees an opportunity to get away with the tech. Rather than continuing his fight with Spider-Man, he attempts to flee with the goods. Spider-Man, in very un-MCU fashion, saves Toomes before his suit explodes on him and the Vulture ends up going to jail. A lot of the past Marvel villains have been megalomaniacs, Aliens, or shitty business men. Toomes is simply a man trying to do the best he can, granted through illegal and dangerous means. He is the most down to earth and relatable villain the MCU has seen.
Spider-Man Homecoming is a lot of fun. While it is not the riskiest or most experimental comic book movie out there, but it certainly is a good interpretation of Spider-Man. The stakes are much more personal as well, which helps us as viewers get invested in Peter’s struggle. I only hope that Marvel can learn from Homecoming’s success and possibly apply it to future MCU films.