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In the last decade, the world has seen so many Peter Parkers on screen that we would all be justified in turning our backs on Spider-Man: Homecoming in protest for something new. But that isn’t going to happen — and thank goodness for it.
The latest in Marvel’s cinematic universe is a fun film that tells of post-Uncle Ben Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as he fights crime, does good and survives high school. Semi-mentored by Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) — and by that I mean not at all — Peter attempts to take on a group of alien arms dealers to prove his worth.
Homecoming is a paint-by-numbers superhero film, with no real driving creative force behind it. Director Jon Watts (Clown, Cop Car) acts as Marvel’s lackey, producing boring visuals that exist only to serve the main purpose: selling Spider-Man.
In that, it does an immaculate job. Tom Holland’s endearing performance is simultaneously vulnerable and charismatic, and it’s not difficult to imagine a younger audience falling head-over-heels for the Brit. From the second the viewer meets him, they know they’re on his side.
Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland as the web-slinging protagonist, alongside Robert Downey Jr and Zendaya
This loyalty is due in large part to Peter’s willingness to do good, and the relationships he has with those around him. His best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) learns of his identity early on, and their unwavering friendship is the heartbeat of the film. Both Ned and Peter understand the other and, despite their flaws and mistakes, they stick together.
In contrast, Tony Stark’s relationship with Peter feels manipulative and cold. The billionaire treats him like an asset: one to train, condition, and hold at arm’s length. But Peter treats Stark as a mentor and father figure, constantly searching for approval and acceptance. It’s difficult to watch, especially as it’s treated as “empowering” as opposed to heartbreaking.
The Stark storyline also took up time that could have been used to further develop Peter’s home and school life. The film introduces many interesting side characters, but the most we see of them are quick one-liners here and there.
Michelle (Zendaya) is criminally underused. The awkward yet self-assured girl who seemingly yearns to fit in and stand out is treated as the weird outsider who is only good for throwaway lines about politics and “people in crisis.” She is allowed only a few sentences at a time and — while they are funny sentences — the viewer is left wanting.
But Spider-Man: Homecoming lucked out: despite often providing frustrating storylines and disposable characters, it’s difficult to be mad at a screen when Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is on it. And with every scene, the character manages to slowly sneak into your heart until you feel like you would protect Peter with your life.
So step up your game, Stark. We’re watching you.