I have been a huge, massive, gigantic, enormous, and whatever term you may use to describe something excessive in size, fan of Spider-Man my entire life. Naturally, I could not wait for Spider-Man: Homecoming to be released, for a number of reasons.
There are three main reasons why I was overly excited about Homecoming:
1) Spider-Man is back with Marvel Studios who is taking the creative reigns from Sony/Columbia.
2) We haven’t had a good Spidey flick since 2004’s Spider-Man 2
3) It is Spider-Man.
Now, while driving home from the theatre, reminiscing about Homecoming, my thoughts were running wild about the idea of writing an article. I began thinking about what the parameters. Fortress of Solitude has already released a number of reviews on the film, all of them very positive. Also, if you really want to go read about how good the film truly is, you can head on over to Rotten Tomatoes and just follow the links to the hundreds of websites that already gave their two cents on the film.
No. A review won’t be anything special, and this film deserves special.
I began throwing titles around: “10 Reasons Why Spider-Man: Homecoming Is The Best Spidey Movie Ever”, “Things Spider-Man: Homecoming Got Right That The Amazing Spider-Man Series Got Wrong” and “Spider-Man Homecoming: All The Easter Eggs“.
At this point, I realised that these are very safe parameters to work in. So I decided to get ballsier. I decided on “Why Spider-Man: Homecoming Is The Best Superhero Movie Ever”. This was going to be the title for a while until I began thinking about everything that has come before.
Iron Man, The Dark Knight, the recent Wonder Woman, Richard Donner’s Superman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, Logan, The Avengers… the list goes on. The last thing I want to do here is to incite the classic “Oh you are just biased towards Marvel” or “Spider-Man 2 will forever be the best Spidey movie” debate. Look, I can write about the human condition and superhero movie online discourse forever, but that is not the goal here. Basically, anything titled something along the lines of “Superhero movie is the best or better than this one or that one” will lead to countless opinions in Facebook’s comment section on why I am wrong or why someone else who agrees with me is wrong.
So, upon sitting down in front of my screen, fingers on the keyboard, ready to start writing this son-a-bitch, I had a moment of self-reflection. And what I saw was Peter Parker sitting in my seat, eyes wide, not sure what to say or how to act. Then it hit me.
This is the title: Why We Love Superhero Movies.
Why do we flock to theatres when a superhero movie is showing? A lot of arguments can be made. Escapism, fun, entertainment, it is what’s “in” right now, blockbusters craze, etcetera.
Which is all true, but the same can be said of the Fast and Furious movies, or Jurassic World or Star Wars. Superhero movies are, for the lack of a better word, lovely. Just Lovely. We get to relive our collective childhoods, children get to be introduced to new worlds, and we get to mirror our own self-images onto these gods of the silver screen. It’s an irreplaceable feeling and a true experience.
Spider-Man: Homecoming takes this genre, or feeling, and presents it in its purest form. Spider-Man climbs the Washington Monument, director Jon Watts pulls the camera out of the action, showing a tiny red and blue figure crawling against this huge monument. Suddenly, we are next to Spidey, feeling a sense of vertigo and exhilaration. We see first see our hero as spectators, looking at a monument which we know exists in the real world, feeling that this may be very real and may not only exist in the cinematic world of fiction. Of course, logic soon sets in and we know that this is just a movie. Next thing, we find ourselves right next to Spidey. We feel what he is going through, and in that moment we simply escape. Suddenly, we are in this world of heroes and villains. And who is with us? Old web-head himself.
But a hero is only as good as his villain. The Dark Knight is a perfect example of that. It is the superhero movie to which all other superhero movies are compared. But remember, I’m not comparing here, and neither should you.
Michael Keaton’s Vulture is the best (and yes, I’m taking a chance by using an absolute term) villain not only within the Marvel Cinematic Universe but of the last decade of superhero movies. Stop with the stoning, Heath Ledger’s Joker or Tom Hiddleston’s Loki fans! I am not denying that those are extremely good villains. Some of the best, actually. Read my last paragraph again: the hero is only as good as his villain (See that?). That’s what you call a reciprocal relationship. And here, my focus is on the hero, and what the villain does to serve our hero. Keaton’s vulture does this best.
Nope. Wrong. He doesn’t. Because The Vulture isn’t a villain at all. He is a survivor, a man we can relate to on different levels. He is as ordinary as you and me. Suddenly, the reciprocal relationship between hero and villain becomes a relationship between you, the spectator, and The Vulture.
When Spidey saves Adrian Toomes, a dad and a husband, he isn’t showing compassion for a villain. He is saving a New Yorker, the people he has sworn to protect. Yes, the Joker and Loki are both great villains, but they are out of our reach. They are up there with the awe-inspiring heights of our heroes.
Much like Spider-Man himself, Vulture is down here with us. And, well, he is played by Michael freaking Keaton! At the end of the day, it’s about you and your villain lying down next to each other, surrounded by flames, monsters, aliens, and just being very human in the centre of it all. It’s not about taking over the world, causing global destruction or just plain old anarchy. It’s about living, and thus, surviving. Too few superhero films in recent memory got this right. We have had Iron Monger, Aries, Doomsday, Ultron, Thanos, Francis – people who are bad and want to do bad things. But what Homecoming does is go back to human levels – why are we bad? Because we are humans, and humans are fallible.
Let’s wrap this up. I’ll probably do a “Why Tom Holland Is The Best Spidey” and “Things Homecoming Got Right With Spider-Man” in the next few days. Articles that will inform you and cause major fan backlash (you know, the usual stuff).
But for now, we need to take a look at why we love superhero movies, and Homecoming is the answer. You see, it is all of us who are clinging to the Washington monument. We have no idea what we are doing, what’s happening next, what the consequences will be or how to deal with how we are feeling.
We do know one thing: We are absolutely, unapologetically alive in that moment. Then, within a few minutes, we go back to high school, our jobs, our families, and we are just humans.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a lot of things, go look at articles that focus on how it’s a great teen comedy in the vein of John Hughes disguised as superhero fodder, or reviews and top ten lists.
Or, go look at a rectangle in a dark theatre and be taken away by the essence of superhero movies: being a kid in a larger than life situation – be it in the middle of a ferry splitting in two or just a kid in a theatre witnessing the heroic antics of your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. It isn’t about reading reviews, commenting on Facebook posts or even liking the movie. It’s about living in a comic book where you are as much behind that mask as Peter is.
So close this article, don’t even leave comments or share it. Just go pick up where you left off as a kid. Go watch Spider-Man: Homecoming.