Polygon is kicking off its best of entertainment series, which will run through the end of December and beginning of January, coming to a close just before the 2017 Golden Globes. These personal essays will examine the best, most important and weirdest moments that occurred in television, film, streaming and YouTube/Twitch in 2017. Each will examine why the author believes that moment to be one of 2017’s most extraordinary. The series will end with Polygon’s Best of TV and Best of Movies pieces.
The confidence with which Marvel Studios embraced Spider-Man: Homecoming promised a good, wholesome Peter Parker story, but I didn’t expect Homecoming to so completely reenergize the franchise, finding a new hope for Spider-Man’s future in a fresh-faced, young actor.
Spider-Man: Homecoming reintroduced an excitement to a character who lost his pizazz a decade ago, and in doing so, reminded us why we loved watching Spider-Man on the big screen in the first place. Spider-Man: Homecoming was funny, touching, promising and, with the help of Tony Stark, further connected the webslinger to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much like how Avengers: Infinity War promises to be the amalgamation of everything Marvel fans have been waiting for, Homecoming gave us the Marvel Spider-Man story that we’ve been waiting for since 2002.
Perhaps less noticeable, but certainly just as important, Homecoming was also one of 2017’s funnest movies, and that’s why I’m naming it my favorite superhero film of the year.
Unlike decades past, superhero movies are a dime a dozen these days. Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok, The Lego Batman Movie and even Captain Underpants were all superhero movies released this year that we fell in love with.
Arguments could be made that Ragnarok, which turned the Thor franchise on its head and breathed life into a rapidly decaying body, was the best superhero movie of the year. Wonder Woman saved the DC Universe from the grim death creeping up on the horizon, reiterating that women can star — and kick ass — in their own superhero movies without the presence of another, male hero. Both movies helped redefine the aesthetic of their genre and were entertaining to boot.
But Homecoming is still my favorite superhero movie released this year. When Homecoming first came out, we wrote that “Homecoming finally gives us a superhero movie where the lead isn’t trying to live up to a personal ideal of heroism — but a very specific, fictional cultural one.” Homecoming was released a decade after the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when the fictional world dominated by superheroes became universally understood and Spider-Man didn’t have to try and explain why the world existed in a state of chaos.
Homecoming combined two qualities that only a Spider-Man movie produced in-house at Marvel today could: the reemergence of a dorky, teenage Peter Parker and a universe where he’s ready to join the Avengers because they already exist. Trying to make Spider-Man out to be the sole hero of New York City and turning him into a sweet-talking charmer — like the version of Peter Parker portrayed by Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man — didn’t work. It was boring, and Homecoming learned from that.
Peter Parker in Homecoming is struggling with high school crushes, bullies, math tests — everything that comes with being a teenager. His character is easy to identify with, and that’s what the Marvel Cinematic Universe was missing. When we’re watching Peter Parker, he’s the most relatable character in the world; when we’re watching Spider-Man, we get to watch him co-exist in a world with Iron Man, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers.
Since Homecoming operates under the notion that everyone knows what’s going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movie take some leaps. Homecoming opens with a shot of a crew trying to clean up the mess left after the battle for New York in The Avengers — and introduces us to another important part of Homecoming’s success, Michael Keaton’s Vulture.
Keaton’s villain isn’t a typical, run-of-the-mill baddie we’ve seen before, but has a personal connection to Peter Parker that makes for one of the best plot twists this year. It’s a genuinely shocking moment that elicited a gasp from my co-worker, Allegra Frank, when we went to go watch it. That twist helps Homecoming stick out from Marvel movies before it, and the other superhero movies this year. While Wonder Woman and Thor: Ragnarok were good, they were also predictable and safe from a plot perspective. Homecoming took a major risk and the payoff was well worth it.
Homecoming is great for so many reasons, but what I value most is how I felt while watching the movie. It was like the first time I saw Iron Man or read a Spider-Man comic — there was a childlike joy that flowed through me while watching Homecoming for the first time; and the second; and the third. When Homecoming first came out, I wrote about how happy I was to have a Spider-Man franchise that I believed in again, and said:
For the longest time, Spider-Man felt stale and the stand-alone movies didn't feel like they were doing any justice to his character. But for the first time in over a decade, I am excited for another Spider-Man movie. Perhaps even better, though, is that I've rekindled my love for Spider-Man as a character on screen.
Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t one of the more daring superhero movies of the year, and it’s not one of the more avant-garde. But it felt like after 10 years of building up the potential of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Homecoming delivered on the promise of a fictional world where heroes can co-exist. Homecoming managed to find the extraordinary in Peter Parker’s ordinary, the unimaginative but relatable day-to-day in a world ruled by superheroes.
For the first time since superhero movies started becoming a cultural phenomenon, Homecoming ushered in a refreshing age of normalcy within a genre where normalcy is the enemy. Spider-Man: Homecoming felt more like a teen movie at times than it did a superhero romp, and that’s what makes it the best superhero movie of 2017.