By Emmanuel Gundran
Spider-Man Homecoming (Watts, 2017), a refreshing take on the ongoing superhero genre, proves itself to be a unique entry in the long-running Spider-Man film franchise. The film follows the story of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), a high school student in New York City who works as a superhero between keeping up his academic obligations and keeping his hero identity a secret. When criminals like the Shocker (Logan Marshall-Green) and the Vulture (Michael Keaton) arise, Peter has to spring into action. However, being inexperienced as a superhero comes at a price, as he unintentionally causes large amounts of property damage and risk for civilians along the way. During his career as a hero, Peter must learn the importance of power and responsibility.
The film’s overarching theme of Peter learning from his mistakes as a superhero make this film stand out from the other Marvel films with heroes who are more experienced. Throughout the film, Peter, as Spider-Man, makes mistakes while going about his duty. When he tries to shoot webs and swing around a small town, he realizes that he cannot swing from a tree and plummets into some young girls’ camping tent in their backyard. There’s another moment in which Spider-Man tries to use advanced web technology that was built into his suit, but he fails and falls on his face. Eventually, Peter meddles with the technology in the suit so much that he has his suit taken away by his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and has to learn responsibility without the majority of his powers.
The cast, from the lead actor to the villain and supporting characters, is comprised of a talented group of both young and old actors. The choice of Tom Holland as the titular character seemed like a natural fit, and it shows through his performance. Holland’s young, energetic personality in real life transfers well to playing this optimistic yet inexperienced version of Spider-Man. It helps that Holland is younger, being twenty-one, so that he could sell the idea that Peter is a newer superhero. Jacob Batalon, who plays Peter’s best friend Ned Leeds, is great as a comedic support character. While the humor of the film can get unexpectedly bawdy, he makes it feel natural for his character. The best cast actor in the film goes to Michael Keaton’s Vulture. As an actor, Keaton brings intensity to any role that he’s given, from Batman, to Dogberry, and Birdman. One particular scene has him interrogating Peter in a car, and it shows just how intense he can be while speaking in a voice no higher than a whisper. However, what makes Michael Keaton one of the best actors in a villainous Marvel role is his ability to play the blue-collar everyman.
The flaws that the film has are mostly tied to its connection to previous entries in the Spider-Man franchise and to some of the differences it has with the original Spider-Man comics. The death of Peter’s Uncle Ben is a major plot point in other films such as Spider-Man (Raimi, 2001) and The Amazing Spider-Man (Webb, 2012) and the event is considered a major moment in Peter’s life, as it motivates him to become a hero. Meanwhile, Uncle Ben is not given as much as a single reference by name in Homecoming. This makes Peter’s personal motivation seem shallow, only wanting to help the people of New York City because it is just the right thing to do and not because of some personal compulsion. While Captain America: Civil War (Russo & Russo, 2016) explored some of this version of Peter Parker’s motives, this film did not develop them as much as it could have.
With this said, Spider-Man Homecoming, despite being bogged down as the sixth in a series of Spider-Man films, makes itself a fresh new take on a classic superhero.