“With great power comes great responsibility.” This line is one of the most iconic within the Marvel Universe, being synonymous with everyone’s friendly neighbourhood hero, Spider-Man, whose story has been told over generations. Despite various modifications to the notable hero throughout his history over the past fifty years, there are staple key facts about the character and his history, which make him the very hero we all know and love. The latest film adaptation of Spider-Man, however, decided to go with a completely different approach.
Spider-Man: Homecoming marks the first film adaptation of the web-slinging hero to be developed by both Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Despite the last Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, taking place less than a decade ago, this new film attempts to re-imagine the entire Spider-verse, in the hopes of appealing to a new generation of film-goers. Whilst the film did a solid job with appealing to a younger generation of Spider-fans, it certainly left me completely and utterly disappointed as a longstanding fan of the Spider-Man franchise, from the early silver age comic book days right up to Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of the character in The Amazing Spider-Man reboots.
Spider-Man: Homecoming did away with all that made the franchise appeal to me, both as a child and now as an adult. As an avid Spider-Man comic book collector and reader, Marvel’s new direction of taking Peter Parker back to high school, as a fifteen year old, led to a feeling that I was watching a typical high school film unfold on screen and not a Marvel superhero, action film. Firstly, my biggest gripe with the new Spider-Man franchise since Captain America: Civil War, is the new younger, modernised and ‘hot’ version of sweet ol’ Aunt May Parker (Marisa Tomei). Never before had the staple maternal figure for Peter Parker been portrayed as anything but a kind, gentle and wise old woman. Even Sally Field’s portrayal of May Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man, gave the character a more realistic feel, in keeping with what the creators of the Spider-Man comic books envisioned. To see May Parker as a MILF in this film was just utterly pointless. Where was her grief over Uncle Ben’s death, which can be presumed to be fairly recent considering Peter is still very inexperienced as Spider-Man? Did Ben Parker even die in the first place? Or better yet, in this continuity, did ol’ Uncle Ben cease to exist in the first place? Therein lies my disappointment with the lack of use of the most crucial line in Spider-Man’s history, “with great power comes great responsibility”.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, it is Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) who plays the father figure to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and there is no way that he, of all people, would have bestowed wisdom onto Peter. Of course, all of this is based on presumptions as we are made to assume Spider-Man’s origins to be the same as that of the comics, wherein he is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a hero sworn to protect New York City after Ben Parker is gunned down by an armed robber.
In this film, we see a version of Spider-Man who, despite being a novice at being a hero, whines that the adults aren’t appreciative of his abilities or care enough to allow him to show off his ‘powers’. Let it be known, the only ‘power’ Spider-Man has in this film is strength. His suit is essentially an Iron Man tailored suit with technology which helps him through his ‘hero-ing’ and his web-shooters are completely man-made, which shoot out through technology worn around his wrists. Peter’s statement in the film, “I’m nothing without that suit” is completely accurate. Take the suit away and Spider-Man is essentially back to being whiny Peter Parker, who has nothing much to offer as far as what we see on screen. Compared to the earlier two film adaptations of Spider-Man, this version of Peter Parker isn’t the boy genius he’s meant to be. Despite hints of him being a good student and part of the Decathlon team, there isn’t any actual evidence of Peter’s genius (apart from one small scene where he mixes chemicals together to create web-fluid). All in all, he’s just a typical, average high-schooler. Perhaps Marvel intended it this way in order to have him grow and become a fully fledged hero in their next phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Regardless, in this film, I wasn’t impressed.
One of the most disheartening aspects of Spider-Man: Homecoming, for me personally, was the fact that the entire film lacked heart. Peter Parker was always a character who had to struggle with juggling his everyday life with being a superhero. He had lost so many in the process, the most iconic, next to Ben Parker, being Gwen Stacy, his first true love. Almost every superhero carries with them some form of guilt, or heavy burden, almost a curse that comes with being a superhero. In this film, Peter Parker seemed far too obsessed with becoming an Avenger than actually showing any real kind of human struggle. As an onlooker, both Peter’s and Spider-Man’s ‘troubles’ appeared to be incredibly minute in the larger scheme of things. Yes, he had a good heart and just wanted to help make the world a better place, but at the end of the day, he simply wasn’t mature enough. In fact, I could only picture this version of Spider-Man as a kid. As an actor, Tom Holland certainly played the part of a fifteen year old kid really well. For the entire duration of the film, I completely forgot that he is actually in his 20s.
Peter and May weren’t the only two characters that I was disappointed in. Michael Keaton certainly had the talent to pull off playing a good villain, as good as that of Norman Osborne a.k.a The Green Goblin, who we saw in the original 2000 film, Spider-Man. However, the character development simply portrayed him as a man desperate to make ends meet for his family. There just wasn’t anything really ‘evil’ about him, from what I saw, except for the one moment on screen where all I could think of was the scene in the 2000 Spider-Man film, in which Norman Osborne figured out Spider-Man’s true identity.
In an almost mirror image-like sequence, the moment Adrian Toomes a.k.a The Vulture (Michael Keaton) put the pieces together to figure out who Spider-Man truly was, felt incredibly reminiscent of that moment, which Norman Osborne realised that Spider-Man was none other than Peter Parker. Another interesting similarity is the weapon, which both The Vulture and The Green Goblin used in their final attempt to kill Spider-Man. Though not exactly alike, with The Vulture’s equipment being a flying technology compared to The Green Goblin’s glider, the scene in which The Vulture brings in his flying machine to attack looked oddly familiar. It almost looked as if it was a glider that came from behind to attack Spider-Man, to which he dodges it by flipping over it (in almost the same manner he does in the original Spider-Man film). Both The Vulture and The Green Goblin shared similarities in many ways, the only difference being that their children were of different genders and that Peter was best friends with Harry Osborne and has a crush on Liz Toomes.
It was both peculiar and interesting to see Marvel’s new spin on the various other characters in the Spider-Man franchise. Liz (Laura Harrier) in the film can be said to be based off the character of Liz Allan, a fellow Midtown High Schooler who developed a crush on Peter after learning of his ‘friendship’ with Spider-Man. Interestingly, in the comic books, Liz ends up dating and marrying Harry Osborne.
We also see the character of Betty Brandt and Ned in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Betty in the film is best friends with Liz and reports on the school’s daily news programme. This is clearly in homage to her comic book character, who dates Peter, is friends with Liz and goes on to work as J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary at The Daily Bugle. Ned, in the film, is a rather nerdy fellow and Peter’s best friend. Interestingly, this Ned could be a variation of Ned Leeds in the Spider-Man comics, a reporter for The Daily Bugle who goes on be in a relationship with Betty Brandt. Then there’s Flash Tompson, who I won’t even bother to discuss as he was horribly portrayed as the ‘annoying’ bully rather than the ‘tough guy’, jock bully he has always been associated with. As for Zendaya’s character, Michelle, who is just a slightly rebellious girl, well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Personally, I remain neutral on this re-imagination of the Spider-verse characters.
Taking the film as a standalone, or at the very least one which is closely linked with the newer Spider-Man cartoons (e.g. The Spectacular Spider-Man or Ultimate Spider-Man) without linking it back to the original comic books and adaptations, the film was still rather lacklustre for me. The action sequences weren’t nearly as good as I expected. Despite having both The Vulture and his henchman, The Shocker (Logan Marshall-Green/ Bokeem Woodbine), in the film, the bad guys simply weren’t menacing enough and appeared underdeveloped. Again, perhaps Marvel is setting us up for more in a sequel film, so therefore I’ll withhold ‘some’ judgement.
In terms of visuals and soundtrack, sure there was a good deal of bright colours and special effects, as well as, a nostalgic homage to the old school Spider-Man theme song, but again, this was nothing fantastic and rather standard. I would like to think that the reason for this was due to the dual control of the film by Marvel and Sony, portraying a compromise, rather than there not being much visual and graphic talent behind the film.
All in all, Spider-Man: Homecoming was an average film and one that is marginally watchable as a standalone. However, as a true Spidey fan who has followed Peter Parker’s journey for years, this was definitely not the saving grace the franchise needed. Personally, Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man was far more enjoyable and felt more realistic than this new iteration of the Spider-Man franchise. Here’s hoping that the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will force the franchise to up Spider-Man’s game. Thank goodness for the Spider-Man PlayStation video game releasing next year, which looks to be in keeping with the core factors, which make Spider-Man the hero he is. For now, I will patiently await Thor: Ragnarok and pray that the upcoming Marvel films strike my fancy as it once did before.