At long last, Spider-Man is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Does his web catch you just like a fly? Find out now!
Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)
Starring: Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Keaton
Directed By: Jon Watts
To say my expectations for Spider-Man Homecoming were high would be an understatement. After sitting through Amazing Spider-Man 2 and seeing Sony attempt to create their own cinematic universe and fail, the one thing I could hope for was Marvel Studios coming in and making some sort of deal with Sony to either buy the character, or take control of him and work him into their existing universe. And it happened. Now that Spidey had made his debut in Captain America: Civil War, it’s time for him to take center stage (again) in the second reboot of the character in the fifteen years he’s been on the big screen. Spider-Man Homecoming, the first movie to be made in collaboration with Sony and Marvel Studios, has a pretty daunting task ahead of it: can you get the public interested in yet another Spider-Man movie, so soon after the last one?
When it’s as good as this is, yes.
Spider-Man Homecoming is, in every sense of the word, a creative slam dunk. Marvel and Sony set up to make this a “John Hughes movie” that happens to feature Peter Parker, and they succeed in nearly every aspect. Other Spider-Man movies have shown us Peter Parker’s struggles to be a super hero and juggle his every day life, but few felt as authentic as this one. Sure, there’s not a ton of cameos to be found in this MCU installment, but just the sheer fact that you’ll hear a mention of Black Widow, Captain America, and events in the MCU in this movie is enough to make this feel like the Spider-Man comics you know and love.
Homecoming follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland), fresh from helping Iron Man fight Captain America in Civil War. For the past few months he’s been fighting crime in his little area of New York City, checking in with Happy Hogan (John Favreau), waiting for his next big mission with the Avengers. When he gets wind of a group of salvagers selling illegal alien weapons lead by Adrian Toomes (a fantastic Michael Keaton), he decides to take it upon himself to try and take them down.
If you read that plot description and thought “hey, that sounds exactly like something from the early Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comics”, well, then you’re right. Homecoming’s story is pretty much almost exactly what you’d find from one of those early tales, with a healthy mix of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man thrown in for good measure. Director Jon Watts and his team of writers distill everything that makes Spider-Man work and put it into this film. There’s a playful energy that keeps the film moving at a brisk pace that doesn’t even make you feel the nearly two and a half hour runtime.
Speaking of Spider-Man, Tom Holland is perfection in both roles. Where Tobey Maguire was a great Peter Parker and an okay Spider-Man, and Andrew Garfield was a great Spider-Man and an okay Peter Parker (as time has gone on, his Parker was really “too cool”), Holland is able to make both sides of this character work really well. His Peter Parker is definitely trying a little too hard to be in the big leagues, but every mistake he makes is the same mistake any teenager would make if they were suddenly given superpowers. Peter’s struggle to be a superhero and normal teenager is really the heart of the film, and Tom Holland portrays that struggle perfectly. When he’s Spider-Man he’s quipping and cracking some pretty funny jokes, so much so that you forget that he’s actually just a kid in way over his head, which comes into play in a really amazing moment towards the film’s climax that will make long time Spidey fans lose their minds (I know I did). Really the only complaint to have with Holland’s Spidey is that he and Watts downplay his Spider-Sense ability in this film, which is fine, but it’s still something that made me go “what a minute” any time Spidey got hit by something he should’ve known was coming.
You’ll also get more time with Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May, and as weird as it is having someone as young and attractive as Tomei playing, well, Aunt May, she brings a real sweetness to the role. You can tell that May’s definitely overwhelmed, but trying her best to raise her teenage nephew. There’s a moment where she helps Peter get ready for the titular homecoming dance that’s one of the best moments of the film. The relationship between May and Peter is a tough one to pull off in the Spider-Man movies, but they get it really right in this one.
One of Marvel Studios’ biggest struggles has been their villains, so it’s a relief to say that Michael Keaton’s Vulture is able to avoid this usual pitfall for the studio. Keaton gives Vulture an air of menace that’s really disturbing, and his working class reason for doing what he does is actually pretty compelling. While it’s ironic (and a little hilarious) to see Keaton flying around as the character after his work in Birdman, his performance is one of the highlights of the movie ,and makes his villain one of the few standouts in the MCU, with one of the best surprises in years worked into his character.
Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man may have been plastered all over every poster and trailer, but Tony Stark is really just an extended cameo. If you’re expecting to see Iron Man and Spidey whip around New York City together, you’ll be disappointed, but the few moments that Holland and Downey do share are really fun, and show off how far Tony Stark has come since we first saw him in 2008’s Iron Man. Who knew that it could be so much fun to see Tony Stark take on a mentor role for Peter Parker?
With Spider-Man Homecoming, we have even further proof that Marvel Studios should at least have creative control over the characters that they don’t have the movie rights to. In all honesty, I would put Homecoming right next to the other crown jewel in the Spidey franchise, Spider-Man 2 (it might even top it). While it’s doubtful that they’d be able to make a deal similar to the one they have with Sony with other studios (Marvel has control over Spider-Man merchandise, hence why they were cool with Sony getting all the profits from Homecoming), this is at least evidence that they can work in other properties into their mega universe if they want to.
Jon Watts, Sony, and Marvel Studios have created another hit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It may not take as many risks as the other entries in the MCU, but when its central character is done this well, it doesn’t matter. Your mileage may vary depending on how much you love Spider-Man, but for this long time Spidey fan, there was plenty to be happy about.
Here’s hoping that the success of this film makes Sony completely rethink their Venom plans.