As with most of the movies in the MCU remember really enjoying, I end up putting off watching them in some weird way. In part because I worry that the movie might not hold up quite as well as I remember, but also because I wonder what it is I can possibly say about it after the fact. Especially when it comes to Spider-Man who has been, and continues to be, the most recognisable character in Marvel’s entire character roster. And the character closest to me personally.
Spider-Man’s introduction into the Marvel Cinematic universe was quite brilliantly handled. During Civil War, the trailers were covered with Black Panther; a new character who was getting his introduction two years before his solo movie would come out. But it was when the second trailer popped up and showed the real scale of the cast taking part in the movie, including the reveal of Spider-Man.
Something nobody expected to happen, what with all the rights drama surrounding the movie rights to the character thanks to Sony’s acquisition of them so many years beforehand. Putting Peter Parker into Civil War achieved a number of things going forward. First off, it did away with the need to tell, yet another, origin story for the character. A story I feel like people have seen so many times at this point that, between Batman, Superman and Spidey, I don’t think we ever need to see them again.
Not only that, it established his character and his moral core right away, making it so his own first movie the following year could hit the ground running and already have that connection to the MCU through the inclusion of Tony Stark.
A line often repeated throughout Homecoming was that of a “Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man”. An idea that has been left further and further in the dust as the MCU has continued to grow. The big conflict between Peter and Tony throughout this movie is Peter wanting something more, getting to be a bigger part of the Avengers, out there saving the world. While Tony wants to keep him grounded, and as a consequence, relatively safe from the more global threats that he has to deal with.
But what makes Spider-Man great as a character and so relatable to kids like myself growing up was how he was the hero of the little guy. He’d be the guy who’d mess up his own life because a guy was getting his car jacked or a little old lady needed directions. Peter’s main arc of growth in this movie is knowing that there are people that need help on a more personal level. Something inevitably lost by the Avengers on their globe trotting adventures.
At the end of the day, Peter Parker’s strongest aspect as a character is his powerful moral compass. While the movies have gotten away from repeating it, “With great power, comes great responsibility” is still very much the core of his character. One that makes him arguably more moral than Captain America.
And that is what’s so good about this interpretation of Spider-Man. It manages to get both aspects of the character correct, both Peter as the nerdy, specially awkward high school student, and the super-hero alter-ego who simply can’t ignore a wrongdoing no matter how badly it’ll screw up Peter Parker’s life.
The Birdman Returneth
With any great hero, we need a great villain. And Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is one of the best, most relatable and human villains the MCU has managed to produce. Not too long ago, I talked about how important following the source material really was. Homecoming’s interpretation of the Vulture is one that falls pretty far from the classic origin of the character, but it ultimately doesn’t end up mattering because what they did instead ended up being so good anyway.
The Adrian Toomes of this movie is the foreman of a cleanup crew, dealing with the aftermath of the Chitauri attack on New York as seen at the climax of the first Avengers movie. This whole thing is a big nod to Marvel’s Damage Control, an announced but ultimately dropped comedy series for ABC with the same premise.
Just as Toomes’s crew are getting started, they are dropped from the job by a bunch of suits. Suits which ultimately prove to be representatives of Tony Stark, which is one more step of how Tony is ultimately disconnected from the people he is trying to protect, while wanting Peter to be there for them.
Thus he begins an operation in which he and his crew start stealing this exotic technology in the aftermath of events like Avengers and Ultron, repurposing it and then selling it on as weapons and high tech gadgets. And while much of Toomes’s crew are nothing more than thuggish criminals, the man himself is something different.
Even at the very beginning he makes it apparent that everything he is doing, he’s doing for his wife and daughter. And while his criminal behaviours steadily increase throughout the movie, he does remain a man of morals who ends up respecting Peter for his own moral code, and the fact that he saved his life in the movie’s climax.
Keaton does a great job making the character come across as both sinister and really likeable. Culminating in a fantastic scene and reveal that he’s the father of the girl Peter has been crushing on the entire movie. A twist that really comes out of nowhere and gives us that great, tense sequence in the car driving to the prom.
The Unnecessary Iron Man
In the buildup to this movie’s release, having Downey Jr. and Iron Man show up in all of the trailers was a huge boon for the movie. In the final product though, the characters cameos in the movie only really add so much to what is really a well rounded and fantastic coming of age story for Peter Parker.
It helps the core of the movie, that is essentially that of an underdog story. One in which Peter is battling against his mentor and the elder villain to prove himself as a capable hero in his own right and not just Iron Man’s sidekick, which is kind of how the character has been introduced thus far in the MCU.
The banter between Peter and Tony is great, but I can’t help but think that his inclusion in the movie takes away from Peter’s own development somewhat. Which really comes from the fact that we’re well into Infinity War prep mode now from a production standpoint.
While we do want to promote Peter as the hero on the ground, the savour of the little guy, something that the old Netflix shows, now dubbed Marvel Knights, could have filled the role of before Marvel and Disney threw them into the bin. Peter needs to be involved in the big Avengers team up movie, despite the whole point of this movie being that he turn his back on the Avengers come the movie’s end.
After five attempts by Sony, Marvel managed to do better than them on their first try. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is the best live action portrayal of the character by far, in both the Peter Parker and Spider-Man aspects of the character. Homecoming does take a bunch of liberties with characters.
Adding the character of Ned, who seems heavily inspired by Ganke Lee; Miles Morales’ best friend and the changes made to characters like “MJ” and “Flash”, but it ultimately doesn’t matter because the film ends up getting the core of the character right, and making an exciting, engaging and funny movie around it.
Toomes is ones of the best, well rounded villains in the entire MCU. It’s both a shame that he’ll probably never show up again, but also fantastic that he could be one of the most important parts of Sony’s Marvel Universe. That is of course if he is actually reprising his role as Toomes in Morbius. And Sony don’t fuck it up.
Homecoming was a great movie to come back to, and one that acts as a breath of fresh air when compared to the steadily increasing stakes of the MCU around it. To see a guy dealing with the very real problems of a high school kid, while also trying to do his best as a hero to the people. It’s the best thing about Spider-Man as a character, and this movie manages to nail that right down to a T.