Spider-Man: Homecoming is a superhero movie made right. It doesn’t rehash the origin story that most first-world civilized people on the planet can likely recite by heart, nor does it bore the audience with an info dump of expository dullness. Instead, it picks up right where the story of Peter Parker left off in Captain American: Civil War, with Peter being “mentored” by Tony Stark. From there, we see a fantastic view into the mind and motivations of a teenage superhero.
Spoiler-free Initial Impressions
Homecoming does a remarkable job as both a movie for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and a movie for fans of Spider-Man who may not have embraced the previous MCU ventures. You may not be able to come out from 15 years under a rock and understand what is going on, but only the most tangential knowledge of MCU’s activities will serve a viewer well enough to really invest in both the world and the characters inhabiting it.
Knowledge of the greater MCU doesn’t go awry, though. Cameos and references appear throughout the movie that will excite a dedicated MCU fan. It is this kind of attention to detail and subtle fan-service that helps keep the MCU on top of the box office. Make sure to check out the Easter Egg video linked at the end of the show notes.
If you want to dig a little deeper into the MCU and the seemingly infinite connections between movies, broadcast TV and streaming services, we’d like to recommend you check out our NoodleMX sister podcast, Welcome to Level Seven. These folks know their stuff, and they are a treat to listen to!
Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn provides a very informative review of it at their website, where you can learn more about the positive and negative influences that you encounter while watching the movie. We always recommend checking their review out, particularly if you have children you want to bring to see the movie.
A Comment On Cast Diversity
Interestingly, Eve and I had very different takes on the diversity of the cast. For Eve, the unusually broad diversity of the cast—in particular, the high school cast—triggered her “social justice” radar. The widely diverse cast didn’t feel realistic to her and because it seemed artificially manufactured, it brought her a little bit out of the moment of the movie. For me, it was the other way around. I didn’t really notice the racial diversity of the cast until it was brought to my attention, and even then, I was a pleased by it. The thing is, neither Eve or I are wrong, but we are coming at it from different perspectives. We both know that Hollywood has long had a problem with diversity in their roles, but where I felt the effort here was well done, Eve felt the effort was forced and threatened immersion of the film.
I was curious what the actual racial breakdown of a Queens classroom is, so I grabbed the data from the NYC Department of Education Website. For the 2016-2017 school year, the percentages breakdown this way: Hispanic – 37.7%, Asian – 28.2%, Black – 18.2%, and White – 13.0%
The reason that the issue of racial diversity was on our minds was a USA Today review had a line in it that says, “the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.” This caused quite an uproar amongst some circles, and got Eve and I thinking about the importance of balancing authenticity with social issues.
More non-spoiler bits and pieces
One of the things that I truly liked about Homecoming was that it wasn’t burdened with any heavy, unrelated moral concepts or ulterior messages. You got what you came for: a great adaptation of the Spider Man hero and his first motion picture in the larger MCU.
Another thing that they did well was the casting of actors who look every bit the age they are portraying; by and large, they are teenagers portraying teenagers, and that is a refreshing break from the Hollywood norm.
Did you know that there is a trope about rescuing a cat? I didn’t. It’s a thing, though.
Finally, the music. The score for Spider Man: Homecoming is by the Oscar award winner and Disney mainstay, Michael Giacchino. Seems like we have done more movies scored by this man than any other single composer! Giacchino delivers again, providing a score that fits the movie very well, invokes nostalgia for older viewers and maintains excitement for newer ones. While it may not be his best work ever, he keeps the bar really high and delivers a solid score.
Spidey Sense is Tingling! Spoilers ahead!
What makes a parent
There are three obvious parenting figures in Homecoming, and this seems to reflect a strong emphasis on parenting/mentoring in the movie.
The most obvious parent is Aunt May. She’s Peter’s de facto mother, after his parents died (disappeared/were killed/stolen by the kree?). She clearly cares for him and comforts him in his heartache. While we don’t see much of her in the movie, she is reflected in Peter’s character and how he obviously respects her (even though, like most teenagers, he is prone to skirting her authority).
Tony Stark, while an unlikely father figure, somewhat reprises his role in Iron Man 3 as the man who steps into the male-figure hole in a young man’s life. Peter obviously craves his approval, forcing Tony into the mentoring position of father, whether or not the genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist is ready for that role. Tony is almost the anti-parent in personality, but he clearly feels a sense of responsibility, as well he should since he provided the gizmo laden suit that gets Peter into all kinds of trouble.
Some of Tony’s dialogue with Peter shows his “father” role:
Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Don’t do anything I would do. There’s a really small little gray area in there, and that’s where you operate.
What if you got hurt?
[In response to Peter’s “I just wanted to be like you.”] I wanted you to be better.
Unfortunately, Tony also displays some of the less-admirable traits of today’s fathers. He gives expensive toys instead of affection (the Spider-Man suit versus “I’m not trying to hug you, just opening the door”), and he leaves others in charge (Happy) so that he can pursue other interests without being bothered by “the kid.”
Adrian Toomes, Liz’s father (yes, we know, we were shocked, too) seems to offer heartfelt (if misplaced) advice to Peter both before and after Peter’s identity becomes clear. Eve disagrees that this makes him a father figure to Peter, since the first is the type of advice a girl’s father gives a boyfriend and the other was a threat from a villain annoyed that his nemesis is an over-eager youth. However, it is obvious that Adrian’s idols are family and responsibility, so he is a parenting figure, whether or not his interest in Peter or Spider-Man is fatherly.
One obvious positive about Adrian Toomes is that after Peter saves both Adrian’s and Liz’s lives (in separate events), Adrian shows loyalty by keeping Peter’s secret after going to prison.
So what defines a parent?
None of these are actually his parents, so what really defines a parent? Obviously one does not need to be a biological parent to be a good parent. Christians have the beautiful example of adoption as portrayed by our relationship with God the Father through the work of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Foster parenting and adoption are some of the most beautiful duties that stable Christian families can do for our society. Providing homes that mentor and prepare the young people who have been abandoned by their biological families for various reasons is a living and demonstrable testament to what God has done for us. (Romans [8:15]; Romans [8:23]; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5)
Doing wrong for the right reasons
Adrian Toomes is a sympathetic character because his reasons for doing wrong seem to be good at the onset, but it causes him to slide down a slippery slope leading to murder with little remorse. He is a perfect example of the villain who is the “hero of his own story.” He has what seem to be perfectly valid justifications for doing what he does: he’s providing for his family (quite well) and he’s providing gainful employment for his men so that they can also provide for their families.
This level of sympathy is something that most of Spidey’s traditional villains seem to have and there is quite a long list of them. Even while they are super villains, they are also quite human, having good qualities that we can admire while at the same time being very, very bad (or simply crazy, in some instances).
It isn’t just the villain, however, that does wrong things for the right reasons. In Homecoming, we see Peter lie to people in his life about what he’s doing (a necessary evil for a superhero?), and he even steals a car at one point. We might think that he has good reasons for this (who would believe a teenager is a superhero), but this bad behavior has dire consequences on his relationships with important people in his life.
Justifying the wrongs
So is there ever a good justification for doing wrong? The short answer is of course not!
The Bible tells Christians to respect government and its laws (Romans 13:1-7), and we are supposed to be moral people who are above reproach. So how do we deal with places in the Bible, where good people are rewarded for lying (the spies in Jericho, David playing a mad man, etc.)? That’s indeed a good question, but we do know that God has commanded us not to bear false witness (a.k.a., lie), so as Christians, we should always strive to be as truthful as possible.
God’s law trumps man’s law. We thought of a few instances where man’s law conflicts with God’s law and where Christians might meet circumstances where the truth could be harmful for someone. We’d love to hear other Christians input about this very fine line.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is about Peter Parker the rambunctious teenager, and unlike the other Spider-Man movies, Peter Parker is very much a child in this one. This is communicated and reflected multiple ways:
- The “homecoming” in the title harkens to a time in our lives when our high school homecoming and prom were the most important events in our lives, and that going to it with a date older than us (a senior) would have increased our social standing…not that I know anything at all about this!
- Jacob Batalon’s Ned character is very childish at the beginning, to comic effect. (“Can you summon an army of spiders?”)
- Peter and Ned fawn over girls (while remaining oblivious to them at the same time!)…come to think of it, maybe that’s just a guy thing
- They play with Legos, making a project out of building the Death Star (which is actually a cross-over activity, part of bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood, interestingly). This is also an interesting tie-in to Peter’s engineering skills. Geeks rule!
- They treat Spider-Man’s suit like a toy, despite their implicit knowledge that it must have costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and is likely one of a kind.
Homecoming is obviously a coming-of-age film for while all the younger characters see growth, Peter comes of age in many respects. He longs to take on more responsibility, but stresses when he realizes how much that entails. At the start of the movie, he wants nothing more than to join the Avengers and be a super-hero; at the end he turns down an offer to join the team despite incredible benefits because he makes the mature decision that he’s not ready for it.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians [13:11])
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! (Psalm 25:7)
An ethical hero
Tony Stark’s version of Spider-Man’s suit has a kill feature, but killing is not something Peter wants to do. Spider-man apprehends, he doesn’t kill. This shows his good-natured moral character, and possibly his youth as well. As Christians we should always have a respect for life, and Spider-man speaks to that respect with a level of “duh” that makes it seem common place, but it really isn’t. Not in today’s society, where life seems cheap and more attached to the bottom line. However, with this emphasis on Peter’s moral character, it makes us wonder what this will mean for Spidey in the future. Could the MCU be setting him up to learn some of the harder truths that soldiers and police face every day about the respect for life versus law and justice?
With great power …
The mantra of Spider-Man has been “With great power comes great responsibility” (From August 1962). The specific phrase does not appear in Homecoming, though there are phrases that seem to take its place.
In Eve’s review of The Amazing Spiderman, another movie that excludes the famous phrase, the replacement phrase is discussed at length (please note that this review was also based on theater notes and she initially got the phrase wrong, so most of the discussion is based on the wrong wording). That movie used “If you can do good things for other people, you have a moral responsibility to do it” in place of the other oft-quoted mantra.
If you’re nothing without the suit, you shouldn’t have it.
This is the quote that seems to take the place of the popular mantra. After recently rewatching Iron Man 3, Eve believes that Tony was speaking from experience here. He learned this lesson when he was forced to face a foe without his suit and rediscovered himself. He was able to let go of the crutch of his identity as Iron Man. After that, he’s much more willing to be Tony Stark instead of Iron Man, and this leads him to share this very important advice with a very young Spider-Man
Does Peter have a responsibility to use the gift he has been given?
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)
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