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Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

Spider-Man was a fairly revolutionary comic book character when he was first revealed back in the '60's. Being a nerdy, socially-awkward young teenager, a large portion of the comic-book-reading audience could relate to him in ways that they simply couldn't with characters like Batman, Superman, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four. Peter Parker was one of them.

Finally casting an actual teenager to fill the role of Peter Parker / Spider-Man is an obviously brilliant (and overdue) move that does for this generation of young superhero movie audiences, what the original Spider-Man did for comic-reading kids in the '60's. For the first time, I can actually buy into this film version of Peter Parker as a high school student. There's a lot more focus on teenage drama and on Peter's conflicting responsibilities as Spider-Man and as a student. He flakes out on his friends, misses quizzes and extra-curricular activities. He worries about who he could invite to the homecoming dance, and worries that if Aunt May finds out about his superheroing, she might ground him.

Peter's age and his relatability to young audiences isn't the only parallel that this movie makes with the early issues of the comics. The first issue of Amazing Spider-Man included a storyline in which Spider-Man attempted to join the Fantastic Four. Homecoming is about Spider-Man seeking to join the Avengers (since Marvel doesn't have the film rights to the Fantastic Four yet). Homecoming skips over the first Spidey villain (who was the Chameleon) and focuses on the Vulture, who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #2. This movie also throws in the Tinkerer, who was also featured in a storyline of Amazing Spider-Man #2. The love interest is even fellow high-schooler Liz Allan, who even preceded Gwen Stacy as one of Peter's first romantic interests in the comics.

Trying to step out of Sam Raimi's spider-shadow

Much like the Sam Raimi movies, the supporting cast here is excellent -- and unlike the Sam Raimi movies, the main cast is spot-on too! Sure, it doesn't have J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, and I have a hard time believing that anybody can beat Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, but everyone here puts in a great effort. Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark appearance is much more substantive than a simple phoned-in cameo, and Michael Keaton is absolutely fantastic as an increasingly-unhinged working-class bad guy who's simply trying to run his modest weapon-smuggling ring under the radar of the Avengers.

Instead of trying to join the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man is trying to join the Avengers.

I'm also grateful that this movie is a bit more upbeat and less mopey and brooding than the Sam Raimi films. Granted, Sam Raimi's version of Peter Parker had much more consequential (and adult) problems to deal with, but this could easily have fallen into the trap of being over-burdened with unnecessary teen angst (like The Amazing Spider-Man) and manages to avoid that. This is also a surprisingly restrained movie, even compared to the Sam Raimi films. The problems here feel much smaller-scale, which emphasizes Spider-Man's role as a "working class" super hero who parallels Toomes' working class super villain.

There's even a mild deconstructionist angle for this movie. We finally see the mass destruction of the first Avengers movie from the point of view of the working class people who have to clean up the mess. We also see Spider-Man having to deal with being stuck in situations in which his particular power set isn't very conducive to operate, as he gets stranded in the suburbs and has to quickly get across the city without the benefit of massive sky scrapers to swing from.

Homecoming also pulls off having multiple villains by throwing in the Tinkerer and Shocker (two Shockers, actually) as tech support and a henchman for the main baddie (respectively), so it doesn't have to overburden itself with trying to throw in multiple origin stories. And hey, Peter does occasionally fake a strong New York / Jersey accent in a few scenes in which he's trying to disguise his voice, which somewhat offsets one of my early complaints with the depiction in Civil War. Tony Stark also makes a big deal about his feeling responsible for Peter's safety and well-being, which at least addresses my other big complaint with that movie.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Vulture
Michael Keaton works great as a low-key, working-class criminal trying to fly under the radar of the Avengers.

I also love that the mid-credits scene sets up for Mac Gargan to become the Scorpion in the sequel. I had always hoped that Scorpion would appear in the Sam Raimi films because I thought it would have given an excuse to have more screen time with J.K. Simmons (as J. Jonah Jameson) (who, in the original comics, was the one who hired Scorpion in the first place). Sadly, that never happened. We don't have J.K. Simmons anymore (or even a J. Jonah Jameson yet), but I'm still happy to see Scorpion being queued up as the next bad guy, who, along with Vulture and Shocker, already introduces half of a possible Sinister Six team.

I also have some serious problems

Even though this movie is a huge upgrade from Sony's disastrous Amazing Spider-Man movies, I do have some pretty significant reservations with Homecoming.

For one thing, Homecoming seems to completely neglect Spider-Man's Spider-Sense. This has always been a touchy subject for any depiction of Spider-Man. It's difficult to find a balancing point between the spider sense being worthless, or it being a panacea that deflates any possible stakes for the hero. I don't think it was even referenced in this film.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Aunt May
The "Aunt May is hot" gag is overplayed.

I'm also mildly annoyed that the web shooters are still on the outside of the costume. This doesn't bother me as much as it did in Amazing Spider-Man though, probably because everything else about the movie works so well.

The "Aunt May is hot" joke also feels a bit overplayed to the point of being borderline obnoxious. It worked in Civil War, and would have been fine if it was restrained to just the sandwhich shop guy, or to just Ned having a mild crush on her. I mean, it could have been a lot worse; at least they didn't hire a 20-something year old model for the role. I guess it's kind of neat that they want to emphasize that a woman doesn't have to be 20-something to be sexy, but they could have accomplished that by Marisa Tomei simply being there and also being a strong, well-developed character in her own right.

But the sexual objectification of Marisa Tomei's Aunt May by everyone just gets beaten into the ground to the point that "she's Peter's hot aunt" almost becomes her whole character (especially since her role as a mother figure is undercut by Tony Stark acting as a father figure). I wonder if they're planning to set up for Doc Ock to hook up with Aunt May in a sequel, and they think they have to upsell her desirability with men? Or did they think it would be "gross" with an even older actress?

I'm also really not sure what the writers were going for with the Michelle / MJ reveal. Zendaya's character is one of the subtle highlights of the movie, and she worked just fine alongside Jacob Batalon's Ned as just being new friends for Peter. Why they tried (at the last minute) to reveal that she may be a stand-in for Mary Jane is beyond me. If she is supposed to be Mary Jane, then I'm not sure I like this interpretation of the character. Michelle has Mary Jane's sarcasm and wit, but she's also very reclusive; whereas Mary Jane was always a social butterfly. So this seems like a totally different character, and I would have liked her a lot more without the "MJ" twist at the end.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Ned knows
I am consistently annoyed with the movies' insistence that everybody has to learn Peter is Spider-Man.

One of the things that has consistently frustrated me with the Spider-Man movies is that they keep revealing Spider-Man's identity to all his friends and enemies. I was OK with Peter's one friend, Ned finding out, and obviously, Tony Stark knows. The plot twist of Vulture's relation to Spider-Man felt very contrived and unnecessary and even a bit cliche. But hey, at least they didn't turn him into Uncle Ben's murderer! In fact, the Vulture twist actually works fine as a humanizing bit for Toomes, and it ups the stakes for the final showdown pretty well. It also has a very satisfying payoff in the mid-credits scene. But there was one other person who blatantly learned Spidey's identity that annoyed me even more than Gwen Stacy finding out in Amazing Spider-Man, and it's at the very end of the movie and resulted in me walking out being slightly annoyed.

Logan has spoiled me for comic movies

None of my complaints come close to being a deal-breaker, and the "hot Aunt May" thing is probably the biggest misfire in the movie. There's a few awkward bits in this movie, but almost everything else works very well. It's well-cast, well-acted, has some well-crafted and restrained action scenes. The villain is a pretty good low-key, two-bit villain that works brilliantly as a Spider-Man bad guy compared to the world-conquering, revenge-fueled ambitions of Marvel's other villains. It's also colorful and light-hearted with lots of successful comedy that avoids the stupid, brooding teen angst of both Amazing Spider-Man movies, and which occasionally crept into the Saim Raimi movies.

In a year that already graced us with Logan (arguably one of the best comic movies ever), and a surprisingly good sequel in Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming is good, but a bit underwhelming. It's right on the line between Marvel's simply-good movies, and its great movies (with maybe one toe in the great side). It embarrasses Sony's previous Amazing Spider-Man attempts, and easily falls into place as at least the third best Spider-Man movie. I'm not sure if I'm ready to say that it's better than the first two Raimi films, but if you think it's the best Spider-Man movie, then I probably won't argue with you. The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon is still better.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - support bad guys
Throwing in Shocker and Tinkerer as support bad guys works very well.

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