Marvel introducing Spider-Man in Civil War was a big step and allowed them to introduce their version of one of the most popular characters in this Universe. Now with his own movie in the MCU, thankfully it isn’t an origin story again. In Homecoming, Spidey proves why his inclusion to the MCU was the best move for the character, and Tom Holland sets himself up as arguably the best incarnations of the web-slinger.
Set a couple months after fighting Cap in Berlin, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has tasted the excitement of being an Avenger and wants more, but Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) wants to keep Peter on the ground to be a friendly, neighborhood spider-man. Parker agrees and keeps to fighting crime in Queens, though his activities are starting to get in the way of his extra-curricular activities, including the school debate team headed by Liz (Laura Harrier), the senior girl Peter has a crush on.
Not long afterwards, some strange weapons start appearing around New York with basis’ in Chitauri technology. Peter wanting to prove himself, investigates the weapons with help from his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who accidentally discovered Peter’s secret identity. They discover that the technology remnants left over from ‘The Avengers’ battles are being scavenged by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his crew to sell on the black market. Peter must be the one to face them, but not before he tackles the most dangerous event of his life……the homecoming dance.
In essence, it’s a very simple story told in typical Marvel fashion, but there’s an extra kick to this that just works. Part of that has to do with the film balancing the coming of age teenage story with Peter coming into his own as a hero. This is the youngest Peter has ever been and with these being the formative years of his life, having a double-life means a lot more due to him having to account for his whereabouts all the time. Simplicity masks a greater turn towards the character as both super-hero and school-kid as well as his place in the MCU.
The characters were a lot of fun and it was nice to see the film embracing the rich history of the Spider-Man canon. Bokeem Woodbine and Logan ‘Not Tom Hardy’ Marshall Green both play different versions of The Shocker, both fitting into Toomes’ crew with their improvised weaponry. Donald Glover plays the relative of a big fan-favorite character, his inclusion might just be an nice Easter egg, but it could also hint at what’s to come. Far Cry’s Michael Mando has a cameo role as a key Spider-Man villain who has a role to play in the future. While Grand Budapest’s Tony Revolori plays trademark Parker Bully Flash Thompson, though this time he’s more of a rich kid asshole than a dumb jock.
On Peter’s side are love interest Liz, admittedly a bit weak, nice, very pretty girl and has valued intelligence. Maybe it was because they didn’t spend a lot of scenes together, but she lacked the spark that Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy had with their Peters,’ but she does play an important part in the latter stages of the film. Zendaya’s character Michelle is a fun addition to the film, she doesn’t add a whole lot but there was a great running gaga where she would appear out of nowhere. And of course, Aunt May in her youngest and hottest form yet played by Marisa Tomei, initially it felt like the film was playing up the fact that Aunt May was hot a little too much. In actuality, having her be closer to Peter’s age works since she seemed to be more willing and more helpful when it came down to the lifestyle of being a teenager. Of course, this was balanced by her constant worry for Peter after losing his parents and her own husband, they never mention Ben by name, but Tomei’s desperate fear comes out enough times to make it clear why she worries about Peter.
Peter’s main ally was Ned, after discovering Peter’s secret identity, Ned does take on a bit of hero worship but to be fair, he just found out his best friend is a superhero. He’s allowed to be a little over-the-top. Once he finds his rhythm, he manages to be an endearing source of laughs and awe, constantly surprised by everything that’s around him without turning into an annoying fan-boy. On a surprisingly smaller scale was Tony Stark, given the star-power it could’ve been very easy for Stark to overpower the film, but they use him sparingly in the mentor role (something he probably never would’ve seen himself in back in the first Iron Man). You the character growth from Civil War in seeing the potential in Peter, but holding him back enough so he can learn to appreciate what he has. This is a much more adult and safer Tony Stark that we haven’t seen before.
Keaton lives long enough to see himself become the villain by taking the role of Adrian Toomes, The Vulture. And I’ll say this for Marvel, they do seem to be addressing the villain issue recently and Toomes is another point in their favor. They give us a guy who’s fooled everyone around him into thinking he’s stealing Alien tech to keep his family out of poverty, but truthfully he probably just likes being the bad guy. The character is helped by Keaton just chewing the scenery and loving every minute of it. After a great character twist in the third act, Keaton just doesn’t let off and ups the intensity to create a very creepy and threatening villain. There’s definitely a lot more to him than meets the eye.
And finally of course, we have Tom Holland as Spider-Man who makes a big claim for being the best to date. As Peter Parker, he’s awkward, constantly tripping over his words and too afraid that he’ll say the wrong thing and become a social pariah. As Spider-Man, he’s fun, quippy, and best of all, he absolutely loves being a superhero. Holland has such energy to him that you can’t help but get drawn in to his love of helping people and having tons of fun doing so. It’s actually Peter trying too hard to be a better Spider-Man, instead of being a better Peter that sends up his arc in the film. Spider-Man is still relatively new to this hero business and gets too easily caught up in the fun of it all (another point in the film’s favor, Peter feels like a 15 year old) that when things get serious, he doesn’t always know how best to handle it. This is a big step for Peter and Holland fills the role incredibly well, coming off charming, funny and committed to the role.
The film is directed by Jon Watts, previously of the much smaller and much cheaper Cop Car (solid little thriller, go check it out) but you can definitely see how that led to this film. Watts is able to capture the essence of a John Hughes film with the high-school element and yet slip it right into a superhero film. I called the film simplistic earlier, but really the high-school stuff is what separates the film from the other MCU entries. Peter has to keep his identity secret, he’s not rich like Tony, famous like Cap, infamous like Widow or Hulk, and he’s a normal kid in an abnormal situation. Watts makes sure that Peter’s focus is on doing the right thing and not milking his superhero status for all it’s worth.
Aside from the film being as fun as it was – there’s a great montage set to The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop that shows Peter’s time as Spider-Man being a blast. What surprised me most was the parts of the film that we’d never seen before in any of the other versions, in particular the amount of times Peter doesn’t get it right. Of course, this covers his variety of weaponry and tech – including our first look at the Webbed Wing-Suit – but it also ranges from something funny like when Peter realizes that the suburbs don’t have the skyscrapers that the city has, and has to run most of his journey. Or to something a little more serious when his attempts to thwart an arms deal leads to a ferry being split in half. It’s moments like these that sell just how young Peter is and how much more he has to work with in order to reach the Avengers level. It’s nice to see the hero stumble more than once on his road to being better.
The film’s set-piece might not have been the biggest the MCU has to offer, but they fit the smaller tone of the film. A chase through the suburbs shows off Toomes’ tech while also bringing the first interaction between Spidey and Vulture. The DC sequence shows off Peter’s improvisation skills as he tries to reach the top of the Washington monument, while avoiding the police. The aforementioned Ferry sequence puts Peter as his weakest moment, while the finale on the airplane showcases the sheet strength Spidey has in an inventive and exciting sequence. But more importantly, that core belief of who Spider-Man is, is never better shown than in this sequence.
I had a lot of fun with Spider-Man: Homecoming and it cements a place in the upper echelons of the Marvel Universe. It tackles teenagers, heroes, coming of age and balances everything out. Holland nails both Peter and Spidey and the supporting cast elevate the film further with Keaton, Batalon and Zendaya. All being stand out performances, while Watts delivered a fun, energetic and unique film befitting of the Spider-Man character.
I am giving Spider-Man: Homecoming a 4 out of 5 Hairpieces