By Grant Stoner | Staff Writer
Since 2002, moviegoers have experienced three different and unique interpretations of New York’s favorite “Web-slinger.” Toby Maguire brought Spider-Man’s nerdy, awkward mannerisms to the forefront, whereas Andrew Garfield’s iteration channeled the cocky side of Peter Parker. Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Tom Holland expertly combines both personalities into a recognizable and lovable Spider-Man, but the overall plot prevents this film from achieving its true potential.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is beyond excellent in relation to the characters. In fact, I found myself relating to Spider-Man far more than any other character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s a young man who’s trying to survive high school. He’s bullied, has a crush on the most popular girl and even has a nerdy, incredibly faithful friend. These social shortcomings perfectly foil his feats as Spider-Man. After he dons his signature suit, Parker acts as a positive force in what appears to be a corrupt world. He helps old ladies cross the street, stops petty crimes and regularly tries to interact with the public. As a 15-year-old boy, Parker is trying his best to be a superhero.
Even Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, stands out as a memorable villain. He’s neither trying to conquer the galaxy nor destroy the Avengers. Vulture’s turn to villainy was a direct result of him trying to financially survive. Rather than be motivated by greed, Vulture produces — and subsequently distributes — advanced weaponry in order to provide for his family. There are no hidden agendas. He rarely resorts to violence, remains calm under stressful situations and regularly behaves like a father figure around his crew. His strictly “under-the-radar” approach was only discovered after Spider-Man encountered a group of his henchmen.
If Homecoming focused on the conflict between Spider-Man and Vulture, then this movie would have been perfect. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Spider-Man is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, meaning that he regularly interacts with various members of the Avengers. And trust me, the movie NEVER lets you forget this.
Throughout the first half of the film, Spider-Man wants nothing more than to be an Avenger. Every heroic action and conversation is fueled by Parker’s incredible desire to join the superhero team. He consistently badgers Tony Stark’s assistant, giving him daily reports of his heroic deeds. At first, it’s cute and comical, but it quickly devolves into obnoxious pestering. Not surprisingly, the interactions with Iron Man don’t stop there.
Spider-Man’s suit was designed by Stark, even featuring an AI program similar to the Iron Man suits. At one point in the film, Spider-Man’s attempt to save the day is grossly overshadowed by Iron Man’s intervention. And arguably the most egregious shoehorn of Iron Man comes when Stark refers to himself as a father figure toward the young Parker.
That interaction is nothing short of an insult to the character, demoting him from a superhero to a mere sidekick and removing what made Spidey so important in the first place.
Spider-Man’s greatest character development tool comes from the “with great power comes great responsibility” theme. What makes this character so unique is that he never had a mentor. Spider-Man became an amazing superhero through trial and error. He learned on his own how to use his powers for the greater good. He never had a billionaire, Playboy philanthropist to guide him.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a welcomed addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it occasionally falls short. The film could have been an entirely separate entity within a cohesive world, but it isn’t. At the end of the film, I was more than satisfied with the overall development of the protagonist and antagonist, but the consistent references toward the Avengers were unnecessary.
Spider-Man eventually finds his place within the established world, yet, rather than create a standalone Spider-Man film that exists alongside the Avengers, we are given a film that felt rushed, trying too hard to appease fans by finally adding Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.