Warning: There are some minor spoilers contained in this post if you have not seen “Spider-Man: Homecoming” yet.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” opened this weekend with a $US117 million box office bang, much to the delight of Sony executives, who were rumoured to be fraught with anxiety over franchise fatigue. Earnings for the Spider-Man franchise have been dwindling since the premiere of Sam Rami’s “Spider-Man” in 2002, but things seem to be turning around.
There’s already a lot of speculation as to how this newest iteration of Spider-Man was able to breathe new life into the franchise, but there is one particular moment in the film that points to what differentiates this Spider-Man reboot from its predecessors.
One of the central moments in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is when Peter Parker’s nemesis Vulture (played by Michael Keaton), uses his alien-powered weaponry to drop a floor of a building on Parker, leaving him completely buried in rubble. While stuck under the rubble, Parker calls out for help, and seems beyond hopeless in this moment. In this scene, there is no chest beating, no sense of valor, just a kid stuck in a pile of rubble calling for help.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, John Francis Daley, one of the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” screenwriters discussed this pivotal moment in the film,
“That allusion was something Kevin Feige really wanted to put into this script, because it sort of embodies the internal struggle that Peter Parker is facing throughout, where he is his own greatest enemy in some ways, to have to accept himself before he can do anything helpful for the world. We have him starting the scene with such self-doubt and helplessness, in a way that you really see the kid. You feel for him. He’s screaming for help, because he doesn’t think he can do it, and then in the context of that flashback, he kind of realises that that’s been his biggest problem. He didn’t have the confidence in himself to get himself out of there.”
The self doubt and hopelessness of this scene exemplifies the kind of vulnerability that seemed to be lacking in the previous reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Parker remains a bumbling boy throughout the entirety of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and for this reason alone makes the character feel so much more authentically teenaged in a way that his 26 and 28-year-old Spider-peers never did.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” leaves out the radioactive spider bite, the death of Parker’s uncle Ben, and focuses heavily on the difficulty that comes with trying to build confidence while still in high school, and is all the better for it. Sure, there’s still crime-fighting and high-tech gear, as in any superhero film these days, but focusing on Parker’s vulnerability, and creating a relatable coming-of-age story, seems to be what makes this Spider-Man special.
Vulnerability in superhero movies is not new. But Holland manages to expertly portray a Spider-Man whose biggest weakness is himself, and creates a refreshing new hero in the process. No magical backstory, no swoon-worthy romance, no bravado, just a kid from Queens trying to have faith in himself, keep his neighbourhood safe, and keep himself from getting expelled at the same time.