The Highs and Lows of Spider-man: Homecoming

Tom Holland is already a crowd-favorite Spider-man.

Although he might not have the sex-appeal of Andrew Garfield or the “whatever Tobey Maguire had”, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s only going to get more popular. He’s got a cool suit, funny lines, an incredible special effects team, and Iron Man is practically his uncle (I don’t blame Tony for moving in, Marisa Tomei is his aunt). Success is basically guaranteed for the newest, youngest wall-crawler. But even so, there are some things that the new film could do right, and some that it could do wrong, and I think they’re worth mentioning.

We’ve had a Spider-Man overload in the last decade. Since Sam Raimi brought the web-swinger to life back in 2002 there have been five blockbusters based on the arachnid vigilante (six if you include Captain America: Civil War) and he’s never been far from public consciousness. Not including movies, he’s had a game and animated television show appearances a-plenty.

Which just goes to prove the point: we know the Spider-man story. The last thing we want is another origin story. If I have to see a mopey teenager freaking out about his amazing new strength and agility (ok, fine, I am a little bit jealous) I might just leave the cinema. But we’re not going to have to sit through that this time. Or at least, it doesn’t look that way. Spider-man already has his powers in Civil War so unless they cram Spider-Man: Homecoming with flashbacks I’m fairly confident we can focus on the actual story. This is definitely the right decision.

Marvel is trying to build an empire of inter-connected films. The last thing they want to do is give the audience PTSD over Tobey’s ugly crying face or the time Emma Stone’s Gwen fell to her death. What we need is a Spider-man film that breaks the mold, and that means skipping the origin story.

This Spider-man film is already different – in some ways – to any other superhero film we’ve ever seen. For one thing, Iron Man is in it. And having a superhero debut like Homecoming with an already well-established character playing the well-meaning-if-easily-distracted mentor is new. It’s a dynamic that hasn’t hit the screens in this kind of way before.

Don’t get me wrong, the mentor-newbie formula has been done plenty of times over the years. Look at Men in Black or RIPD or, well, any of a thousand more examples. But it hasn’t been done like this, not with an established character. It’s only been eight years since the first Iron Man film. We know his origin, we know his journey, we’re grounded and surrounded by the life of Tony Stark in an unprecedented way. In fact, as far as I know, no other character in the history of film has ever had this many appearances with a single actor.

There is no one more familiar in the Marvel world than Iron Man, and no better way to boost Spider-man beyond his messy history at Sony.

Now, if Marvel does start the film off with a flashback, which would not surprise me at all, the least they can do is make it short and sharp. An even better alternative would be if he just mentions his origin story. That way we don’t have to watch Uncle Ben die again or watch usually-talented-actor Martin Sheen fumble through a “with great power comes great responsibility” rip off.

Tony Stark: “So, kid, how’d you get these powers?”

Peter Parker: “Oh, well, uh, you know, bitten by a radioactive spider. Could’ve been worse, huh?”

Tony: “Damn right it could’ve! You should meet my friend Bruce!”

Boom. Origin story covered in 25 words or less.

The only thing I am worried about with the new Spider Man film is the casting of Michael Keaton. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a terrific actor, and he’s had a bit of a comeback lately with some spot-on appearances in a variety of genre films. But isn’t it kind of… a joke?

Who remembers the line “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”? Harvey Dent said this in the iconic superhero film Batman: The Dark Knight. Talk about full circle. Michael Keaton started off as Batman in 1989, reprised the role in 1991, and here he is about to play the vulture in 2017. But that’s not all.

In 2014 Michael Keaton played “Birdman” in the Oscar-winning film Birdman, which is about a former cinema superhero trying to revitalize a stagnant career. It’s basically a parody of his own life, a cute wink towards his Batman days, and now he’s actually playing a bird-man?

Anyone else think this has gone too far? As far as Hollywood meta-jokes go this is probably the worst. It’s life a self-fulfilling pun. A prophecy? Whatever you want to call it, this is mind-boggling. So thanks, Marvel studios, for bringing us the best inside joke since:

  1. Spider-man was called. The inside joke here is that the film rights just returned “Home” from Sony to Marvel.
  2. Robert Downey Junior flirted with Marisa Tomei in Civil War, causing epic throwbacks to 1994’s Only You ,when they played love interests the first time.
  3. Nipples on the bat suit. Not really an “inside joke”, but seriously, what was the deal with that?

That’s all we have to say about Homecoming ­– for now. I’m sure it’s going to be a fun ride (as long as we don’t get bogged down in backstory) and more importantly, it cements the next phase of films that will inevitably lead up to Avengers: Infinity War, not to mention everything (Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Ant-man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel) in between.

If you haven’t seen Birdman yet, do it.

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4 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of Spider-man: Homecoming”

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