Spider-Man Homecoming is the first Spider-Man outing from Sony that looks like it has an undeniably fruitful future. It realizes the precise balance of having all the trappings of a well-built superhero film, yet allows the character (and supporting cast) the full breadth of vulnerability. Peter Parker is by no means perfect and his path to greatness is rocky. He has aspirations of saving the world but he’s got to make it through high school first. It’s in Homecoming that, this idea is finally approached from an honest and pure perspective. After all, in this Spidey universe, he’s just a kid.
Read on for an entirely-spoiler free review of the movie!
I would be completely remiss (and might I add, wild disrespectful) in referring to Spider-Man: Homecoming as “this year’s Spiderman”, because this film is absolutely nothing like the others. Homecoming does not waste time in providing the millionth retelling of the origin of hero, nor does it force comic book canon down everyone’s throat. Instead, it picks up where we left the character, shortly after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
Peter Parker is a kid that got to fight with (and against) the Avengers on a global stage. At the behest of Tony Stark, he took down a giant-sized Ant-Man in a wild airport fight in Berlin. After this huge event, Peter is then resigned to return to his normal teenage life in Queens, NY. Going back to school to be a regular kid is the last thing on his mind, especially considering Stark left him a souped up Spidey suit. In his mind, Peter has all of the superior mental and physical capabilities of an Avenger. However, Tony Stark’s invitation to join the team never comes. Naturally this confuses and frustrates Peter. Interestingly, we get to watch as these feelings develop and manifest in a variety of ways as he comes to terms with being relegated to stopping petty crimes and rescuing kittens from trees.
Throughout the movie you’re allowed to essentially live Peter’s “normal” life as a student in the halls of his high school, Midtown High. It’s a STEM school full of super whiz kids with a wide-range of interests and multiple plots along the personality spectrum. Homecoming’s Midtown High is a delightful microcosm of what an ideal American school centered around science would look like; a school that teems with academic opportunity, band practice and drones. The student’s vibrant stories make the school feel alive, well beyond just being a backdrop for a superhero flick. Michelle (Zendaya) deadpans with hilarity and reads everyone for filth while Liz Allen (Laura Harrier) exudes a calming, intelligent energy. Flash Thompson’s (Tony Revolori) Gary Oak-esque rivalry with Peter makes him seem like a bully until you realize he’s mostly jealous. Outside of school, “Hot Aunt May” (Marisa Tomei) returns, providing as much guidance as she can to a teen boy that (she knows) frequently sneaks out the house. Jon Favreau’s ornery, yet lovable Happy Hogan functions as Peter/Spider-Man’s proverbial babysitter, all in an effort keep the kid out of trouble. Robert Downey Jr. needs no extra fanfare here because he’s always amazing as Tony Stark and provides an unexpected gravity to Peter Parker’s overly ambitious heroics. Stark serves as the proverbial father figure yet his charm prevents the relationship from being cliche. In addition to an enjoyable Stan Lee cameo, we also (finally) get to see how Donald Glover’s character could be pivotal to upcoming events. Let’s not forget Bokeem “the gawd” Woodbine who does a great job appearing as Herman Shultz aka “The Shocker”.
Jacob Batalon is brilliant as Peter’s ever-present sidekick Ned. When he discovers that his best friend is actually Spider-Man he naturally freaks out and reacts as the audience would if they found out that their closest friend moonlighted as Deadpool. Ned does more than just spaz out whenever he sees Spider-Man do something cool; he is a top-notch supporting character who provides pointed commentary through the audience’s lense.
The big bad in Homecoming is The Vulture, played with expert tenacity by Michael Keaton. It is astounding how Keaton has essentially come full circle. Long ago he earned his comic book chops as Batman. Decades later he portrayed a washed-up cinema superhero in Birdman. Now he seems to combine those two and add a splash of villainy to create a supremely dope Vulture. In all of his scenes you can tell he was enjoying every bit of dialogue and savoring each interaction. Keaton actually makes Vulture fearsome and you feel Spider-Man is in clear and present danger whenever they have an encounter. Even though he is a bad guy, you get a sense that you want to hang out with him and perhaps engage in villany together.
Tom Holland’s performance is the most balanced and authentic version of Spider-Man and quite simply, he is the best. Period. Through the screen, I found myself sharing Holland’s sheer exhilaration with each flip and tumble. Holland’s Peter Parker is quick-witted and impulsive, inelegant but nimble, headstrong yet emotionally considerate. He makes a myriad of mistakes that often worsen the situation. However, he thinks on his feet with such speed that he can miraculously construct an out-of-the-box solution in the nick of time. Most importantly, it’s clear that he’s new at this. He’s learning what it means to be a hero, all the while going through the social trials and tribulations of a teenager. When Holland is donning the suit his movements are frenetic yet almost impossibly precise and ballet-like (chalk it up to his performance arts/theater background). I know my fellow moviegoers felt the same as I did. Anytime I happened to peer over my shoulder, I saw dozens of people literally sitting on the edge of their seats. Holland has it all and makes the character super accessible to comic book fans and newbies alike.
To be clear, I’m not taking anything away from Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. They each brought something great to the Spider-Man table. The problem I have is with the balance between Spiderman and Peter Parker. Maguire was great as Peter Parker, but wasn’t a great Spider-Man. Garfield captured the essence of Spider-Man, but didn’t create a believable Peter. Neither pulled off the necessary duality to help carry their respective franchises to sustained glory. I also feel that previous iterations of Peter Parker portrayed him as too mature. 2002’s Spider-Man featured an upper-classman who seemingly jumps into college and adult life without anything in between. 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man copies almost the same exact elements from a decade before but changes up some of the supporting characters. Uncle Ben dies in both. While these two films had their bright spots, neither granted the audience the experience of what being 15 with newly found super powers really entails. In Homecoming, he has the ability to scale the Washington Monument, the power to lift entire buses, and the wherewithal to create advanced weaponry–and doesn’t even have a driver’s license.
The screenplay moves adroitly, each scene lasting just as long as it needs to without lingering. The film balances seriousness with levity–it’s human. The writing team does a great job of avoiding unintentionally cheesy dialogue, yet sometimes employs that very dialogue to their advantage. There’s a point where Peter Parker carefully uses the “Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” phrase. He mouths it in such a meek manner that I was left wondering whether the character was purposefully trying to break the fourth wall, yet it works. Overall each character’s respective lines make sense. There is never a time that you feel the characters are talking too much or falling out of step with each other. The interactions are often hilarious and always meaningful. I was especially appreciative that there weren’t any of the typical (keyword) damsel in distress tropes, or women used only as plot devices. Everyone had their own forms of agency and it was refreshing.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is absolutely fun and phenomenally paced. It has an impeccable cast and is so good that it takes the mantle as the best Spider-Man movie to date. Keep your eyes ALL THE WAY OPEN as there are tons of easter eggs from the beginning to the end. And speaking of the end, stick around for the after credits scenes…like really…wait. They’re worth it.
Movie Synopsis: A young Peter Parker/Spider–Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider–Man: Homecoming. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider–Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened. Directed by Jon Watts. Produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers, Screen Story by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley, Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.