Sony wanted to launch an expansive cinematic universe around Spider-Man to compete with Marvel but the poor performance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at the box office and creative differences with Sam Raimi had placed a wrench in its plans.
Sony partnered up with Marvel to save itself from further embarrassment, hoping that MCU’s magic will rub off on the battered franchise while piggybacking on their fanbase. So The Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been taken off the table and we now have a new franchise that will be used as a starting point for Sony’s original plans, while Marvel can freely use the character without having to battle over licensing rights.
TL; DR – money.
Spider-Man: Homecoming does immediately reap the benefits of this intellectual property marriage. Tom Holland is perfectly cast as teen Peter Parker, embodying the self-conscious and affable earnestness of a greenhorn super-powered teen in the 21st century. The opening scenes of the movie are filled with Marvel tie-in video clips to get past the Spider bite origins story. Holland is younger of the three Spider-men and it shows.
As the title suggests, Homecoming focuses more on the boy behind the mask as Spider-Man juggles teen life with his superhero duties. He misses out on the average teen life experience only to become more of a nuisance than a neighborhood superhero.
As you can expect from a Marvel influenced project, the movie is much more lighthearted. There’s inside jokes, running gags, one-liners, and the cinematic universe inter-connectedness. Spider-Man can now name drop The Avengers and get advice from Tony Stark, who is the unlikeliest mentor to have but the coolest one to get.
While all this injects something different to a twice rebooted franchise, it’s obvious that Marvel’s patented formula has taken over Spider-Man with reductive results.
No one wants to see Uncle Ben killed three times but whatever gravitas that previous reiterations respected – consequences of one’s action and violence – has been scrubbed off. Instead, wise Aunt May is now a hottie.
Parker’s teen issues are borrowed from past high school comedies and tacked on. There’s out-of-his-league love interest Liz (Laura Harrier) that he just stares at. He’s bullied by a shrimpy rich kid nicknamed Flash (Tony Revolori). Ned’s (Jacob Batalon) incessant fanboying at least keeps things interesting.
The web-slinger does little web-slinging in this movie because Peter Parker has to have an A.I. enabled suit from Stark. When not performing routine action, Spider-Man spends most of his time learning how to operate a super-suit to generate visual gags. Micheal Keaton gets the best scenes instead. While he’s a mechanized Birdman here, he lends depth to the character and appears where you least expect him.
Towards the end Homecoming shows us what this movie could have been without six screenwriters too busy integrating Peter Parker into the money-minting world of MCU. While the movie managed to avoid getting compared to previous franchises, it provides little action, suspense, guts, heart, and depth that they understood.
Nonetheless, Tom Holland manages to lift this movie even when the distracted script isn’t helping. At best, Homecoming does manage to develop the self-actualization of Peter Parker to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. It isn’t the suit that makes you a superhero; its the choices that you make.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a pleasurable but ultimately disposable reboot as Marvel's formula dilutes Peter Parker's core elements.