Is Spider-Man stuck in a creative rut, or is Sony just afraid to take risks with the character? After watching the latest official trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, I was struck by how similar it felt, not just other Spider-Man movies, but rather how it seemed so paint-by-numbers (if you're old enough to remember when that was a thing). The reason many fans have responded to Deadpool and Logan, aside from the freedom of their R-ratings, is how different these films were from other superhero movies. Deadpool told a non-linear story of anti-hero dying from cancer while Logan tells a linear story of an anti-hero dying of Adamantium poisoning... Uh.
Wait. Rewind. What point was I trying to make?
Look, we all know that superhero films follow a clichéd formula: get powers, lament powers, make a big mistake, take a beating from the big bad, and then even the score in a climactic boss fight. Did anything in this new trailer convince you that Spider-Man: Homecoming will be any different? Perhaps that feeling of déjà vu is because the new trailer gave away a boatload of plot points, and therefore the that crucial feeling of discovery and mystery is gone. Well, that's how it felt to me, anyway.
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Perhaps director Jon Watts and actor Tom Holland had an inkling (a "Spider-sense"?) of fan and media reaction to this trailer, as they sat down with THR to explain how Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to be different from your typical superhero movie.
Watts discussed his first meeting with Marvel:
"I went in to Marvel for a general meeting, and then they were talking about how they had teamed up with Sony and they had this opportunity to bring in Sony to the Marvel universe. They were leaning towards it being a high school movie, and I had been wanting to make a high school movie. I'd been watching every coming-of-age movie that there is because that's a great excuse to not start writing, doing "research." I was really about to speak to the subject about what I liked about coming-of-age movies, and we had this shared language. I was so excited about it that I was overflowing with ideas."
Okay, but that sounds pretty similar to Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man film from 2002... Holland continued:
"I felt very strongly about the question about what would happen if you gave a 15-year-old super powers. I think the answer would be he would have the time of his life. Yes, he would probably stop crime, but have so much fun doing it. We really tried to convey that he's enjoying his superpowers. More often than not in superhero movies, the powers are a burden to the superhero but in our case, they're the complete opposite."
I hear what Holland is saying, and there's no doubt that his performance in Captain America: Civil War set a new tone and vibe for the character. Watts related his film's key departure from previous Spider-Man iterations:
"I think it has a unique, surprising tone that's different from the others, and different from the other movies in this universe. I'm pretty proud of the tone we struck. It's fun. It's able to go from a very small story, and really emotional small stakes and just get bigger and bigger until it's on a massive scale without ever losing site of the story we were trying to tell."
Sure, tone is important. The trailers, images, and posters for this movie have all conveyed a fun, loose, colorful, and energetic superhero experience; and yet, this is what I pretty clearly remember from both of Raimi's movies, too. Watts closes by describing one more new element in the movie, the flying spider-drone that appears near the end of the trailer:
"There's a precedent for it in the comic books because Tony Stark builds Peter a new suit. Tony Stark is a very bells and whistles kind of guy. We had that set up in Civil War. That was one of the fun brainstorm meetings: What could be in that suit? We made a list of all the neat things that Tony would put in there for Peter to discover or keep him safe. At one point, we just realized "what if that little spider could crawl out and move around and do surveillance?"
Gotcha, the spider-drone is new and different. That's cool, I guess.
Overall, there's every indication that Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to be a solid, fun superhero movie that re-establishes Spider-Man in the MCU... and maybe that's all it needs to do. But, I still keep wishing Marvel and Sony would push the character a little further. The reason everyone was stoked about Spider-Man's appearance in Captain America: Civil War was because we finally saw him operating outside of his comfort zone, being part of a team, and doing stuff we've never really seen before. Maybe these elements are present in the upcoming film -- let's hope. The superhero genre still needs the kind of shake-up we saw in Deadpool and Logan, but perhaps that's a burden for the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel (or its sequel or the one after that).
Is Spider-Man: Homecoming a reboot or a relaunch or its own new thing? Let us know in the comments down below!
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