For a variety of reasons too complex, legal, and boring to recount, Spider-Man: Homecoming–while being the fifth film to feature the character in the last 15 years–is the first that actually places the webslinger in the same world as his Marvel counterparts. Outside of his cameo in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the cinematic incarnations of Spider-Man have always lived in a bubble, separate from the explosive adventures of Iron Man or the bruising exploits of the Hulk. It was always strange to have Marvel’s marquee character not exist within its own cinematic universe; imagine if Batman didn’t live in the same world as Superman, let alone have moms with the same first name. How odd that would be.
Homecoming, then, is a fitting subtitle for this latest Spider-Man film. Not only does it refer to its setting, which puts Peter Parker back in high school, but it also cleverly alludes to the fact that, finally, Spider-Man is back with his Marvel superhero pals. Most importantly, Homecoming also fixes what the previous Spidey movie series fumbled: the characterisation of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. The Tobey Maguire-led films made Spider-Man too morose and mopey, while Andrew Garfield’s take on Peter Parker in the Amazing series made the normally awkward character too hipster cool. But Spider-Man: Homecoming gets both sides of the character right.
Doing both sides of the character justice goes a long way in Homecoming. After all, Spider-Man became of one the comic book world’s biggest names not because he was the most powerful or exotic, but because he was–outside of the whole irradiated spider bite thing–just a normal guy. When he wasn’t fighting super villains as Spider-Man, Peter Parker was dealing with the same issues many of us faced: money problems, job security, family concerns, love, and rejection. While other superheroes were billionaires, aliens, or gods, Peter Parker was mundane; just a good kid trying to make the best of what he had. He was us.
Homecoming firmly keeps Spider-Man as one of the little guys, looking up as the titans fly overhead. In this case, that titan is none other than Tony Stark/Iron Man (played again with the same roguish charm by Robert Downey Jr), who reluctantly takes Peter as a protege of sorts after the events of Civil War. Stark kits Peter out with a high tech costume, assigns him a nanny in the form of Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and tells him to keep his nose out of trouble. “Be a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man,” Stark tells Peter. Of course, he offers this advice via a remote controlled Iron Man suit while thousands of miles away. Tony Stark, true to character, is an absent dad.
But Peter–played by the excellent Tom Holland–is exhilarated after his brief adventure fighting against the likes of Captain America in Civil War, and wants more than just the middling thrill of stopping an occasional bicycle thief in Queens. Peter thinks he’s ready to be a fully-fledged Avenger, and despite protestations from Stark, he sets out to try and stop a gang of petty thieves from selling advanced weaponry salvaged from the various alien and robotic calamities that have befallen Earth in recent years. Leading this gang is Adrian Toomes (played with dignified menace by Michael Keaton), a former salvage company worker who’s outfitted himself with a set of impressive (and dangerous) robotic wings. Toomes wants nothing more than to keep his operation under the radar and away from attention of the Avengers, and the last thing he needs is a pesky kid in red and blue tights dragging him into the spotlight.
Toomes–otherwise known as the Vulture–isn’t the only thing complicating Peter’s life. There are also all the other pedestrian concerns related to being a teenager; study, field trips, bullies, getting a date for the dance. Homecoming director Jon Watts had previously cited the ’80s films of John Hughes as a key influence, and in many ways, this latest Spider-Man does capture the sweet, awkward tone of Hughes’ best movies. Homecoming is in many ways a coming-of-age film about young characters trying to grow into themselves. But instead of Molly Ringwald finally getting a kiss at the end, it’s a superhero who can stick to walls that finally learns a bittersweet lesson about growing up.
With its focus on relationships, Homecoming has plenty of heart, but it also doubles as an outstanding comedy. A lot of this humor comes from the geeky fanboy reactions of Peter’s best friend Ned (played by Jacob Batalon) after he discovers Peter’s secret, but the rest of the cast does a great job of keeping the tone light and breezy. From the perpetually put upon Happy Hogan, to the sardonic Michelle (played by Zendaya), to the weary Coach Wilson (Hannibal Buress), and even to a hilarious recurring cameo from another Marvel cinematic universe character. Homecoming delivers a steady stream of laughs, making it the most uproariously funny Marvel movie since the first Guardians of the Galaxy.
But it all comes back to character, and the Peter Parker/Spider-Man we spend time with in Homecoming is pitch perfect, with Tom Holland playing him with a precise mix of awkwardness and exuberance. This Peter Parker is in love with being Spider-Man, and his joy and enthusiasm when he’s in costume is infectious. The Vulture, too, continues the Marvel films’ recent streak of actually having interesting, relatable baddies. Toomes is indeed threatening, but his intentions are pure, and he joins Tom Hiddleston’s Loki as the only other Marvel villain you can’t wait to see more of.
It’s one of the best crowd pleasers in the Marvel oeuvre, and the best Spider-Man film so far.
Spider-Man: Homecoming gets everything right about this beloved Marvel character, which after the Batman and Robin-like awfulness of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, comes as a huge relief. It’s one of the best crowd pleasers in the Marvel oeuvre, and the best Spider-Man film so far. There’s a scene halfway through the movie where Spider-Man, after climbing to the top of the Washington Monument, looks down, nervous about the height he’s finally reached. “I’ve never climbed this high before,” he says to himself. Well, now you have Peter Parker. Now you have.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Gets Peter Parker/Spider-Man right||Not enough Aunt May|
|Exciting action sequences|
|The Vulture is a great villain|