Wow. Spider-Man done completely and utterly right.
Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. He goes through average, every day problems just like us. Peter Parker juggles schoolwork, girl problems, and “work” responsibilities without being the big man on campus that Iron Man or Captain America can be. Only the first two Raimi iterations really gave me a realistic idea of how difficult it would be to dawn the iconic red and blue suit and be back in time for chemistry class.
Spider-Man is a unique property in that it is already going through its third cinematic incarnation in sixteen years. For plenty of franchises that would be probably burn out the audience on the character, but Spidey is different because of how likable his character is.
Spider-Man: Homecoming puts the character back in the setting where he works the best: high school. In the lead up to the film, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige claimed in an interview that the new Spidey movie would have the feel of a John Hughes ‘coming of age’ story. That little nugget had me extremely hyped, but then came the trailers. As I’ve said before, trailers today are dispensing WAY too much information about the plot and the trailers for Homecoming were guilty of just that.
But I can now say that the trailers did not give too much away, as the film protects its most important surprises (which I won’t disclose here). There is a scene that had the whole audience oohing and ahhing with surprise and tension. I have to give that scene credit for being more tense than a post-election Thanksgiving dinner.
I loved the decision to keep this character moving forward instead of going back and redoing the origin for a third time. Audiences were getting tired of it and I’m sure Uncle Ben appreciated not being shot on-screen again. There have been some other changes to the typical Spider-Man origin formula with a larger focus on Tony Stark as a father figure to fifteen year old Peter. Some people are going to be frustrated by the lack of certain Spidey mainstay powers and motivations, but I really enjoyed the changes because they help to differentiate this Spiderman from previous cinematic incarnations, while keeping in concert with the larger MCU.
As for the John Hughes references from Feige, I saw them and I dug them. There’s one blatant reference during a chase scene that I won’t give away, but a lot of the Hughes influence is tonal. The high school atmosphere is realistic, with Peter dealing with crushes, bullies, and bodily changes (though his are a bit different from his peers). Peter also has to grapple with his school and social commitments and his responsibility of being Spider-Man. Instead of a huge “with great power comes great responsibility” scene, the films shows that in a (mostly) more subtle progression and self-revelation.
Tom Holland is absolutely spot on as the high school Parker, looking and sounding the part of a kid in Peter’s position. The young British actor accomplishes what Garfield and Maguire couldn’t in his childish innocence and poor decision-making. I thought his friend Ned bordered on being annoyingly dumb, but Jacob Batalon reigns it in just enough for me to enjoy him. Robert Downey Jr. is mostly his usual self, but with some fatherly responsibility added in, which I adored since it shows that he’s grown since his 2008 introduction. Zendaya provides some laughs as the enigmatic Michelle, giving off a Raven from Teen Titans type vibe (minus the super powers).
Maybe the most impressive aspect of this entry into the MCU is how seamlessly it fits into the greater universe. It’s easy for the solo movies to have cameos from other Avengers for no good reason, but this one really earns its outside characters without making it feel cluttered. Tony Stark’s appearances fit perfectly into the story and aren’t numerous enough to make you question who the real lead is. We also get to see even more consequences for the collateral damage brought about from the climactic scene of the Avengers, showing how the aftermath affected lower profile people.
Michael Keaton’s excellent performance as the menacing Adrian Toomes (AKA The Vulture) is facilitated by Marvel’s best back story for a villain yet. Toomes has important backstory information efficiently dispersed throughout the film, giving him real depth for the older members of the audience to appreciate. Keaton is relatable, yet terrifying should you cross him, creating a wonderfully stressful atmosphere whenever he’s on-screen.
If there’s anything negative I have to say, it’s mostly about the lackluster visuals, which is unfortunately a constant for Marvel films in my humble opinion. The suit can look really impressive at times, but sometimes the CGI looks like it came straight from Ultimate Spider-Man on the GameCube. Spidey is also without some long-held powers, but you might chalk that up to the fact that he is 15 here and is kind of new to this whole thing. Oh, and it should have ended with a freeze frame fist-in-the-air a la Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. That it didn’t is unforgivable.
I had an absolute blast with this entry into the MCU and can’t wait to see this character again. This is my new favorite Spider-Man movie.
I give Spider-Man: Homecoming an: