Spider-Man Homecoming Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The hype is real — Spider-Man: Homecoming is definitely the best Spider-Man movie made to date. The film, which stars Tom Holland as a fresh-faced Peter Parker, gives us our best version of the character as well as the most realistic, most diverse on-screen version of Queens in a Spider-Man film. There are a ton of positives with this film, as well as some food for thought, so without further ado, let’s get into it.

Spoilers ahead.

spider-man homecoming trailer 41

Spider-Man: Homecoming Recalibrates the Entire MCU

Spider-Man: Homecoming might be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 3, but I’m considering it the second phase of evolution in Marvel’s storytelling ability. As we’ve gone along the MCU journey, we’ve seen the films get more and more…dudebro. That doesn’t mean that the films aren’t fun, but the storytelling has definitely begun to suffer from formulaic sameness — just take a look at Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and the trailer for Thor: Ragnarok. Everything from the tone, the retro music selection, and even the films’ logos suffer from Marvel doing things that have worked in the past too doggone much. Ditto for the MCU’s overwhelming white male centrism. Again, the focus on the heroic white male archetype puts the films into staid, dudebro territory. With such adherence to a certain formula, especially during the last few films, it’s felt like Marvel’s telling the same story over and over again.

However, Spider-Man: Homecoming injects much-needed zest and freshness into the MCU. Instead of focusing on the same “I’m amazing at everything” heroic archetype, we’re focusing on a kid who is so eager to be a part of the big leagues of superheroism, the Avengers. Peter Parker’s appeal in the comics is that he’s a kid who is trying to juggle life like the rest of us, and just like us, he makes oodles of mistakes along the way. Most of Peter’s fights in this film largely consists of him making huge mistakes, and seeing a superhero flail along in his journey is not only humorous in its own right, but also relatable.

Spider-Man Homecoming Credits Scene

Spider-Man: Homecoming also lifts the tone of the Marvel franchise, which has so far wavered between balls-to-the-wall comedy and seriousness (all set to big budget action sequences, of course). In Spider-Man: Homecoming, we spend the movie with Peter and a ton of relatable, lovable kids (even Tony Revolori’s pseudo-bully Flash is lovable in his own way). Showing Peter’s high school was a much-needed reprieve from maniacal robots, Norse gods, time control, and Captain America’s drama with Bucky. (We do see Chris Evans’ Cap in this film, though, but in the form of government-backed PSAs about national fitness challenges and staying out of detention.) As many outlets have already said, the film’s light-yet-earnest tone was something straight out of a John Hughes movie, and that approach was the shot in the arm Marvel Studios sorely needed.

To top it off, we also spend time in the lived-in borough of Queens, a move that successfully ties Spider-Man to Netflix’s Luke Cage, which focused primarily on Harlem. Both properties fully immerse the viewer in these neighborhoods, making us care even more about the superheroes and the people they fight for.

Case in point: when sandwich shop Delmar’s blew up due to the Vulture’s (Michael Keaton) alien/human hybrid technology, wasn’t it like seeing Ghengis Connie’s get destroyed by Cottonmouth? You cared about the wellbeing of these ordinary citizens, and that pathos is at the center of why the “on-the-ground” like Spider-Man and Luke Cage do what they do. These two are the heart of their communities, a point driven home to hilarious effect when Spider-Man is shown giving a woman directions. Seeing homegrown heroes do their thing will never not be fun to watch.

Spider-Man Homecoming

All Too Human

For all the levity and high school nostalgia inherent in Spider-Man: Homecoming, there are also very real stakes. Part of the reason the stakes feel higher than other Marvel films is because, again, Peter’s situations are relatable. How can he save the world while staying in school and meeting all of his familial obligations? As Peter mentions in the film, his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) has already been through a lot (thankfully, we don’t get into any Uncle Ben drudgery), and the last thing Peter wants to do is worry his remaining guardian into an early grave.

Possibly the highest of the stakes comes not when Peter’s trying to save the people on a ferry boat that’s been split in half by the Vulture’s tech (although things are pretty high-key) — it’s when Peter realizes that the father of Liz (Laura Harrier), the girl he’s in love with, is none other than the Vulture himself, otherwise known as Adrian Toomes, a family man who’s trying to provide for his wife and kids while protecting them from his illegal doings.

the vulture in spider-man: homecoming

Peter’s not only faced with the task of catching the bad guy, but he’s caught in a moral dilemma about whether he’ll let the Vulture go for Liz’s sake and become morally corrupt, or if he’ll do his job and send a man whose livelihood was taken away (by none other than Peter’s hero and father-figure Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr.). All the Vulture wants to do is support his family, and utilizing his tech skills for lucrative, illegal deals was the only way he saw forward. You feel for both Peter and Adrian, who are both men who want to do right by the people they love.

The Vulture might also be the most realized Marvel villain yet. So far, most of the great villains have been found to varying degrees in Marvel’s TV showings, with one of the most notable being Luke Cage’s Cottonmouth. If we’re going by films, the most relatable villains thus far have been Thor’s Loki and Captain America: Civil War’s Zemo (if we’re not counting Cap himself as a villain in this film, since he knew about the fate of Tony Stark’s parents the entire time). But overall, Marvel has not done well with their villain characters (the most cartoonish of them being Ultron). Where Marvel had success with the Vulture — and to a certain extent, Zemo and Cottonmouth — was showing the vulnerabilities and human motivations behind characters who could have been written as moustache-twirling cartoons. If Marvel puts the same level of detail in their future villains, we as viewers might get some much-needed relief from evildoers with little to no realistic motivations.

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About the Author

Monique Jones runs JUST ADD COLOR, a site focusing on race and culture in entertainment. She has written for Ebony, Tor, Black Girl Nerds, The Nerds of Color.