The Marvelization of Spider-Man

Yet another Spide-Man movie has been released! Naturally, as a huge Spider-Man fan, I had to go see it. I took the wife and kid to the drive-in, and sat down with the popcorn, all hyped up for a great film. There’s a lot of good in the movie, but there’s a lot of disappointment. I didn’t like the film, so what follows is my opinion of Spider-Man Homecoming.

One of the positives that people point out is the lack of origin story. Being the third reboot in 10-15 years, many of us are familiar with Peter Parker’s backstory, the radioactive spider, Uncle Ben’s death and becoming a hero.

The introduction, setting the scene, was great and comical. It introduces the villain, his motivation, and shows Peter’s point of view of the events in Civil War. We see his struggle to prove himself to Tony Stark.

Despite all this, I feel like the film lacks motivation. Sure, seeing Uncle Ben die, yet again, would be boring (supposedly). And the phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility,” has reached new levels of clichĂȘ (they say). Although, cheesy and repetitive, these moments define Peter Parker. They motivate him and drive what he does. They make him Spider-Man.

In contrast, Peter’s motivation in Homecoming is to be an Avenger, to be a hero and save people. But why does he want to save people? That question isn’t answered.

Peter has a sweet suit in Homecoming, especially once he deactivates the “Training Wheels Program.” Then, he gets an Iron Man suit. It’s high-tech, cool and has an AI system built in. It can do anything.

Having a suit that does everything for Peter, takes away from his ingenuity and creativity.

In the Amazing Spider-Man, Peter can’t release his web on his own. So, he invents and creates a device that allows him to shoot webs. Simple and seemingly round about, but it demonstrates how smart he is.

Instead of a computer showing him several different web combinations, he makes them himself. I remember in Spider-Man 2, he lands on a car and two burgalrs turn to shoot him but, before they can fire, he shoots two web balls, like bullets or sandbags, and disarms his opponents. Or when Doc OC breaks the breaks to the metro, (haha, breaks the breaks…) He starts throwing people and Spider-Man shoots these giant webs to catch the innocent civilians.

These are two cases in which Spider-Man/Peter Parker makes his own webs, without the help of a computer. He’s a smart kid that can figure things out, and that’s always been one of his characteristics.

Peter Parker always has a love interest because it’s always about a girl. Now, whether it’s Mary Jane, Gwen or Michelle, Peter likes them because of their good looks. That’s a given, but it’s only the start. As a teenager, that’s usually enough to like a girl, but as one gets older, they realize there’s more and how superficial looks are. You may argue that Peter is a teenager, he’s 15 so he doesn’t need a deeper reason to like Michelle. Maybe so, but it made her a boring, one-sided love interest.

Peter (and the audience) liked Mary Jane because she was more than a pretty face. She stood up for Peter when others made fun of him. Peter (and the audience) felt for her as we saw how her family treated her or as she met with failure trying to find an acting career. Then rejoiced when she did!

Gwen was a brilliant physicist. They laughed and talked. We felt a sting of pain when she was going to move out of the country for her academics. We mourned when she died because we had a connection with her.

When Michelle left at the end of Homecoming, I didn’t feel anything. She was just a pretty face with a crazy dad. Peter and her didn’t have any good screen time or moments. There was no reason for them to like each other apart from good looks.

And yes, they are teenagers and largely incapable of higher thought, but it was still boring.

Spider-Man is now part of Disney, part of the same cookie-cutter Marvel Machine, an assembly line story that looks good and feels good but has no substance. It makes a clean crisp movie that feels fake. It has light humor, which is fun, but then deflates any serious situation and avoids character development.

To demonstrate this stark contrast between previous Spider-Man installments and the newest, let’s remember the boat scene in Homecoming. As you’ll recall, some alien gun or bomb or whatever exploded, ripping the boat in half. Spider-Man desperately tries to keep the ship together, by shooting dozens of webs and then places himself in the middle, trying to hold everything together, whole being stretched in a dozen different directions. He ultimately fails and Iron Man saves the day.

Compare a similar scene with one found in Spider-Man 2. Doc Oc sabotages the trains breaks and Spider-Man desperately shoots out dozens of webs and places himself in the front of the train, attempting to stop it. He is in the same position as Spider-Man in Homecoming, arms stretched out, holding webs, being pulled in a dozen different directions but trying to keep it together.

This scene means much more in Spider-Man 2 than Homecoming. In Spider-Man 2 he’s trying to balance being a superhero, a student, a job, paying rent and maintaining a relationship with Mary Jane and his mom. Much of the film shows his struggle to balance his normal life and his superhero life. While he’s being pulled apart literally trying to save the train, it shows, figuratively, his struggle to balance his life.

The similar scene and imagery are used in Homecoming, but it’s not as strong. His love interest is boring. We don’t know his mom. He’s not struggling to pay rent and his grades don’t seem to be suffering at all.

The comparison between these two scenes shows the contrast between the two movies. It demonstrates the emotional investment of the old ones and the flashy, lack of emotion found in the newest installment.

In conclusion, I compare storytelling to a well-balanced diet. Sure you can fill up on dessert, but it’s not good for you. You also have to eat your vegetables. These Marvel movies are all dessert and they lack the essential vegetables that make for a good story. They are flashy but lack substance.