When I was but a wee spider-lad, my roving gang of pre-teen friends thought it would be fun to sit front row for the opening of Spider-Man, the new film by Sam Raimi starring Toby Maguire. I knew nothing of Maguire, and even less of Raimi, but I knew I loved the 90’s Spider-Man Animated Series, and was thrilled to find that movie Spider-Man brought some semblance of that action, melodrama, and Peter Parker to the screen. As I craned my neck skyward and nearly went blind, I remember thinking “We will have good Spider-Man movies for the rest of my life!”
Oh, the folly of youth. Sure, Spider-Man 2 improved upon the formula, with the best entry of the Raimi trilogy (we have Alfred Molina Ock to thank for that), but the remainder of the 2000’s were a downward spiral of web-slining disappointment. Spider-Man 3 is genuinely one of the most upsetting moments of my teen years, somewhere behind X-Men 3: The Last Stand, but quite possibly ahead of my prom date deciding to attend the dance with someone else in the eleventh hour. The Marc Webb / Andrew Garfield reboot of the series had occasionally noble intentions, but never scraped the highs of potential inherent in my favorite superhero of all time.
It seems only fitting then, that in order to see cinematic Spider-Man restored to prominence, I’d have to return to where it all started: Sitting front row in a sold-out theater, craning my neck to see Spider-Man *always* do the right thing, no matter what.
It’s right there in the headline, but Marvel and Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming is my favorite Spider-Man movie, and honestly it’s not that close. There has been a great deal of critical affection and nostalgic protecting of the Raimi films, and while I share the fond memories, the Raimi films do not bring Peter Parker to life nearly as well I thought they did as a wee spider-lad.
Homecoming on the other hand is everything I love about Spider-Man all rolled out in one delightfully succinct package. I must have smiled for an hour straight as the movie began. Peter’s funny, awkward, an absolute social misfit, and he always does the right thing no *matter what*.
Admittedly, this is coming from a comic book fan who would declare to this day that Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the absolute best Marvel Comics of the 2000’s. There is perhaps some dichotomy between the Spider-Man of Earth-616 proper and those who have cherished the adventures of the modernized Ultimate Spider-Man. Much like just about every element of the MCU, Homecoming is deeply influenced by the Ultimate Universe.
Semantic fandom arguments aside, Homecoming is simply an excellent “Spider-Man in high school” narrative, of which there are simply far too few. There’s a perpetual desire in comics to see Peter Parker returned to his teenage roots, but the reality is Steve Ditko and Stan Lee had Peter graduating high school in Amazing Spider-Man within a few years of his creation!
Homecoming takes on the challenge with aplomb, delivering a notably diverse, true to life high school experience. Peter is simultaneously accepted and ostracized within his academic scholar cliques, a balance his nightly escapades as Spider-Man only exacerbates. When faced with the decision to attend a high school dance with his crush, Liz, Peter instead turns to face the harrowing threats of Michael Keaton’s Vulture.
He may be scared but he will not be intimidated into inaction. Not after Uncle Ben.
That’s a Spider-Man I will always want to spend time with.
Marvel Cinematic Universe Power Rankings
Every time a new Marvel movie or TV series is released I like to update my Marvel Cinematic Universe power rankings. As we hit 20+ entries, I’ve broken the power rankings into tiers that started with my Dr. Strange review.
Honestly, ranking Spider-Man was very difficult. My initial reaction was to place it #1 ahead of Avengers and call it a day, but that’s a bit much.
Tier 1: The Best
2) Alias aka Jessica Jones
3) Guardians of the Galaxy
4) Captain America 3: Civil War
Tier 2: Great
5) Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
6) Spider-Man: Homecoming
7) Daredevil (Seasons 1 & 2)
8) Iron Man
Tier 3: Good
9) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
10) Iron Man 3
11) Avengers 2: Age of Ultron
12) Dr. Strange
13) Captain America: The First Avenger
Tier 4: Mixed Feelings
15) Luke Cage
16) Thor 2: The Dark World
Tier 5: I’ll Watch On Cable With a Comic In Hand
18) Agents of SHIELD
19) Agent Carter (Season One, pretending Season Two didn’t happen)
20) Incredible Hulk
Tier 6: Nope
21) Iron Man 2
22) Dry heaving in a porta potty
23) Iron Fist
10 Thoughts On Spider-Man: Homecoming
1) Easter Eggs
I’ve been unreasonably annoyed by articles declaring blatant character reveals “Spider-Man: Homecoming” easter eggs. With the lone exception of Donald Glover (an actual deeper cut that requires some explanation for even Amazing Spider-Man fans), a bad guy named Mac Gargan with a Scorpion tattoo on his neck is not an easter egg. That’s a flippin’ Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 bad guy omelette bar.
That said, I loved Homecoming’s selection of Spidey villains we haven’t seen on screen before. There’s Vulture, of course, but the infusion of Shocker, Scorpion, and the Tinkerer (that one even took me a minute) were all nice touches. Shocker gets the shortest end of the stick, although I can understand a general reluctance to fully quilt a grown man on screen.
2) 2017 Comic Book Movie & TV Rankings
This year’s proving historically difficult to rank the best of comic book media. I’ve written before about the best comic book draft class by year, but so far 2017 is putting them all to shame.
Here’s how I’ve finally netted out, with the enormous caveat that Spider-Man has been my favorite non-Nightcrawler superhero since I was 13.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Wonder Woman
- The Lego Batman Movie
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Slamming your knee into the corner of a table
- Iron Fist
3) Iron Spider
Like many fans, I was considered there would be substantially too much Iron Man influence on Homecoming, but in reality the notorious RDJ was used sparingly and appropriately. It’s logical that in an MCU built from the Avengers up that any teenage hero entering the scene would ultimately aspire to membership.
While I technically prefer Spider-Man’s loner status from the Ditko and Lee years, it’s also worth remembering that Peter Parker immediately tries to join the Fantastic Four by immaturely breaking into their base and fighting them (if I had a nickel for every job interview I failed this way).
By the end of Homecoming, the MCU finds the perfect balance for Spidey. He’s out in New York operating on his own terms, but generally friendly and accepted by the Avengers.
4) Flash, King of the Nerds
My favorite take on Spider-Man in the last decade is the animated Spectacular Spider-Man, which frequently takes the essence of classic Spidey characters and reimagines them to fit a new narrative.
Homecoming makes similar efforts, perhaps none more notably than Flash, aka the cool nerd. It’s a surprising twist for those of us familiar with the famous jock bully, but honestly bullies come in all shapes and sizes, and planting him in Peter’s social circles feels more true to the high school experience.
Still weird to call him Ned. I just don’t get that change.
6) Secret Identities
Think about this for a moment: Outside of the Netflix Marvel shows, nobody really has a secret identity in the MCU.
Peter Parker has always been terrified of villains discovering his identity, though, and naturally this discovery is what adds such a layer of tension to Peter and the Vulture’s menacing Uber ride to the school dance.
For me, this raises the question: Is Peter registered under the Sokovia Accords because of Uncle Tony’s magnetic influence? Presumably the answer is yes unless Cool Uncle Tony simply used Spider-Man for his own airport battle needs and otherwise kept him off the radar.
Much like the comics Civil War this status feels absolutely counter to Peter’s needs, and I wonder if we’re due for a reckoning at some point when those registered names get leaked.
7) No One Dies
There are two moments that cemented Spider-Man: Homecoming as a top tier MCU flick for me.
The first is the harrowing adaptation of Amazing Spider-Man #33, with Spider-Man pushing through the terrifying real fear of being buried alive and lifting a collapsed building off his back.
The second is maybe even more important, with Spidey risking his own life to save the Vulture – who just repeatedly tried to kill him – from a raging inferno.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has played fast and loose with villain murder, with Vision slaughtering Ultron, and the Guardians slaying Ronan. It’s oddly refreshing to see a bad guy get his due and get sent to prison!
This also keeps Vulture from winning the 2017 “There Is No Mandarin” award for villain most thoroughly wasted in service of the plot. That honor can stay with The Bride of Nine Spiders, largely because I continue to refuse to believe Ego is gone (although if we are to accept that Ego the Living Planet is no more, then he wins the award no problem).
Our award winners now tentatively look like:
2013: The (Not) Mandarin
2014: Ronan the Accuser
2015: Baron Von Strucker
2017: The Bride of Nine Spiders
8) Uncle Been There Done That
Do we need him? Is it disrespectful not to even mention him?
To me, Uncle Ben’s presence is clear in every step Peter takes. I don’t need another movie wasting time reminding me he’s why Peter does what he does.
9) Come On Villain, Do The Twist
Between the Mandarin, Loki (in Thor 2: The Dark World), and now Vulture, Marvel has pulled off some impressive swerves with their villains.
Vulture in particular pulls off the feat without simultaneously enraging half the fan base (looking at your Mandarin!), and giving Michael Keaton enough scenery to chew on to deliver one of the most charismatic and personalized villains in the MCU.
10) Year of the Spider
Heading in to Homecoming there were serious questions about Spidey’s popularity. I had a colleague tell me “Kids don’t like Spider-Man,” and I almost threw a shoe in his general direction. Nonetheless, it’s an understandable argument. Has the time of Spider-Man passed?
I’d like to believe that between the delight of Spider-Man: Homecoming and the PS4 Spider-Man video game coming later this year, we’re due for a full-on Spider-sance.
What do you think? Did Spider-Man: Homecoming work for you? Do what feels right to you in the comments.