Does Whatever a Spider Can

Spider-Man: Homecoming finally brought Spidey home to the MCU. As the sixthteeth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming became the third live-action iteration of the superhero in only 15 years. Sony was so confident in the success of the Amazing Spider-Man franchise that they went overboard with plans for their own cinematic universe. There were plans for at least 2 more sequels, a Sinister Six movie, a Black Cat movie, a Spider-Man 2099 movie, and a Venom movie. I started to lose hope that my favorite superhero would ever be part of the MCU, but almost every project was cancelled as soon as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a critical and financial disappointment. I secretly celebrated the failure, because that had to be enough to bring Sony to their spider-senses.

Sure enough, the Sony Pictures hack revealed secret meetings between the company and Marvel Studios. Before I could even process the deal, Tom Holland was cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War with a solo movie the following year. It was a dream come true, because as much as I love what the studio was able to do with lesser known characters, Spider-Man is still the most iconic Marvel comics superhero. My only fear was Sony’s prisistant involvement. Producer Kevin Feige was still involved, but he had to work with Sony producer Amy Pascal. The deal meant Sony retained creative control, distribution, and the right to include characters from the MCU. Indie director Jon Watts, casting decisions, posters, and trailers worried me further, but I was thoroughly entertained by the time it came out…

33. Spider-Man Homecoming

Spider-Man holds a boat together

Spider-Man: Homecoming went with a more lighthearted approach. Unlike the previous Spider-Man films, Civil War made it clear that they weren’t doing the origin story for the third time in a row. I have mixed feelings about that, because Spider-Man has one of the best superhero origins in comics. But I guess it would’ve been difficult to top the almost word for word retelling in the 2002 original. The 2012 reboot made the mistake of adding too much detail. So I guess I can’t blame them for wanting to explore an angst-free teenage Peter Parker with a coming of age approach to his life as Spider-Man. Although Jon Watts hadn’t directed much, he was a surprisingly good fit for the youthful hero. Even 6 different screenwriters didn’t keep the reboot from being both coherent and breezy. Marvel was so determined to do something different that several changes were made that continue to bother me as a longtime Spider-Man fan.

Peter is never seen being bit by a radioactive spider. Uncle Ben is acknowledged, but his death isn’t important to the story. “With great power comes great responsibility” was only ever paraphrased in Civil War. Although J. K. Simmons wanted to return, the Daily Bugle is also left out. Since Tobey Maguire spent less than half of his movie in high school and Andrew Garfield spent only one movie in high school, Marvel cast an actor who could convincingly play a 15 year old Sophomore. Many actors were considered including Dylan O’Brien and Asa Butterfield, but there was just something special about the British Tom Holland. His youthful energy and spot on American accent made him perfect for Peter Parker. While his natural athleticism and ability to do a flip made him perfect for Spider-Man. I was only sceptical about his casting because I hadn’t seen him in anything beforehand. I was proven wrong as soon as he appeared on screen and started cracking jokes. Fun fact: Tom Holland is only one year younger than me and we share a birthday. It’s almost like he was destined to play my favorite superhero.

Apart from the main villain, Holland was the only casting decision I was fully on board with. Everything else felt like they were more concerned with showing Queens, New York’s diversity than actual comic book accuracy. While at the same time putting a lot of emphasis on existing MCU characters. The first trailer made that very clear by having Tony Stark narrating most of it and ending with a shot of Spider-Man & Iron Man that isn’t in the movie. The international trailer was a bit better, but the second and third trailers continued to reveal a little too much. The teaser poster was a cool laid back design with Avengers Tower in the background, but the official poster is a chaotic mess. Robert Downey Jr. was once again front and center since Sony for some reason thought they couldn’t sell a Spider-Man movie without him. Sony also felt the need to announce every single ethnically diverse student in Peter’s class regardless of importance. Homecoming does get PC less than a minute into the movie, but fortunately the movie never suffers for it. This is still one of the funniest movies in the MCU regardless of Sony’s involvement. Similar to The Incredible Hulk, Homecoming isn’t fully owned by Disney since another studio is attached to it. It’s messy, but I’d rather have Spidey in the MCU then not at all.

Spider-Man: Homecoming begins with the Sony & Columbia Pictures logo before showing a drawing of the Avengers during the Battle of New York. The picture belongs to the daughter of Adrian Toomes. In the comics, the Vulture is an elderly man who uses a wingsuit of his own invention to commit crimes. John Malkovich was set to play Vulture in Spider-Man 4, but the movie was cancelled. Since the Vulture made his debut as early as The Amazing Spider-Man #2, it made sense to make him the main antagonist. What better actor to play him than a man who’s very familiar with winged characters. After Batman and Birdman, the 65 year old Michael Keaton was equally perfect casting for a mostly one note villain. Adrian Toomes is given extra depth thanks to his working class status. Toomes runs a salvage company that attempts to clean up alien debris before being shut down by the Stark funded Damage Control. The Marvel construction company finally makes an appearance after their TV series failed to materialize. Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag puts them out of business, but Toomes retaliates by keeping most of the tech for himself. Making Vulture another villain that Stark inadvertently created.

After an 8 years later title card that totally screws up the timeline (thanks a lot Sony), Vulture becomes a low level criminal who steals tech from Avenger battles with the rest of his crew. I never thought a villain as obscure as the Terrible Tinkerer would appear in a Spider-Man movie, but Phineas Mason is the one building weapons from Chitauri tech. He builds an impressive wingsuit with turbines and clawed feet that make the Vulture more fit for the MCU. A helmet is added for high altitudes, but Toomes’ flight jacket does pay homage to the classic Steve Ditko design. The Marvel Studios logo follows the prologue, set to a reworked version of the classic 60’s cartoon theme. What follows is a short film by Peter Parker. Although he isn’t a photographer, vlogging does pay partial homage to his comic book routes. Peter documents his experience traveling to Berlin to help Iron Man fight Captain America. Jon Favreau is brought back in a much larger role since he hasn’t been relevant since Iron Man 3. Happy takes Peter to Berlin much to his annoyance and shows him his new upgraded suit. Peter also records the airport battle, even though there are some inconsistencies, plus the fact that it’s an active fight.

The vlog ends with Tony in the car with Peter using the alibi that he’s part of the Stark internship. Although he’s not in the movie as much as the promotional material suggests, Tony was necessary for the mentor/mentee role he plays in Peter’s life. Most of Homecoming centers on Peter trying to get the hang of his super advanced spider-suit. While I’m not always crazy about the movie feeling like Iron Man 4 half the time, I still can’t deny how amazing his costume is (I just wish his webs were more prominent). There’s the classic red & blue color scheme, high powered web shooters, a spider symbol that’s also a drone, Steve Ditko inspired web pit gliders, a spider-parachute, spider-tracers, and so many other features. There’s even an A.I. that Peter affectionately nicknames Karen for no apparent reason. Jennifer Connelly voices Karen since her husband was the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. It’s another occasionally funny dynamic that gives Spider-Man someone to talk to apart from himself. Most features aren’t accessible since Tony wants Peter to be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that Happy keeps an eye on.

When Happy repeatedly ignores his texts, Peter returns to class. Similar to The Amazing Spider-Man, Parker’s high school is now Midtown School of Science and Technology. Making the school more science oriented with every classmate being as smart as Peter. Just not smart enough to create their own web fluid in chemistry class. Spider-Man has one of the best supporting casts in comics, but there are a lot of weird casting choices made for the sake of diversity. Unlike the previous movies, Liz Allan is Peter’s high school crush instead of Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson. It’s closer to the original comics, but the biracial Laura Harrier plays her instead of a blonde. I understand Peter liking a popular Senior like Liz, but they’re relationship is mostly an innocent crush. Also unlike the previous movies, Ned Leeds is Peter’s best friend instead of Harry Osborn. In the comics, Ned is a rival Daily Bugle co-worker who marries Betty Brant. In the movie, the Filipino Jacob Batalon plays a fun loving LEGO obsessed Ned who’s easily one of the funniest characters in the movie. Despite his name, Ned’s personality is closer to the Ganke character from the Ultimate Miles Morales comics.

The Nice Guys breakout star Angourie Rice plays a teenage school reporter version of Betty Brant, but her blonde hair and headband are very similar to Gwen Stacy for some reason. I have the hardest time buying the scrawny Guatemalan Tony Revolori as the intimidating dumb blonde bully Flash Thompson. I know he’s trying to be a jerk with the “Penis Parker” nickname, but a snobby academic is just not Flash. Former Disney star Zendaya was the first casting announcement who made me nervous since she was apparently playing an original character named Michelle. People were so confident that she would be playing Mary Jane that I think they gave her the MJ initials at the last minute. Instead of a redheaded party girl, Michelle is a sarcastic weirdo who sketches people, protests, and is very observant of Peter. It’s not what I wanted, but I can’t deny how funny she is. Most teachers are equally hilarious with former geek Martin Starr retroactively becoming Mr. Harrington after his brief appearance in The Incredible Hulk. Hannibal Buress also has his moments as Coach Wilson. The strangest MCU connection is Kenneth Choi playing Principal Morita, the descendant of a Howling Commando.

Although they probably go a little overboard, Homecoming is interesting for how it portrays everyday life in the MCU. Students discuss real life superheroes and Chris Evans makes an unexpected appearance as Captain America providing humorous public service announcements. Peter quits the academic decathlon in order to focus on crime-fighting as Spider-Man. Since it’s groundlevel work, Spider-Man doesn’t swing from skyscrapers the way we’re used to. Instead he helps old ladies cross the street, returns stolen bikes, and webs up innocent people he thinks are carjackers. Which incurs the wrath of Stan Lee’s cameo as a nearby neighbor named Gary. Things get real when thugs dressed in Avenger masks break into a bank using advanced weapons. Spidey does his best, but the Dominican sandwich shop he visits is destroyed in the process. Ned discovers Peter’s secret identity when he accidentally crawls into his room, but Aunt May is still unaware.

It’s almost a rule that Aunt May gets younger with every passing film. Although I would’ve prefered an elderly May Parker, the Italian Marisa Tomei is great as a hip, but feisty aunt who worries about her nephew. Even if she is more attractive than she needs to be. Her inclusion in Civil War was important since the dynamic between Peter and his Aunt May will always be crucial to his story. Ned bombards Peter with constant questions about being a superhero, including wanting to be the “Guy in the chair.” Ned lets it slip that Peter knows Spider-Man and that he can get him to make an appearance at Liz’s party. The conflict kicks in when Peter notices more advanced weapons being sold to criminals. Logan Marshall-Green plays the over enthusiastic Jackson Brice using wrist gauntlets as the Shocker. He’s quickly replaced by Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz when Toomes accidentally disintegrates Brice. Apart from a yellow & brown jacket, there’s not much resemblance to the Shocker from the comics. Their potential buyer is Donald Glover as Aaron Davis, the Ultimate version of the Prowler who’s also the uncle of Miles Morales. The casting of Glover was due to him voicing the latter in an animated series.

Spider-Man chases their van in much more residential areas than we’re used to. The whole humorous montage is one of many callbacks to John Hughes movies. It ends when Spidey has his first terrifying encounter with the Vulture. His spider-parachute saves him, but Iron Man rescues him from drowning. The Mark XLVII armor pays homage to the Ultimate comics design with more grey than red or gold. Tony continues to tell Peter to stay out of the fight, but he’s not even there to tell him in person. Peter & Ned attempt to study the alien tech, and even attach a spider-tracer to the criminals when they trace the power surge to the school. The holographic tracking device leads them to Washington D.C. Luckily the academic decathlon is being held in the same location. This is the first Spider-Man movie where the hero leaves New York, but it puts the wallcrawler in more unique locations to swing around in. But first, Peter removes his suits tracker and Ned disables the Training Wheels protocol that prevents him from using the other features. Only then does Karen show up and his webbing goes haywire. Stark even included an “Instant Kill” feature for some reason.

The first fight between Spider-Man and Vulture is atop an armored truck carrying more high tech merchandise (including an Ultron head). Spider-Man ends up trapped in the truck thanks to a phasing device. Being stuck in a secure bunker gives him time to reflect and familiarize himself with his suit. Things become a lot more urgant when the Chitauri tech in his backpack turns out to be a bomb. As Midtown wins the decathlon, Spider-Man desperately tries to save his class. The main reason for the scenery change was to get Spidey to climb the Washington Monument. It’s a creative sequence that ends with Spider-Man successful evading police helicopters to rescue his friends. Turning Spider-Man into a local hero in the process. Back in New York, Karen helps Peter track down Aaron Davis in order to get information using a ridiculously deep interrogation voice. Aaron is surprisingly helpful, but he still webs him up anyway. The next fight takes place on the Staten Island Ferry. It’s there that Peter ignores Aunt May’s call, avoids talking to Mr. Stark, comes face to face with Toomes, and even discovers the identity of the newest buyer.

The Hispanic Michael Mando plays Mac Gargan, but he isn’t the Scorpion quite yet. Spider-Man does a much better job in fighting off criminals with his webbing. His second fight with the Vulture goes well at first, but a blast from a Chitauri weapon splits the ferry in half. Similar to Spider-Man 2, a bunch of webbing and Spider-Man holding on with all his strength make an impression. It’s just not enough to fix the problem. So Iron Man shows up to finish the job. Stark is really here this time, in order to confiscate the suit for the mess Peter made. Without the suit, Peter returns to his normal life and even asks Liz to the homecoming dance. What follows is a twist that no one could’ve saw coming. Turns out Adrian Toomes is Liz’s dad. So meeting his date’s father is way more awkward than usual. The moment is made even better when Toomes slowly realizes Peter Parker is Spider-Man on the way to the dance. Toomes tries to let him off with a warning, but Peter swings into action anyway. He dons the crappy homemade costume from his YouTube videos and uses it in the final battle.

The costume is inspired by the Scarlet Spider suit from Ben Reilly comics. The Shocker nearly gets the better of Spidey, but Ned saves the day and finally gets a chance to be the “Guy in the chair.” Spider-Man steals Flash’s car in order to get to the Vulture, now equipped with high altitude wings. The final score is an invisible jet loaded with tech on its way from Avengers Tower to the new Avengers Compound. Moving day is what kept Happy busy for most of the movie. The final fight sees Spider-Man fly high by webbing onto the Vulture, sticking to the jet, and causing it to crash just to prevent him from stealing from it. The climax ends in Coney Island where Vulture causes serious damage to the young hero. Peter honors his comic book routes by saving his enemy at the last minute instead of leave him to die. Unfortunately, Liz moves away, but Happy acknowledges what he’s done.

They arrive at the Avengers Compound where Tony congratulates him as well. Tony even went to the trouble of building him an Iron Spider suit and initiating him into the Avengers. Peter honors his comic book routes once more by turning down the offer. Gwyneth Paltrow makes an unexpected appearance as Tony finally proposes to Pepper with a ring Happy has been carrying since 2008. In the end, Peter gets to keep the spider-suit, but he really should have shut his door. Aunt May discovers his identity for the first time with a hilarious “What the f-.” A fun credits sequence set to “Blitzkrieg Bop” leads to a mid-credits scene where Toomes has minor redemption by refusing to give Gargan Spider-man’s identity. The much anticipated after-credits scene subverts expectations by having Cap deliver another speech about patience often leading to disappointment. Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t my definitive take on the wallcrawler, but it is far from disappointing.

34. Spider-Man Homecoming

Spider-Man vs. the Vulture

Followed by: Spider-Man: Far From Home

4 thoughts on “Does Whatever a Spider Can

  1. I really enjoy Homecoming. I thought at the time that there was really no need for another reboot (even if it did see Spider-Man involved in the MCU), but I think they delivered a special film. I love the first two Raimi flicks, but I think this is right up there. Holland is perfect, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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