So here we are five years later, staring down the barrel of yet another Spider-man reboot, hoping against hope Marvel will make it alright. After all, this is the studio that made us fall for a homicidal talking raccoon. Anything is possible.
The best way to kill a bug is to douse it with something flammable and set it on fire. Say what you want, it’s the most satisfying feeling, ever. This, in effect, is what Marvel Studios has accomplished with Spider-man: Homecoming. Pretty sure this sentiment is shared by a few when it comes to the second reboot of the Spider-man franchise. Not even the combined charms of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone could overcome the hot mess that was Jamie Foxx’s Electro.
We meet the familiar characters of Spidey’s world, made over: we again meet Tom Holland’s exuberant, mouthy, perpetually excited Peter Parker. Aunt May goes from the dumpy widow of the comics to a slender, attractive older woman played by Marisa Tomei. She isn’t given very much to do beside be continually puzzled at being recognized for her looks. Forget Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy, this Aunt May is the female most likely to titillate the imaginations of a million panting fanboys. And then there’s Michael Keaton as the big bad, chewing into his role as the Vulture. His Vulture is just hustling to make a better life for his family by selling stolen alien tech, jerry-rigged to form weapons of mass destruction. Keaton has crafted a relatable villain with understandable goals, and makes it work. After a host of guys in various iterations of spandex-clad hubris with world domination on their minds, it’s a nice change of pace. The best showdown between the Vulture and Spider-man actually happens when neither of them are in costume.
Still, there are things that give pause. Thanks to the machinations of Tony Stark, the Spidey suit is now a skin-tight cousin of his Iron Man armour. Boo. Spidey gets his own Siri, who in turn gets him into trouble when things he’s not used to doing (like Interrogation Mode) kick in and he ends up making a prat of himself. It’s mostly played for laughs, but we know Spider-man’s weapons are his superhuman physicality, his web shooters and his wits. His suit is at heart a glorified rash guard, not some sentient unwanted child of the Mark IX. But that’s just me.
Happy Hogan is anything but, with Jon Favreau phoning it in as as Stark’s former chauffeur turned Spidey-sitter. Robert Downey Jr. will always be watchable (and quotable), but his Iron Man has his fingers in too many pies and didn’t he say he was taking a step back two movies ago? Let the new guy shine, Stark. There’s room for everybody.
The best part of Spider-man: Homecoming is that the tiresome teenage angst is gone. There is no anguish over being a high school outcast and having no parents, no crushing guilt over Uncle Ben’s passing. Peter Parker is coming down from the high that was running with the Avengers and having Iron Man for a mentor; with a summer vacation like that, who cares about being popular in high school? Peter is far more interested in becoming an official member of the Avengers, so much so that he has completely ignored the expected tropes of coming of age. At fifteen, his version of being cool is possibly being roomies with with the Vision. Girls are almost an afterthought.
It’s in keeping with the strangely asexual aesthetic of the MCU superhero – to date, none of them have evinced any interest in focusing most of their energies on romantic relationships. Saving the world is their one true love. Tony Stark busied himself finding ways to protect everyone from harm, to the extent of alienating his fiancee. The love of Steve Rogers’ life is dead. Thor chooses to destroy the rainbow bridge that linked Asgard to Earth and, by extension, the woman he loves. Black Widow and the Hulk get their budding romance nipped before it even has a chance to flower. Dr. Strange is too busy trying to fix his shaky hands, Ant-Man just got out of jail and is focusing on his daughter, and now Spider-man is far more invested in proving himself as a potential Avenger. The message is clear:
bros before hoes in the MCU, the needs of the planet take precedence over a romantic relationship. It’s a good formula, especially for Spidey. We want to see him grow into his costume, and into his identity without being weighed down by silly extraneous personal relationships, the way the two Spider-men before him did.