Spider-Man: Homecoming — Key factors which make the web-slinger's latest film stand out

Anshu Lal

Jul,06 2017 09:35 25 IST

The web-slinger is back where he belongs.

Even though Marvel Studios took an incredibly long time to make a stand-alone Spider-Man movie because of issues of film rights, Spider-Man: Homecoming has been worth the wait.

A still from Spider-man: Homecoming

Tom Holland's 15-year-old Spider-Man is the Spidey we had all been waiting to see ever since Tobey Maguire's legendary portrayal of the superhero took a disastrous turn with Spider-Man 3 in 2007.

Holland's Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is the nerdy, goofy, awkward but smart and witty kid who is much more similar to the Spidey we see in comics than the superhero we see in other franchises, even though the film tends to focus a bit too much on the teenage drama than the great-powers-great-responsibilities part sometimes.

Director Jon Watts must have realised, though, that with three reboots, Homecoming would need a lot of unique elements to make the movie really stand out. And the film is indeed full of them.

The villain

Yes, the most unique aspect of Spider-Man: Homecoming is not Spider-Man, but Vulture, the villain. Michael Keaton, ironically famous for playing Batman, has given the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) something which has been missing in its movies for a while now: A good villain.

Michael Keaton as Vulture in Spider-man: Homecoming

Adrian Toomes is a man who is driven out of business unintentionally by Tony Stark aka Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr. He is someone who sees himself as the leader of a group of people merely making a living for themselves in a world dominated by the rich and powerful. He, in fact, knows that his criminal ways are immoral but thinks that is the only option he has. His struggle almost hints at a class conflict, an issue one thought one would never see in the MCU.

Keaton's character becomes even more empathetic when you realise that he shares something very crucial with Spider-Man. Both Parker and Toomes feel smothered in one way or another by Stark. You realise that the only difference between them is in the way they react to that feeling.

One of the best aspects about this film is that you almost feel bad for Toomes at one point of time in the film.

Evolution of teenage drama

One of Peter Parker's main traits has always been that he is the timid kid in high school who gets bullied by stronger or 'cooler' kids. In most adaptations, especially the earlier ones, this bullying is often portrayed by having a stronger person physically assault Parker, embarrassing and humiliating him in front of his school mates.

But in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Parker faces the same humiliation without being hit by any of his school mates even once. This depicts a new maturity in teenage drama, which shows that there are other, more subtle ways of bullying people apart from the obvious and in-your-face physical assault.

Holland's Parker in Homecoming is put in a spot many times by brash kids who verbally taunt him or ask him uncomfortable questions. The effect of Parker being called a loser at a party for not being able to prove that he is friends with Spider-Man is as strong as the effect of Parker being punched.

A lot of credit for the nuanced teenage drama, of course, has to go to Holland's energy and his passionate acting. Holland's Parker, unlike any of his predecessors, is full of the restlessness which is the highlight of teenage. He moves around, interacts with his environment — whether it comprises people or objects — with an awkward, goofy spunk that characterizes the constant conflict between his desire to marvel at something extraordinary, show off his daredevil moves and the burden of doing the right thing.

And in scenes with Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei) or Liz Allan (played by Laura Harrier), in which he is supposed to have an emotional and deep one-on-one conversation with them, Holland's Parker effortlessly calms down and shows that he is much more than a confused teenager. Therein lies Tom Holland's talent.

The complexity of supporting characters

One of the greatest flaws of the average superhero flick is that it tends to ignore the supporting characters, creating archetypal roles for characters who are supposed to add to the richness of the story.

Although Homecoming does not fully get rid of this bad habit, it does pay much greater attention to the other characters. Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark makes more of an impact in Homecoming than he made in Iron Man 3. Even though Stark's jokes fall flat in some of the scenes (indicative of average writing), it is refreshing to see Iron Man mentor Spider-Man with some tough love coupled with the genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist arrogance.

But perhaps the best performance among the supporting characters comes from Tomei. The filmmakers took a huge risk by presenting a much younger Aunt May, who sometimes gets hit on by waiters in a restaurant. The talented Marisa Tomei's Aunty May manages to convince the audience of the pains of raising a teenager who is secretly a web-slinging superhero, caring for his safety and trying to connect with him all at the same time in the small amount of screen time that she gets.

Jacob Batalon portrays the awestruck best friend (not sidekick) Ned Leeds who is as willing to be a wingman for Parker as he is to put his life in danger for him. Liz Allen, in one scene, shows that her character is more than just a love interest when she talks about how rebellious activities before an important event encourage team spirit. And Zendaya's Michelle, probably given one of the smallest amount of screen time, successfully depicts the aggressive, tomboyish girl who secretly has a crush on Parker.

The new and improved web-slinging

It is clear from Spider-Man: Homecoming that a lot of thought went into how Spidey's web-slinging, swinging and jumping around was going to be shown on screen.

A hilarious scene in which Spider-Man has to sprint through an open field because there are no tall structures around which he can swing from shows that in real life, the ability to shoot web from your wrists may not be a great advantage all the time. In a similar scene, the audience laughs as they see Spider-Man driving in a car, realising that sometimes, driving around can be a faster way to travel than web-swinging.

We also see Spider-Man using artificial web shooters which he uses to sling web instead of directly shooting web from his wrists, working on new formulae for creating better web and carefully storing jars of material for web-slinging in a secret place for when he needs to jump into action.

A still from Spider-man: Homecoming trailer.

The clever idea of an upgraded suit made by Stark gave the filmmakers an opportunity to come up with different kinds and shapes of web which Spider-Man can shoot.

This is a refreshing change from the usual scenes in earlier adaptations in which we saw Spider-Man conveniently swinging around the tall skyscrapers of Manhattan, sometimes never actually seeing the point at which the web shot from the wrist made contact with an object.

In Homecoming, Spider-Man often has to roughly calculate the momentum needed to get to a place. The action scenes in this movie are great because they are realistic and cleverly designed.

No backstory

Homecoming gets rid of unnecessary backstory, especially because Spider-Man has seen three reboots till now. It instead uses that time to focus on the above points, all of which add to the film in their own way to give us one of the best and most unique Spider-Man films till now.