Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Robert Downey Jr., Marissa Tomei
Released: July 7, 2017
Spider-Man Homecoming is in most ways the Spider-Man movie fans have been waiting for since the first Sam Raimi film in 2002. It captures the comic book feel, the awkward nerd Peter Parker and the cocky hero Spider-Man and standing on its own for the most part while still feeling like a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the large scale blockbusters of Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this Marvel movie is refreshingly much more small scale, with the stakes being more personal than involving entire countries or even the whole galaxy. I’d even go as far to call it “blue collar”, and that’s not an insult in any way. Spider-Man is a working class hero with even a working class villain. It’s just about a high school student from Queens fighting basically a high tech bank robber.
Homecoming thankfully decides not to retell the origin of Spider-Man, since it’s already been told in the first Raimi film and The Amazing Spider-Man in 2013. It’s instead set just a little while after Captain America: Civil War, where Peter Parker is trying to impress Tony Stark so he can become part of The Avengers. The main antagonist is The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton who leads a group of robbers trying to earn a living. At the same time Peter has to juggle his school life and personal crush on Liz Allen. Homecoming has the tone of a lighthearted high school comedy, with homages to movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club. This also sort of works against it as at 2 hours and 13 minutes long, Homecoming’s pacing includes a couple of filler moments that don’t feel necessary. Now, filler moments in movies, books, anime etc. can be a chance to give characters some breathing time and show more of their humanity. And to Homecoming’s credit its slower scenes some of the time do just that. But, there are others that feel you can do without, and would’ve been better if they added more emotion to the film. For example, Uncle Ben isn’t mentioned a single time in Homecoming. Not once. Now as I said before skipping the origin story was a good idea, but not even mentioning him feels like a step too far. It would’ve been completely reasonable for a teen who just lost his father figure mere months ago like Peter to perhaps visit his grave, forlorn after making a mistake. Overall, it wasn’t necessary to just completely sidestep the “Uncle Ben issue” altogether, as it also makes Aunt May’s completely light hearted attitude a bit out of place.
For anyone wondering how he does, Tom Holland is great in the starring role. While Andrew Garfield will always be my favorite film Spider-Man, Holland manages to be the first to capture both the awkward nerd of Peter Parker, and the confident trash talking web-slinger Spider-Man. If Civil War was a great first impression, Homecoming manages to stick the landing and live up to that promise shown. Peter is always very sympathetic, flawed, and admirable throughout the film. His drive to prove himself as a hero leads him to making some irresponsible decisions and utterly screwing up, but he suffers the consequences of his decisions and strives to not make the same mistakes again. He’s already learned the lesson of being responsible, but the movie is about that lesson sticking and Peter interpreting it correctly.
But a hero is only as strong as their villain, and one of the MCU’s biggest flaws has been its weak villains. Homecoming manages not to fall prey to that trap, and in fact has probably the MCU’s strongest villain in Michael Keaton’s The Vulture. The film in fact begins with the origin of The Vulture, where we see what drove him into crime. He was once a normal working man who got screwed by forces beyond his control. He’s a criminal because he wants his family to be financially secure, can’t bear to let them find out his secret life, and even has a code of morals that make you almost forget he’s the bad guy. Key word being almost, as easily Homecoming’s most tense, nail biting scene comes from a confrontation between Vulture and Spider-Man in the movie’s third act. Seriously, it’s the kind of scene you go to movies to witness. Unfortunately, Homecoming’s side characters are not as strong. Marissa Tomei as Aunt May has very little going for her and I still think she’s too young to be Aunt May, and Peter’s best friend Ned really got on my nerves early in the movie, but looking back this might have been intentional on the movie’s part. He later becomes much better and actually proves to be a valuable partner to Peter regardless. Love interest Liz Allen is also rather unremarkable until around later in the movie, and it has less to do with her and more the people around her. Lastly on a more positive note, Tony Stark has a very small part in the movie despite the marketing suggesting otherwise. He’s in it for ten minutes at most and doesn’t outlast his welcome.
Homecoming as a smaller scale Marvel movie, doesn’t have the grand action sequences like the more epic Marvel movies do, but this only serves to further the movie’s down to earth feel. Everything is well shot, directed, with some nice special effects but it never gets too big or grandstanding. The only parts that really clash with this are some of Peter’s high tech gadgetry loaned to him by Tony Stark which he got during Civil War. When the movie’s action and heart really shined was when Peter can no longer rely on those tools, and must simply use his wits and pure determination to win. They all range from good to very good, but I don’t think they quite reach greatness.
Where does this Spider-Man movie rank for me on my personal list? It’s above the Raimi trilogy and The Amazing Spider Man 2, but I still rank the first The Amazing Spider-Man movie as higher for better pacing, more exciting action scenes, cast, side characters, romance between Peter and Gwen Stacy, and of course Andrew Garfield’s performance as the web slinger, even if his portrayal of Peter Parker had holes. I know some people reading that paragraph might be surprised or even disgusted that I like the reboot film from 2012 the most, and at some point in the future, I intend to do a retrospective series of reviews of every Spider-Man movie save for this one to fully give my thoughts on the movies.
On that note all end with saying Spider-Man Homecoming is good, in fact it’s one of the MCU’s better movies flaws and all. It’s not the best superhero or even Marvel movie released so far this year, in fact I think Logan, Wonder Woman, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have it beat in terms of humanity and risk taking, it’s still a movie worth your time.