This week, Sony Pictures, in a historic conjunction with Disney and Marvel Studios, will debut the first theatrical Spider-Man film since the character joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe last year in Captain America: Civil War. Sony has had quite a journey with the Spider-Man character since purchasing the theatrical rights in 2000, which included the cinematic classics, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 (and the less well-received Spider-Man 3) and then the far more disappointing but still somewhat enjoyable reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, along with its critically-panned and poorly financially received sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. However, Sony’s failure with the franchise proved to be to our benefit as the studio felt the need to turn to Marvel in order to help plan the future for the Spider-Man property. Thanks to the attention and interest of both studios working towards the common goal of restoring quality storytelling toe the Spidey franchise, we’ve finally gotten a film that is a perfect combination of the gripping intensity, emotional storytelling, and wittiness that has always defined the Spider-Man legacy.
The greatest thing about Spider-Man: Homecoming is that it finally gives Peter Parker the ability to interact with the rest of Marvel’s spectacular cinematic universe, and this is truly one of the film’s greatest strengths. This new change gives the film the ability to avoid retreading Peter Parker’s backstory on his journey to Spider-Man, omitting the death of Uncle Ben and Peter’s inspiration to don the suit. Instead, it has the ability to hit the ground running from the first scene, dropping us right into the tale of this iteration of Peter Parker, who faces different struggles than the iterations of the character before him. It is unlike any iteration of Spider-Man the franchise has ever seen, achieving the feat of making Spider-Man feel fresh and creative, despite that this is the sixth time the character has been seen in a theatrical film since 2002.
Homecoming boasts a spectacular cast of characters and performances who assist bringing this spectacular story to life. The plot is hardly predictable, taking many twists and turns and keeping viewers on edge with each frame bursting with creativity. The film isn’t afraid to gamble on big ideas and plot elements that could have easily fallen flat if not handled properly, and it pays off in spades throughout the film. At the same time, it also manages to do all this without getting bogged down by the world-building of the MCU, giving Spidey the ability to build its own story while at the same time, feeding off the wonderful benefits of Marvel’s theatrical world.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (along with Bryan Singer’s X-Men) began a new cinematic era, defining a new sub-genre, the superhero movie, which kickstarted a wave of endless comic book movies. Over ten years later, superhero movies have evolved thanks to the groundwork laid by Spider-Man, but perhaps what makes Spider-Man: Homecoming so excellent is that it never attempts to recapture the significance or retread what made the original so special, which isn’t something that can specifically be said about The Amazing Spider-Man, even though that film certainly blended original elements with classic Spidey mythology. Spider-Man was the beginning of a new era that would redefine cinema for a generation, and Homecoming is perhaps a product of that, and a film that would have never been possible without that groundwork laid out, or had superhero films not come as far as they have. While Homecoming might never have the legacy of Spider-Man, it makes its mark by bringing new creativity into the franchise, without getting bogged down by the legacy that came before it.
With each new iteration of Peter Parker, comes the challenge of doing Peter justice in the emotional storytelling of the film. This film takes Peter further back than any of the previous films, making him a relatable teenage sophomore navigating the challenge of growing up, while at the same time, y’know, saving the Tri-State area from supernatural threats. Peter’s abilities and his dedication for looking out for the people he cares about begins to cut into his personal life, putting many of his relationships at stake. Like Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, this is what makes Homecoming special, and there’s a great sense that everything that happens in this film will come of consequence to Peter, and he’ll become faced with challenges that choose between the well-being of himself or the well-being of everyone else. Indeed, with great power does come great responsibility, and three reboots later, Uncle Ben’s words are still relevant.
Spider-Man: Homecoming arrives in an era where cinema is evolving, with superhero films at the very forefront. Just in one year, we got Logan, a gritty film that deals with growing older and the troubles of moving on, and of death. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a film about discovering who you are despite the past that defines you, and the importance of family, both the one that you are born into and the one that you choose. We also got the groundbreaking Wonder Woman, which is about the good of humanity in history’s darkest moments, and that with a heart of gold and nothing but perspiration, any single person can save the world, as well as The Lego Batman Movie, which reminds us that the only person that can truly be happy is the one who admits he/she needs others to help guide them through the difficult journey of life. Homecoming is a spectacular, beautiful and outright hilarious product of this evolution, making everything feel grounded, personal, and emotional on every possible level. You’ll be moved, you’ll laugh and cry, and for the first time since Sam Raimi’s films, you’ll be clamoring for more of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens in theaters nationwide July 7th.