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During the last few days, I’ve been immersed with Spider-Man. It's been a very long time since I got so interested by the character, but it's been an interesting experience since he has always been one of my two favorite superheroes.
It all started back in December when I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The experience was fantastic. It had been a long time since I get so excited about the Spidey mythos. It was a breath of fresh air. A celebration of what the character is and his legacy. It was remembering Stan Lee and my eyes watering with that little cameo that wraps up so many underlying meanings. It was remembering why Peter Parker had always seemed like such an interesting character to me. It was to experience that story and see Miles become Spider-Man and getting chills. It was secretly reliving that fantasy of being a superhero, which I experienced for the first time when I saw Tobey Maguire in Raimi's films when he was only seven. It was so many things, but mainly, it was feeling a very deep emotional investment for the story of a hero, and that is something I hadn’t felt in very long. Sure, we've had superhero movies in recent years that I’ve been fascinated with, but this was different.
I loved Logan for the psychological depth it aimed for as a farewell to the character, as it delved into a type of narrative very little explored in the genre. The cinematic achievement done by Infinity War fascinated me. It was able to make a movie like that work when, logically, it would seem an impossible task. However, they succeeded by focusing the story on an ingeniously constructed villain. There have been superhero movies that I've loved a lot over the years, but I think none moved me so much on a personal level.
However, I'll be back with Spider-Verse in a bit. My next step into this Spider-Man immersion happened last week. For months, I was interested in the latest game that released for PS4 and last week I was finally able to play it at a friend's house. And while Spider-Verse works as a fabulous celebration of Spider-Man as an icon and the impact of his legacy, Spider-Man PS4 works as a celebration of Peter Parker. Insomniac manages to create a game that gives us one of the best experiences with this hero, delivering us the closest thing to living that dream of being in Peter's shoes. His story not only explores a large part of Spidey's rogue gallery, but it also draws on the best elements that give Peter depth and creates an extremely human and personal story. It is a testament to the phrase 'With great power, eat great responsibility'.
And all this immersion that made me rediscover my love for the character is what led me to feel conflicted and decide to write this. Write this without really knowing where I'm going, and just as a way to vent all my ideas and opinions and see what comes out. So take it as just that. My opinions.
My conflict arises when I remember Spider-Man Homecoming. I happened to me a lot during these days, and finally, I tried to settle it by watching Homecoming again a few hours ago. I needed to be sure, and now I am.
Homecoming makes me feel a bit disappointed. And I know that for many it can be a controversial opinion, but every time I remember it, a small part of me can’t help but feel that something is missing. And it's a bit late for this reflection, but maybe seeing two other representations of the character so prominently and so effectively, makes me think that the Spider-Man that we wanted so much to join the MCU is not in the same caliber. This is the issue that has been making me feel so conflicted and that makes me a little sad.
Why doesn't Homecoming work for me? Well, there are many reasons. There is even an essay that already said all those things first and I think that his analysis already explains these elements well enough for me to detail them again. I leave it here in case you are interested.
However, for the purposes of this rant, I will summarize the most important points for those who do not want to see the video and explore my personal additions to some of those points.
The essay highlights that Homecoming is not a bad movie; it has many points on its favor. Many of its elements work quite well. The argument here is that Homecoming is not a good Spider-Man movie and that's where I can’t angry more. The essay points out that what prevents the movie from reaching that potential is three points: Consequences, The Suit and the Avengers (Along the MCU)
In my case, I would like to explain and add comments regarding those three points in reverse order to that of the video. From my point of view, the flaws are scaled better like this.
So ... Homecoming suffers from the same phenomenon that all MCU films suffer; it has a hard time working as a movie on its own. HC is the sixteenth movie in a giant franchise, and although there are films within the MCU that manage to deal with this problem better than others, it’s still a constant. And in the case of HC, I think it’s a real pity that it wasn’t handled better. At the end of the day, Spider-Man is probably the biggest character that Marvel has. I think that every fan waited from the early days of the MCU for the possibility that Spidey would join this universe, but as they say: Be careful with what you wish for. Homecoming works like another chapter within the MCU where easter eggs and references prevail.
If we think about what goes on much of the plot, it isn’t really about how Peter becomes a hero, but his conflict with the desire to become an Avenger. And even if at the end of the film he decides to reject the offer, in the next one, that decision doesn’t matter, because anyway he becomes an Avenger. Even if he chooses not to become an Avenger by the end of the film, the whole movie revolves around them. I mean, the climax happens in a plane that carries the belongings of Tony Stark and the Avengers.
Which brings us to...
The suit. I think the significance of the suit for this Peter, in many levels, takes the character to a place that doesn’t belong to him. The suit works as a connection to Peter's mentor, which in this case is Tony Stark, and this inevitably compromises Peter's identity as a hero. At times, the story ceases to be so much about Peter becoming Spider-Man and more about Peter becoming Iron-Man Jr.
The suit never made Spider-Man who he is. Peter Parker is not Tony Stark. Peter Parker is not Bruce Wayne. And I make these comparisons because in those cases, the suit defines their characters in a very significant way. Unlike Peter, Bruce and Tony are regular humans; they do not have powers. Their power is their intelligence and their ability to use ingenuity to create toys and gadgets. And this element is even more prominent in Tony than in Bruce. Bruce has many other layers of complexity under the mantle of the Batman. But much of the plot of Tony's trilogy revolves around Tony and his suits. A lot of what defines his character is that. And for Peter, that is not the case.
The decision to make Tony a mentor and father figure for Peter works in relation to the future plans for Tony in the further MCU events. But this decision has repercussion. This decision creates something in Peter's subtext. It makes Peter aim to catch up with his mentor, and it's hard to get him out of that shadow within this universe. Now, maybe you can question: why doesn’t this work here and it does work in Spider-Verse, where Miles's origin is tied to a mentor? The difference is that in Spider-Verse that mentor is not a hero who reflects on his apprentice a different meaning; that mentor is Peter Parker. Miles isn’t aiming to be Iron-Man. Miles aims to be Spider-Man, and Peter B. Parker (along with many of the other versions of the hero), pushes Miles on that path.
In Homecoming, (the film struggles with looking for ways to reject that thesis, but fails) part of what makes Peter become Spider-Man is that Tony Stark gave him that suit. And that brings me to the most important point of all:
The consequences around the life of Peter Parker are one of the elements that make his character so interesting and make him appeal to so many people. And maybe for some, it's silly, but for me, it's what attracted me to his character so much in the first place. What made me identify so much with Peter Parker is to feel that life sometimes does not give you a break. The feeling of doing your best to do what you think is the right thing to do, but life responds with another mishap. And what makes Peter Parker and Spider-Man connect with one in that way is something simple that Spider-Verse states: "Spider-Man ALWAYS gets back up." Each of the Spider-People of the Multiverse learned that hard lesson, and Miles was no exception. In his own way, he came to embody that essence. It is simple. But it is a simple premise that surrounds the entire character.
The suit was never what made him a hero. The suit was another accessory. What makes him a hero is that even though his love life is a disaster, he is late with on all his bills, he is fired from all his jobs, he is evicted for not paying the rent on time, despite everything, Spider-Man is still going to do the right thing. For me, the essence of his character wasn’t if he had to decide between being an Avenger or not. It was between breaking the promise to your best friend to finally see her play or stop a robbery. Spider-Man is my favorite hero because to see him is to feel that his consequences are real.
And for me, Homecoming lacks this. And maybe it can change. Life still isn’t as difficult for Peter, since he is still in high school, but I can only comment on the current state of things. Peter in Homecoming faces conflicts, but a large part of his conflicts are empty of real consequences. The clearest reflection of this problem is the scene in which Peter decides to return to the Decathlon team and is received back with open hands. Homecoming flirts with these elements that could lead to those deeper factors, but most of the time rejects them and opts for another joke.
All these points culminate in what makes me a little sad about all this. I know Homecoming does its best to distance itself from all the previous incarnations of the character on the big screen, but at the end of the day, just as Raimi was the first encounter with Spidey for me, Homecoming will probably be the first to future generations. Homecoming was my nephew's first encounter with Spidey. And it makes me a little sad that this Spiderman feels a little more superficial, even though HC tries to keep a little of its essence.
And I am not unaware of reality. I know that Homecoming is a result of the circumstances. It is the result of Marvel’s hasty attempt to make Spider-Man connect with the rest of that universe. The conditions to implement a movie into this universe are restrictive. It was imminent that they could integrate him when the opportunity arose and they did, but along the way, part of his genuineness was left behind. What Marvel managed to incorporate into their universe was the image of the character, and part of that character isn’t there just quite yet.
And maybe things will change. We don’t know. Soon, a new phase for the MCU will begin, and there is a possibility that our favorite hero is leading it this time. Who knows where they will go now? Maybe for the better, or maybe not. If there is something that I can’t take away from Marvel, it is that they will still do everything possible to make it entertaining. Seeing Spidey integrated into this universe is an amazing experience, but with everything else I could watch and analyze lately, it made me start thinking about some of the things I miss.
And maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong. As I said, it's my opinion. This is what I think gives Spider-Man his essence, but maybe many think differently. The interesting thing is that everyone will have their own interpretation of the character.
Regardless of all this, I can still be optimistic. Everything I analyzed was only contemplating what was missing from the MCU Spidey, but that which he lacks is still out there, and it is great to be able to experience it elsewhere. It is quite likely that you will come with sequels to both (Spider-Verse and Spider-Man PS4), and that excites me immensely because I know that the character is still alive in all its splendor elsewhere. And maybe that's the greatest thing that Spider-Verse leaves us. Spider-Man is not just one person; Spider-Man is an icon with a legacy that transcends borders. And yes, I know he is not the only one. Batman shares that idea of the hero as a symbol. But Spider-Man has something special. It has a unique spark and humanity that makes us remember that we can all be heroes and I think that's the best I can get out of all of this.