This is part of a series of blog posts, discussing my rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe FOLLOWING my viewing Avengers: Endgame on opening weekend. If you HAVE NOT seen Endgame, I suggest you wait to read these posts as I will be mentioning and referencing plot points from the most recent film(s) including Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
16. Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)
As I'm watching Spider-man Homecoming this time, it occurs to me how important Spider-man is. Kevin Feige was willing to work with another studio to have him as a toy in the toy box. The deal means effectively that every few years Marvel Studios goes and makes a movie for Sony but doesn't actually make any money on that film, and that's worth it because merchandising and Spider-Man's influence in the broader MCU is worth the $1 billion or so every one of those Sony films makes. Not that Hollywood is a zero-sum game, but I doubt there’s ever been a deal like this that so benefits another studio.
That’s how much Spider-Man matters.
Getting this movie right mattered almost that much as well. Spidey’s appearance in Civil War had been a big hit, Tom Holland is a PERFECT casting choice for both Peter and Spider-Man (which so far hadn’t really been done onscreen). I still wasn’t very excited for this one, and I know I wasn’t alone among the MCU fanbase. We’d seen 5 onscreen depictions of Spider-Man in recent memory, none of them amazing, but all of them “fine”. Of all the heroes left in the archives waiting to be brought to life, why another retread of THIS one? It’s because Peter’s story is unique among the rest of our heroes. He’s a boy amongst the men and women. But he’s also one of the longest running and best known characters in comics period. Among the Marvel creations, he is consistently the #1 or #2 and the only hero who's had the cultural impact of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman from DC. Spider-Man is big.
So, color me surprised when an hour and a half into the movie I’ve been enjoying myself so much not to see the twist coming. It is the best twist/reveal in the entire Marvel canon so far, in my opinion. This was brilliantly done. The trick is that Peter has his moment of crisis, he is dressed down by Tony, stripped of his new Spidey suit and sent home in a baggy t-shirt to be dressed down again by May. They share a moment, Peter begins to patch up his personal life and has a reconciliation with Liz. This leads to a musical montage with Peter and May getting ready for Homecoming and you completely forget about the fact that Michael Keaton is out there menacing somewhere AND he has a kid that was referenced in the prologue. When he opens the door for Peter, my jaw dropped and it’s almost as effective knowing that it’s coming.
That all leads to the deliciousness that is the car ride over to the dance and especially Papa’s talk with Peter after Liz gets out. Michael Keaton is what we’ve been waiting for with MCU villains and my sincere hope is that they’ve signed him to a deal as long as Samuel L. Jackson’s. I want the Vulture to eventually get the “Superior Spider-Man” storyline, that’s how much I love this character (well, maybe not that much, but I want this Vulture to age and grow onscreen as well as in our imaginations. Please let him lead the Sinister Six in a few more movies?). Casting Keaton was brilliant, especially with his recent renaissance following Birdman, but the cultural memory of him in the Batsuit carrying over to him flying around in this monstrous Vulture rig is perfect. More of this, please. Let’s get Brandon Routh playing a bad guy in the MCU next, I guess? Linda Carter? I am definitely down for George Clooney or Val Kilmer to join up!
My favorite Keaton moment? When he has finally put it all together in the car and he’s started to toy with Peter. He catches his eye in the rear-view and says as menacingly as possible, “Good ole’ Spider-Man!” There are versions of the Vulture character (the Noir universe for instance) that are not just a super-villain but an actual monster, a cannibal even. In that “ Good ole’ Spider-Man” I absolutely believe Keaton might just eat this little boy in the backseat. So when he tells Peter that he’d kill him to protect his family, I (and I think Holland’s Peter) take it for gospel. Having that perfect villain makes Peter a hero in the next moment when he turns it all down and goes after the bad guy anyway. No fancy suit, no backup from Iron Man, and no beautiful girl to welcome you back when you save the day. This movie is about teaching Peter what the “hero” thing is going to cost him, ensuring that he takes it seriously and that he’s ready for what he’s going to be asked to do in the years to come. Tony didn’t know that he’d need a replacement so soon, but the course of this movie (and the events of Infinity War and Endgame) I think have done a much better job than either Tony or Peter might have imagined.
The entire lineup of Peter’s classmates are great, but Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds is a different level. He’s as good in this film as Michael Pena as Luis in Ant-Man. He even gets a great hero moment when he saves Peter from the Shocker in the final act. I know a lot of people were bothered by the convenience of seemingly all of Peter’s classmates being snapped away for 5 years like Peter, but I am just glad that we get more Ned (and MJ, Flash etc). Honestly, rewatching this one has got me totally hyped up to see Far From Home, which after Endgame is no small feat. Here’s hoping that FFH lives up to Homecoming. Also, here’s hoping that they figure out a great way to use “home” again in the threequel a couple years from now.