He’s more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the most grounded movie yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, creating more tension from the threat of an illegal weapons dealer than an alien invasion or the destruction of the universe itself. The movie is personal, thriving on what makes superhero films so enjoyable to watch. It’s not darkness and introspection, and it’s not explosions and slow-motion effects. Spider-Man: Homecoming recognizes that superhero films are best when moviegoers can root for the hero time and time again. Making an excellent superhero movie isn’t about subverting expectations, but making the viewer cheer for the hero despite them.
For many comic fans, Spider-Man is the most relatable superhero in the Marvel universe. Unlike the patriotic Captain America or the industrious Iron Man, Spider-Man is just a dorky kid with a good head on his shoulders and a whole lot of heart. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker strikes the perfect balance between charming and geeky, far easier to see as the object of schoolyard bullying than his predecessors (you were too cool for your own good, Andrew Garfield). Tom Holland is a more convincing teenager, but he’s also a more mature and—dare I say it—amazing Spider-Man.
The Vulture swoops down from above.
Michael Keaton plays an equally impressive Vulture, an audacious choice for the movie’s main villain. Though the Vulture has always been one of the web-slinger’s most iconic opponents, games and comics often treat him like a joke character meant to be whooped moments after he’s revealed. I almost expected the Vulture to be a smoke screen for one of Spider-Man’s more prolific villains like Venom, the Green Goblin, or Doctor Octopus. Spider-Man: Homecoming avoids the temptation of pulling a bait-and-switch, and the movie is all the better for it.
The Vulture turns out to be one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest villains, just another working class guy spurned by Tony Stark. Yet the Vulture is also more competent than his power-hungry peers like the God of Mischief, Loki. He understands and respects Spider-Man on a fundamental level, using that to deceive and manipulate the fledgling superhero. There is an easy comparison between the Vulture and Breaking Bad’s Walter White, men who have been twisted by their frustration with the status quo and the treacherous search for the ‘American Dream’.
If anyone knows that a suit doesn’t make the hero, it’s Iron Man.
Spider-Man: Homecoming offers a unique perspective on Marvel’s world after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Tony Stark has finally cooled his jets post-Civil War rampage, settling down as the world’s most renowned hero while Captain America remains in hiding. From Peter Parker’s perspective, however, Tony Stark has all but abandoned him after recruiting Spider-Man in the battle against Captain America. The chemistry between Peter Parker and Tony Stark is so entertaining because their relationship is just a hair away from father and son. Parker yearns for a seat on the Avengers, but Stark is unwilling to put him directly in harm’s way. Their growing tension lingers throughout the movie. Tony Stark himself only makes a handful of brief appearances but steals every scene he’s in. By the end of the film, you get a real sense for how the characters relate more than any other two superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—I’m looking at you, Bruce and Natasha.
A whole web of friends and foes.
Spider-Man isn’t the only one with allies and enemies. Everyday high school student Peter Parker has his own set of friends and foes, flawed kids doing their best just to make it through to their next class. Jacob Batalon landed his first big role as Ned, Peter’s best friend, sidekick, and the “guy in the chair”. Their chemistry is a major part of what makes Spider-Man: Homecoming so special. Anyone who grew up as a nerdy high school kid probably had that one friend who understood their struggles, someone who wouldn’t laugh at them for being a little lame. The writers avoid forcing Ned into a purely comedic relief role, guiding Peter Parker even while he commits to some of the funniest scenes in the movie.
Opposite of Peter and Ned is the rich-and-powerful school bully Flash Thompson, played by Tony Revolori. It’s refreshing to see a bully act so realistically. Flash is just a kid with an ego and a chip on his shoulder, using words to torment Peter Parker at any chance he gets. The movie isn’t afraid to point out how lame Flash Thompson can be, painting the character as a begrudged reflection of Peter Parker. Anyone who calls themselves ‘DJ Flash’ without a hint of irony is probably a bit of a dork.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a small town tale set in the big city. The movie never oversteps its boundaries, finding a comfortable place between the mundane and the extraordinary. The movie’s one flaw is that it hesitates to deviate from the summer blockbuster formula. Suburban chase scenes and battles among fiery wreckage could be placed in many other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A lack of visual distinctness is outweighed by the strength of its characters, interesting and nuanced people with normal, everyday motivations. This take on Spider-Man proves that the superhero is worth of his second reboot, nailing every reason why the witty web-slinger has always been my favorite superhero.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Spider-Man: Homecoming was directed by Jon Watts and produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal.
The film stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan.