SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – Bringing Up Peter

Spider_Man_Homecoming_One_Sheet_1Spider-Man has been one of the most interesting cinematic properties in the 21st century’s crop of superhero films. He’s been rebooted twice in the span of only 15 years, courtesy of his studio caretaker, Sony. Through bungling both the Sam Raimi series (which started out strong) and the Marc Webb reboot series (which had potential), Sony proved that they didn’t really know what they had.

In response to the obvious creative quagmire, Spidey fans seemed to clamor for Sony to return the web-head to his rightful place: Marvel Studios.

Sony smartly brokered a deal with Marvel, giving the blockbuster-producing studio a shot and Spidey. And when Spider-Man appeared in Captain America: Civil War, it was an absolute triumph. This Spider-Man was indeed amazing. Marvel and Sony had done what was best for both the character and the fans, and included him with his fellow Marvel heroes.

The solo follow-up effort, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is a wonderful continuation of the groundwork laid in Civil War. The creativity of the Marvel Studios team has injected this character with new life, and made him a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Homecoming is funny, lighthearted, and has a youthful exuberance that matches the personality of the character in the comics. It has its share of questionable story and character choices, but it’s an overall enjoyable experience

Established in Civil War, the relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark is the highlight of the film. As with all great master-student relationships, each one comes out wiser. It is a reflection of a piece of our Creator’s personality, and what He tries to teach us in the rearing of youth.

SPIDER-SPOILERS AHEAD!

Stuff I Liked

Homecoming‘s greatest strength is getting Spider-Man back to his roots as an awkward underdog teenage hero – a place that made him popular in the first place. The smart-ass remarks, the street-level crime-fighting, the issues he has with life – those are the things that made the character relatable when Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created him over five decades ago. The awkward bumbling in the film isn’t forced, but comes naturally, given the character’s appearance and age.

Tom Holland

This Spider-Man is a scrapper and makes mistakes, but he’s also smart and very much a part of today’s world. I enjoyed his video montage at the beginning of the film because it brilliantly set up Peter Parker as a modern, dorky teenager who records everything on his phone. It was also cool to see Peter’s perspective on the events of Civil War, and how he actually got to the battle and obtain his Stark suit (though the continuity nerd in me bristled at the minor change in events).

Tom Holland sells this teenage Peter Parker well with his enthusiasm and charisma balanced with guilt and frustration. You really feel for the guy. He’s doing his best to get noticed and be taken seriously (as most teenagers do), and Holland hits on every emotion with great sincerity and believability.

Homecoming makes Spider-Man make more sense logically, especially in the semi-real world of the MCU – especially when it comes to his tricked-out costume. I never believed, in all the Spider-Man film incarnations, that down-on-his-luck Peter could actually make a costume like the ones worn by previous Spider-Men. To start with, Peter’s homemade costume actually looked homemade, and it makes complete sense that Tony Stark would give him an amazing, tech-filled suit. Even the adjustable irises have a function other than expressing emotion.

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Despite what the very peculiar one-sheet poster attempts to sell, there was very little Tony Stark is this film, and it was better for it. Homecoming has just enough Stark to make one smile when he appears and look forward to each time he does. The few moments between Stark and Peter are among the highlights of the film. It was also great to see Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) make a brief appearance, mending some sadness from Civil War, as well as good old Happy Hogan. And those Captain America cameos were hilarious – and definitely something Steve Rogers would do.

I loved how this story was integrated into the MCU. The villains’ powers were a bi-product of the battles in other Marvel films like The Avengers? Brilliant! It gave the other MCU films a sense of real consequences, first explored cinematically in Civil War. The MCU-based TV shows have done this with varying levels of success.

Upon viewing the film initially, I was worried that the story upset the carefully-crafted MCU timeline. But the internet has assuaged these concerns, thanks to this nerdy analysis from Slashfilm.

Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is one of the best villains the MCU has seen. Not only is the Vulture armor really cool and somewhat plausible, but Toomes was someone we as an audience could sympathize with – even if his actions were wrongheaded and based in absurd class envy. Toomes just wanted the best for his family. He had humanity, as displayed by the mid-credit sequence that had Toomes hiding Spider-Man’s identity from other criminals out of gratitude for saving Toomes’ life.

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Director Jon Watts gave Spider-Man: Homecoming a 1980s John Hughes feel that was really fun. All the characters seemed like they could have been part of the Brat Pack in films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (even brilliantly paying homage to a sequence from the latter). They seem real (for the most part), which was Hughes’ trademark. He and the writers have taken certain characters and done a good job updating them for today, like Flash Thompson. He was still a bully, but not of the “dumb jock” variety.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

On the flip-side, Watts may have taken the 80s nostalgia a bit too far. I’m talking about the tube TVs at the school displaying Captain America’s PSAs. I’m sure the New York City public schools are woefully underfunded, but having tube TVs and VHS players in a 2017 school (and a science-centric one at that) didn’t hold water with me. Furthermore, there’s no way the Captain America spots would be filmed in 1:33:1 ratio, given that Cap was in his first Avengers movie outfit (most video was in 16:9 by 2012).

I’m growing tired of the increasing number of government agencies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who are charged wth cleaning up after the superhero battles. I thought that’s what SHIELD was for. And the film’s initial flashback scene takes place before SHIELD fell in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While Damage Control does have a connection to the comics, I felt like it wasn’t necessary to add it with SHIELD still in existence. After the fall of SHIELD, maybe, but then why wasn’t Damage Control mentioned in the Agents of SHIELD TV show? Perhaps the TV crew could explore that (they desperately need some more connectivity to the films).

The connection between Toomes and the Battle of New York was great, but just how Toomes and his cronies got the leftovers from far-off battles like Greenwich (Thor: The Dark World) and Lagos (Captain America: Civil War) is never adequately explained. The bad guys were New York-based with limited means, so how did they get to those far-flung locales? Did they have help?

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When Marisa Tomei was cast as Aunt May, I thought it was a great idea. I’ve always felt that May was way too elderly to be Peter’s aunt, even in the comics. And Tomei is truly wonderful in the role. However, I thought the attention paid to May’s attractiveness went overboard in Homecoming. It was a fun gag in Civil War, and made sense because of the source (Tony Stark). But it seemed like every man in New York was vying for May’s affection, and her increasingly skin-tight wardrobe wasn’t making things better.

Though I laughed at first, I eventually found the joke with Ned covering up helping Spider-Man by saying he was watching porn a bit distasteful. I don’t think it’s very healthy or wise to normalize porn-viewing in teenagers. It should be treated as something terrible that can potentially turn into an addiction. An unfortunate reflection of how much the culture has gone down the tubes.

Zendaya in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN™: HOMECOMING.

Zendaya’s character was the only one who didn’t feel real. She was just there spouting snarky one-liners and being stereotypically weird and angsty. The whole Michelle/MJ thing felt tacked on. There was no reason to refer to her as MJ and spark connections to Mary Jane Watson. This is a completely different character. It’s not like combining personality traits of several characters into one, like Ned (Ned Leeds and Ganke Lee). Michelle was a character who had no basis in the comics, and calling her MJ just isn’t right. Even Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige admitted that Michelle isn’t Mary Jane, so why give her that nickname?

Though the origin story was done to death in the other two cinematic Spider-Man incarnations, I still missed Uncle Ben in this movie. I think it would have added some more emotional resonance to Peter’s mission, and another interesting layer to the Tony Stark / Peter Parker relationship. Ben Parker’s murder was, after all, the entire emotional impetus for Peter becoming Spider-Man. It felt strange that Ben isn’t even mentioned (not even a flashback). And May didn’t seem to have any signs of grief, even though it was no more than six months since Ben’s death.

Stuff to Ponder

The relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker is central to Spider-Man: Homecoming. Stark was there to guide young Parker in the ways of hero-dom, gauge the teenager’s maturity and intelligence, and eventually recruit him for the Avengers full-time. Through the story, both Tony and Peter grew and matured as people. Tony began to see Peter as more than just a project or a pathetic teenager, but a pseudo-son (which Peter desperately needed, considering the traumatic death of his previous father-figure).

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“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

I have always believed that God set up the raising and rearing of children the way he did to teach us about a part of His nature. In the raising of children, we understand how God feels teaching us how to live and grow. Like all teens, Peter thinks he knows it all and can handle anything the bad guys throw at him. Stark (and to an extent, Happy) is there to quell Peter’s ego and humble him. We sometimes do the same thing with God, telling him that we know how to handle life, and invariable end up worse off.

Like Peter, we are sometimes eager to face life’s challenges, but still need some growing before we can face them. God will often put us into situations to not only challenge us, but make us grow. We are His children, and he knows what’s best for us. It’s up to us to heed His instructions to become the people He wants us to be.

By the end of his story, Peter was emotionally developed enough to realize that he was not yet ready for Avengers-level action, and was content with his street-level heroics for now.

“Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” Psalm 127:3-5

Teaching children how to be mature adults makes the parent/mentor grow as well. Stark began the film not terribly involved with Peter’s struggles, feigning interest and even saving Peter remotely though an Iron Man drone. As Tony became more and more involved, he enacted discipline on Peter after his mishap on the ferry – taking his suit away. But Tony also learned to trust Peter by seeing what he did without the snazzy Stark suit.

I’ve always thought that the analogy used in the Book of Psalms describing children as arrows in a warrior’s quiver to be particularly intriguing. Several theologians have pointed out that it’s a very apt comparison, since the warrior launches the arrows out into the world – pointing them in the right direction. The warrior/parent becomes a more skilled “marksman” – watching what they say and do around their child and practicing good spiritual habits in order to steer them down a righteous path.

So What I’m Trying to Say is

Welcome home, web-head! Spider-Man Homecoming is the near-perfect follow-up to Spider-Man’s appearance in Civil War. It’s really fun to watch and is a great addition to the larger MCU. Hopefully Sony will continue to partner with Marvel Studios on future Spider-Man films. And I really hope they drop their plans for other films based on Spider-Man characters.

The relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark is the best part of the film, and displays a truth about the way God set up the rearing of youth. Adults are in the lives of children “to bring them up in the way they should go.” Both child and adult grow and mature during the process, and understand the nature of God a little bit more.

Originally posted on Reel World Theology.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Marvel Studios / Columbia Pictures
Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya,
Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr.
Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts,
Christopher Ford, Christopher McKenna and Erik Sommers
Based on a story by Goldstein and Daley
and characters appearing in Marvel Comics
Directed by Jon Watts

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One thought on “SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – Bringing Up Peter

  1. Pingback: Blu-ray Buyer’s Guide: October 17 | The Film Avenger

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