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It’s taken three different big-screen Spider-Men (Spider-Mans?), but the new trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming finally gets one key component of the wall-crawling super-hero’s comic book DNA exactly right: He’s the hero that never quite gets an all-round win.
You can see it in the new trailer in multiple ways. He’s the super-hero whose best friend doesn’t actually understand his powers (“Can you summon an army of spiders?” asks Jacob Batalon’s Ned at one point, much to Peter’s dismay), the super-hero who gets no respect from his peers (“Forget the flying monster guy, there are people who handle this sort of thing,” says Tony Stark), and the one who saves the day — or, at least the bisected ferry — only to get into trouble for it afterwards.
Whereas Iron Man, Captain America and Thor’s problems involve high stakes and angst that can only be overcome in visually spectacular ways, Homecoming seems primed to step away from that and ensure that Spider-Man will be an underdog no matter what he does. And that, ultimately, is where he belongs.
In Marvel’s comic book mythology, there’s a term for his situation: the “Parker Luck.” It’s an unwritten law — well, written by his many comic book scribes through the years, admittedly — that declares that Spider-Man can never fully win: For every victory as Spider-Man, something has to go wrong for him as Peter Parker, and vice versa. Spider-Man can beat one super-villain, but discover that Aunt May is sick, or Peter Parker can get a date just as Spidey is declared a public menace by the Daily Bugle.
Previous Spider-Man movies have tried to play with this idea to some degree, but have ended up too constricted by the demands of the genre to follow through entirely: The hero needs a big win at the end of the movie, and the audience can’t leave the theater on a downbeat note, so there was never really a chance Peter and Spidey wouldn’t have found some level of success by the time the credits rolled.
Homecoming, however, has a benefit that earlier movies lacked: the rest of the Marvel Universe. By adding in the Avengers and other characters, Homecoming can let Spider-Man save New York City — or America, or the entire world — and he can still fail at being the hero of the day.
He can do everything “right” and watch other heroes get the credit, while still being blamed for whatever J. Jonah Jameson was angry about that day and, as the trailer demonstrated, fail to get invited to join the Avengers and get dressed down by Iron Man for not being the right kind of super-hero.
It’s an addition that lets Homecoming (and any other future Spider-Man movie) have its cake and eat it: Peter can have a good personal life, Spider-Man can defeat his villains, and yet the Parker Luck can remain in effect because he’s still failing to impress his peers or remaining unrecognized for his good deeds by the wider public.
This only makes the draw of the character stronger. Now that he gets to be surrounded by more successful peers, the audience doesn’t just get to marvel — no pun intended — at whatever derring-do Spidey does onscreen, they also get to feel for him in a whole new way; he goes from the unmistakable star of his show, to someone that anyone who’s been passed over for credit at work or ignored by a loved one for whatever reason, can empathize with.
He becomes more human … and in a fictional universe where he’s surrounded by faultless patriots, alien gods and talking raccoons, that might be the key he needs in order to finally become as much of a success on the big screen as he is in the comics. Perhaps all that was needed all along was a little less respect.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens July 7.
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