Thursday, August 3, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

In the aftermath of the Chitauri siege of New York, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) capitalizes on scavenged alien technology to produce weapons for illegal distribution. For eight years his business is profitable and sans interruption, until 15-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) comes along. Yearning for more action after his Avengers sampler, he spends his school days eagerly awaiting the next mission that just won’t come along. Crossing paths with Toomes, now equipped with a flying suit and referred to as “The Vulture,” he finally finds the excitement he is looking for and willingly engages his foe despite Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) stark disapproval. He aspires to be one of the Avengers but is he truly ready for the big responsibility, or will he forever be your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man grounded in New York?

Comparisons cannot be avoided. When you have three versions of the same character coming one right after the other in a span of just two decades, people will talk. Andrew Garfield’s reiteration seems to be generally disliked and dubbed as forgettable. As such, it is Tobey Maguire’s rendition that is usually brought up to set the bar. Perhaps this is a generation gap issue. The teenage generation of Maguire’s Spider-Man are now busy adulting, while the teenagers of today who have Holland as their Peter Parker were just born or still in diapers when the original blockbuster hit the theaters in 2002. How does that affect audience dynamics? In more ways than one.

Spider-Man’s story is universal at least to anyone who has experienced high school, struggled with the concept of social belonging, and hoping for something more out of the mundane. When you are in high school, you also feel as though every decision you make would contribute to the end of the world, specifically your own. That’s why Spidey is so popular among this demographic, because they can highly relate to him. But what happens when you are a thirty-year old who has seen six Spider-Man films in the last 15 years? It gets old. Or maybe WE got old. No offense to Tom Holland, but his version of the wall crawler comes off as a really, really, really annoying millennial. We were all teenagers once upon a time but for us, this is just so 2002.

Another interesting aspect to talk about is how the character seems to have been downgraded somehow. In the last two incarnations, the story was wholly focused on Peter Parker and his struggles. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the spotlight is no longer focused on him. Instead, he is just one of the many others now. There are so many characters here hogging the spotlight not because they want to but because it is inevitable, especially when they have already been in the MCU for a while enjoying a wide fan base. This is not all too bad, because we see Spider-Man’s role in the greater scheme of things.

Come to think of it, the reason why both Maguire’s and Garfield’s Spider-Man felt bigger than life was because they were focused on Peter Parker’s universe ALONE. In a world where Facebook and society-induced narcissism have become the norm, it is not that difficult to think that the world revolves around you. There were no Chitauri. There were no Avengers. The world was not really threatened, just New York. But yes, to Peter Parker, New York is the world. HIS world. This is what distinguishes Holland’s Spider-Man from the rest. He is part of a team now, and the universe has expanded more than any of them could have ever imagined. The stakes are higher. The consequences are bigger.

Overall this is a really enjoyable popcorn flick. Maguire’s version had its own geeky take on comedy which was effective back then. Garfield’s took itself a bit too seriously. Holland’s stayed true to its MCU roots with all the tongue-in-cheek humor. You know something serious is about to happen but the general feel is kept light most of the time. Captain America’s public service announcements were so simple yet too hilarious, while the selfie camera video coverage in the beginning hits the bullseye as an honest reflection of today’s overtly self-conscious and attention-seeking society.

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