I thought Spider-Man Homecoming wasn’t all that great, but at least hear me out on this

Even disregarding superhero burnout, and fanboy wanking, I just couldn’t enjoy Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Keep track of how many different locations the movie rushes you through during its 2+ hour run-time. Next, string those locations together with the plot itself. What results is this stilted, overly long, thematically muddled story with a handful of good moments best enjoyed as isolated scenes on YouTube.

Is the stakes of each Marvel movie have become progressively greater, it was apparent that something had to happen to keep the franchises grounded. The ongoing buildup to intergalactic spacefights against a giant purple man can still continue, but if something smaller scale wasn’t around to give viewers a sense of scale, then a certain amount of appreciation for the ridiculous and comicbooky just couldn’t happen. To address this, Marvel branched out to Netflix—covering smaller yet equally (if not more) entertaining stories about superheroes not out to save the planet, but to simply carve out their own little nook in their otherwise mundane life. So for Spider-Man: Homecoming to come barging in as a theatrical release trying to balance the bombasticness of any other Marvel movie while insisting it’s as small-time as a Marvel Netflix series just comes off as counter-intuitive.

The best scenes from Homecoming involve Peter Parker web-slinging through New York and interacting with the locals. From random dudes insisting he do a backflip while they record on their smart phones, to old ladies in need of assistance and willing to compensate with churros, you really get the feeling that while bumbling in his duties Spider-Man himself is loved by all he meets. The problem with this is that this feel of a welcoming community is immediately dropped for the large-scale Hollywood-style action once the villains make their presence known to Spidey.

Let me be clear about this: the villains in Homecoming are great. Vulture and his minions of middle-class workers want the opposite of Spider-Man in that they make the most out of keeping a low profile. They never overreach when it comes to stealing alien tech and repurposing it for the black market (at least at first), and in the case of the Vulture himself, he uses his earnings to support his very ordinary family (though I guess when thinking about it, they do live in a swanky house in the nice suburban part of New York… “ordinary for the movies,” I should say). It’s how his plot is threaded together with Peter’s that makes the movie feel clumsier than it should.

Rather than making an attempt to dance with both the “Peter feeling unaccomplished as a low-tier hero” and the “Vulture feeling too accomplished as a low-tier villain” plot threads at once though, Homecoming takes an unnecessarily large amount of time focusing on one before taking an equally large amount of time on the other. Scenes between Peter at school and Vulture at his lair are treated as two separate entities when they should be taking advantage of their thematic similarities to better tie them together within a shorter time span in-movie. The only aspect of the movie this “plot-isolation” benefits is the eventual twist sprung up about who Vulture’s family is, but even once that’s revealed, the movie itself still takes a notable amount of hesitation to truly blend the two’s worlds together. We’re either seeing a halfhearted high school movie, or a halfhearted working-class dad movie when a combination of the two would have not only made the movie more interesting, but also stand out more in this era of dime-a-dozen superhero movies.

On the topic of how halfhearted Peter’s school life is, I just gotta reiterate… it’s really halfhearted. While the actual split between school life and hero-ing feels pretty even, it’s clear that the interest in Peter’s school life just isn’t there from a writing standpoint. We’re presented with not one, but multiple school/peer-centric moments that feel like something ripped out of a different movie entirely. But instead of completely rolling with the concept and subverting the trope (“Do I go to the big house party as Spider-Man to boost my popularity?” “The villains are on the move, but the academic decathlon’s going on!” “I finally have a date to Homecoming, but… plot is happening elsewhere.”), the setting is immediately dropped in favor of the main plot. The movie makes the mistake of assuming civilian life can’t be an entertaining plot to bounce the hero plot off of, to the point that it doesn’t even bother resolving anything those civilian scenes set up in the first place. The house party just ends, never to be heard from again. Same goes for the decathlon and homecoming scenes. Nothing is learned and scenes are just treated as these isolated incidents with nothing in the form of a take-away lesson.

Again, though: that’s not to say the characters in the civilian/school scenes are unlikeable by any means. But I do think people confuse likeability in characters with quality in the plot itself. The students are a likeable team of misfits and dorks, with the audience quick to cling to them in this new time in pop culture where seeing likeable teens on screen elicits cries of “protect!” and “precious babies!” rather than “cool, I wish I was them!” I’m going off on a tangent, but I just wanna get this off my chest: audiences digesting pop culture now are the exact same audiences digesting pop culture ten years ago… except they’re not in their teens anymore. They’re in their twenties and thirties, so suddenly reactions to characters are severely different and thus, so is the focus. Homecoming doesn’t care about its school scenes because it knows its audience is too far in age to even want to relate to that time in their life anymore. And yet it insists on having Peter be that age, so those scenes are suddenly mandatory because how else can you tell someone is of teen age if they don’t go to school?

It’s this whole noncommittal attitude towards scenes that are supposed to make their main character more human and relatable that really brings down the movie as a whole. Peter’s repeated instances of wanting to take on greater responsibilities only for Tony Stark to hijack the movie every scene he’s in and tell him “no” feel rightly deserved and yet we end up taking Tony’s side of the argument nearly every time. We can’t see Peter as a responsible capable teen because the movie itself can’t and with such a simple stance to take, the movie begins to unwind. Even once the film regains focus to say “never mind, look at how capable Peter is in the face of adversity,” it feels insincere and undeserved.

It’s very easy to blame Marvel’s insistence on tying everything together to its overarching Cinematic Universe for Spider-Man: Homecoming’s faults. But really, the movie is simply that unfocused. It doesn’t know what it wants out of its Spider-Man but in this unintentional means that just rubs me the wrong way.

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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