Dear Anna Watson's Favorite Niece,
Unfortunately, life made me leave this question sitting in the inbox for two and a half weeks [UPDATE: IT'S BEEN NEARLY A MONTH BECAUSE I'M A TERRIBLE PERSON], so my thoughts are not nearly as fresh as they could have been. But, I still have opinions, so I'll do my best to re-capture what I was thinking/feeling that weekend.
[GUYS IT'S NOT REALLY GOING TO BE POSSIBLE TO DISCUSS THIS STUFF WITHOUT SPOILERS SO IF YOU STILL HAVEN'T SEEN IT YOU SHOULD PROBABLY JUST SAVE THIS ANSWER FOR LATER, 'CAUSE THERE'S ABOUT TO BE A TON OF SPOILERS IN THIS HOUSE.]
Firstly, in case I haven't made this clear on the Board before, I'm a huge Spider-Man fan. One of my earliest memories is being really frustrated by trying to win a Spider-Man plushie in one of those grabby-claw games and failing every time. When I was eight my grandma bought me this giant book of Spider-Man history and I subsequently read the entire thing (it's not a small book). In 2004 I got a DVD copy of Spider-Man 2 for Christmas and I used a random number from the case as the parental control code for movies on my PS2 (because I was sure I would never forget the number because SPIDER-MAN). In 2007 I saw Spider-Man 3 on opening night and was so excited that 1) I didn't realize it's kind of a terrible movie and 2) I annoyed the heck out of all of the friends I went to see it with. Though I didn't regret my mission at all, I was more than a little bummed that I'd be entering the MTC before The Amazing Spider-Man was released in theaters. Eighteen months later, I saw promotional materials for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 pop up in a McDonald's in my area, and I was super excited to see that they'd ditched the lame, basketball-looking costume from the trailers for the first one.
I say all of this just to illustrate why I was going to be seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming no matter what the pre-release reviews said. Now, after seeing him in Civil War, I was pretty sure that Tom Holland was going to be a spectacular (heh) Spider-Man, but even if the critics had said that the movie was a floating barge of garbage, it was going to be a floating barge of Spider-Man garbage, and nothing was going to stop me from watching it, gosh darn it.
(Speaking of The Spectacular Spider-Man, that is the best Spider-Man TV show in existence and you should be watching it right now.)
It was incredibly relieving, then, when Tom Holland proved himself to be THE ONE TRUE SPIDER-MAN and Homecoming proved itself to be one of the best Spider-Man movies of all time, if not the best (I'm reserving judgement until I watch Spider-Man 2 again. Then maybe I'll have to watch Homecoming again. And then Spider-Man 2 once more. Maybe I'll just only watch those two movies for the rest of my life. Who knows?).
What was so great about this movie, and this Spider-Man? Well,
-HE'S IN HIGH SCHOOL. While there have been plenty of great Spider-Man stories featuring an adult Peter Parker, there's just something special about seeing him juggling school and girls and punching people in the face (for reference, see the original Ultimate Spider-Man comics and The Spectacular Spider-Man which you're supposed to be watching right now since I told you to earlier).
-HE'S NOT A HUNK. Listen. I like Andrew Garfield. I look on the ASM movies a lot more kindly than most folks. I appreciated that he cried the first time he put on the Spider-Man suit, because it showed that he was taking this seriously. BUT THE MAN IS JUST TOO DARN HUNKY. This is probably made worse by other character traits from the movies. I mean, he skateboards! He's into retro photography! He wears cool hoodies! As one video I watched put it, the Tobey Maguire Peter Parker would have killed to be the Andrew Garfield Peter Parker in high school, and that's not really how it's supposed to work. Even with powers, Peter's an underdog, so he needs to still stick out a little bit.
-Uncle Ben is already dead. Now, I actually wouldn't have minded seeing another origin story. They could have done the spider bite and the whole shebang and I wouldn't have complained. But, what I liked about this is that the primary lesson that comes from Uncle Ben's death—the whole "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" thing—has already been learned and internalized by Peter by the time this movie rolls around. I mean, sure, he's not perfect at it; he seriously contemplates using Spider-Man to make himself look more popular, and he does seem to take a small break from Spider-Man-ing after the fiasco with the ferry. But, by and large, there isn't a question in Peter's mind as to whether or not he's going to be responsible and use his powers for good. The best example of this? When he finds out that Liz's dad is actually the Vulture—which, by the way, IS SUCH A SPIDER-MAN THING FOR THIS MOVIE TO DO—the audience thinks that he's trying to decide whether or not to leave Liz at the dance, but really, he made the decision as soon as he left the car by hiding his phone there. While the power/responsibility lesson is crucial to Peter's motivations, it's only one of many lessons he learns over the course of his superhero career, so the fact that we've moved past it is really exciting from a storytelling point of view.
-To clarify: in the comics, Adrian Toomes (the Vulture) and Liz Allan aren't related at all. But, as a fan of the comics, I'm not even mad, because that triangular relationship between Peter, his love interest, and the villain is SOOOOO RIGHT. And, in the end, he has to sacrifice his relationship with Liz to do the right thing in stopping the Vulture! It's so terrible, but SO GOOD. Maybe Spider-Man fans are all just masochists for loving this constant turmoil, but boy, that tension just felt...right.
-MJ. First, an aside: I avoided spoilers for this movie like the plague, but still managed to get spoilt a little bit...or so I thought. See, I read an article that claimed that Zendaya's character was named Michelle Toomes, which would have made her the Vulture's daughter. At the time, I thought that was a pretty decent idea: have one of Peter's best friends be the Vulture's kid so that it's not as easy for him to go after the villain (the best analogue in the comics I can think of for this one is Betty Brant and the Molten Man, but they're siblings). But, that article was actually WRONG and it was wrong in the best possible way, because it made me so sure of the twist I thought was coming that when the real twist came along, it absolutely floored me.
But anyway, back to MJ: I know that Gwen Stacy was Peter's first main love interest, and I know that her death was tragic and made a lasting impact on superhero comics as a whole, and Emma Stone was really good in the ASM movies...but I like Mary Jane better. I like Mary Jane because, in my eyes, she's a much deeper and richer character. She's a girl who's obsessed with maintaining a carefree, party girl attitude to hide the fact that she's incredibly sad and hurt on the inside. Over time, though, Gwen's death and Peter's example help ground her and help her actually deal with the trauma in her life rather than suppressing it. Besides that, I feel like she understands Peter in a much more profound way than Gwen did. Gwen never knew that Peter was Spider-Man until the day she died, but MJ knew before Peter even told her, and that makes her so much more supportive of Peter. She understands the immense pressure he feels to help people as Spider-Man, and she wants him to do that, even when it means a personal sacrifice on her part. My favorite example of this comes in a series called Spider-Man: Reign. Reign was panned by a lot of critics because it just feels like a rip-off of The Dark Knight Returns, and, to be fair, it pretty much is, but I still like it. In Reign, Peter is old and living alone; Mary Jane is dead. We find out over the course of the series that Mary Jane died of radiation poisoning, which she contracted as a result of being so close to Peter (who, if you'll remember, has radioactive blood). Peter is at her bedside when she's dying, only to hear the sound of police sirens from outside. Torn between staying with MJ or going to help, he ultimately leaves her to stop whatever crime is being committed, only to find that she passed away while he was out. The memory of this haunts him and ultimately causes him to give up being Spider-Man. But, later in the series, it's revealed that she wanted him to go; her last words were "Go get 'em, Tiger." It just really drives home the point that MJ knows Peter so well and cares about him so much that she doesn't want to make him agonize over choosing her or his responsibility, which strikes me as a very deep love.
Now, before we get too hasty here, MJ in Homecoming played a very small role; there wasn't even much indication that she has feelings for Peter. But, I love the character, and I'm really excited to see where things go from here.
Those are the main points. Here are a few smaller ones:
-The fully-orchestrated Spider-Man theme song at the beginning is so wonderful.
-That scene where Peter is trapped under the rubble and water's pouring down on him? It's a callback to a really iconic Spider-Man story, and I thought it was super cool that they included it.
-Donald Glover! And he's the Prowler! And they mentioned Miles Morales! Ah!
-WE COULD ACTUALLY GET A DECENT SINISTER SIX MOVIE.
-I like that Aunt May found out his secret identity. It just seemed to fit for this version of the character.
Anyway. It's been nearly a month, and I don't remember as much as I did, but that was one heck of a Spider-Man movie.
P.S. Spider-Man and Doctor Strange fighting together?
Thor meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy?
Thanos remotely crushing an entire moon/planetoid and hurling it at the Avengers?
Yes. You could say I'm excited for Infinity War.