Why The Twist Is So Good
The twist excels because of how it unexpectedly smashes the two sides of Parker's life together. Up to this point, we have the high school side and the superhero side walking a tightrope, with the burden of balance entirely on him - he chooses when to be Spider-Man and while there's plenty of overlap and conflict, he's mostly able to keep them away from every truly messing up his life. Indeed, at the time of the dance he's very much in a state of school-life recovery. Having Toomes forced into the personal side throws off that balance and directly challenges Peter to make a choice of who he is inside.
In fact, until Keaton opens the door, the high school setting could be dismissed as superficial to the narrative. It's obviously the key to the story and character arc - the frustrations with being treated like a child are certainly the product of teenage overreach - but in terms of base events there's nothing that requires this film to be set in high school against what we had in The Amazing series. Of course, you could go into the film with this relationship up front, but having it surprise both us and Peter makes for a struggle that actually challenges the safety of the environment.
This in turn addresses several of the genre's conventional origin story issues. Yes, we're not dealing with the usual "origin story" per se - the spider bite and Uncle Ben murder still haunt Peter, yet are very much in the past - but as this is a coming-of-age tale about a hero grappling with his dual life it follows many similar beats. The danger with these stories is that they're usually so insular in focus on the hero the villain can feel like an afterthought - indeed, the good Spider-Man films (Raimi's first two) are the ones that manage to thread their antagonist through Peter Parker's life at various points, whereas the others either provide too many baddies to resonate or, in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man, keep them too distanced from the main story (in that case the Gwen Stacey romance). Homecoming avoids that (when it could have easily happened) by building Vulture as a strong physical threat then making him part of the major thematic push - the power of family and sense of belonging.
And, in mirroring the eventual decision Peter will make regarding Aunt May and The Avengers, it also gives us a reason to finally understand Toomes. Since the extended prologue with him in the aftermath of The Avengers, it's clear Watts wants us to empathize with Adrian despite his standard villainy, but it's only when we see his hitherto disconnected home life that the motivations powering the life of crime become crystal clear. In the subsequent scene in the warehouse where he explains his feelings to Spider-Man (before trying to hit him with the Vulture wings) you almost get a full sense of sympathy and understanding of his entire enterprise, mainly because he cares about Liz in a manner similar to our hero. Watts then solidifies him as a bad guy with the murder attempt, but it's an enlightening interlude powered by the thrust of the twist; being delivered all in one go, unlike the similar situation with Norman Osborn in Spider-Man, it hurts and shocks the audience.
Marvel and Sony have kicked off Spider-Man's time in the MCU with a bang; they gave us the biggest surprise of the whole run and with it an antagonist that, without even drawing attention to it, manages to fully circumvent the villain problem. Now that's a genuine shocker.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) release date: Jul 07, 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018