I hate the word.
Not because I hate fun, but because ever since Batman v Superman, some critics have seemed to have a fixation that all comic book movies need to be “fun.” As such, I’ve been hesitant to use the word when it comes to movies — especially comic book ones. No, a movie does not need to be fun to be good or suitable for audiences. And yet, that’s the word that comes to mind when thinking of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Make no mistake, the trailers have not sold this film wrong. Spidey’s latest outing is a fun, wild ride.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the character’s latest standalone film (the sixth one we’ve had in about 16 years), but it’s the first one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We were first introduced to the character in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, and despite being burnt out on Spidey prior to said introduction, most fans seemed to be quite taken with actor Tom Holland’s more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed interpretation of Peter Parker. This approach very much continues in Homecoming. The film takes place a couple months after the events in Civil War, and following the thrill of taking on Captain America, the Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, and Falcon, Peter Parker is now faced with the hum-drum reality of high school.
He now spends everyday in school staring at the clock while in school, and sprinting out as soon as class is done, doing the best he can to maximize the number of hours of the day that he spends as Spider-Man. All the while, he reports back to Tony Stark and Happy Hogan, in hopes that they’ll call him on for another mission sooner rather than later. One night, while stopping a band of crooks from robbing ATMs, he’s faced with some crazy weapon tech that he’s never seen before. As it turns out, the criminals have been buying them from a gang led by a mysterious winged foe, played by the great Michael Keaton. Peter makes it his personal mission to take down these bad guys, in hopes that it’ll put him in the good graces of Stark and secure him a place in the Avengers.
As mentioned above, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an amazingly fun movie. From the get-go, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have been selling this as a John Hughes type flick, and that’s exactly what you get. As fans of the comic would hope, this film blends in the drama of Peter Parker’s high school life with his moonlighting as Spider-Man.
One concern going into this film was that, given the marketing, there would be far too much Tony Stark. Now, don’t get us wrong, we love Iron Man, but in a Spider-Man movie, we want the focus to be on Spider-Man, and all signs seemed to be pointing to an overabundance of Tony. Luckily, that isn’t the case. Yes, he’s in the film a good amount, but make no mistake, this is a Peter Parker story, and the film does a great job of providing tons of MCU fan service, all while not taking away from Peter’s own struggles. The story in the film is very textbook Spider-Man, but given the great balance they strike between high school and the webslinger, it still works and doesn't feel old or rehashed.
Spider-Man: Homecoming also sports a surprisingly strong villain. Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (a.k.a, the Vulture) is a capable and menacing baddie, and despite as coming across as a bit bland in the trailers, he’s anything but in the film. Usually in a Marvel film, whenever we get to the villain scenes, I find myself check out a bit. Even in stronger villains like Baron Zemo, who are very sympathetic, their actual scenes are a bit dry and boring. Vulture’s scenes are interwoven so expertly into the film that they feel like a real organic part of the story, and not just an aside that we know will eventually collide with Spider-Man. Plus, add in the somewhat honorable characteristics of Toomes, and you have a character who is fitting of Michael Keaton’s time as an actor.
The film probably has the best use of Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) so far in the MCU. Of course, he’s always had a sizable role in the Iron Man flicks, but in Homecoming, we really get to see his grouchy side, as well as his distaste for interacting with teenagers. I also really enjoyed the dynamic between Peter and Aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei. We’ve seen a couple other interpretations of Aunt May in these films, and while those tend to be warm and grandmother-y, the relationship between May and Peter in Homecoming feels much more real. For starters, she’s actually an age you would expect an aunt to be, and more than any other Spidey film to date, you really get that she and Peter are kind of a dynamic duo following the death of Uncle Ben. It’s a warm relationship that feels much more like a mother-son relationship than grandmother-grandson, which is a surprisingly refreshing take.
Of course, we can’t get this far into the review without mentioning Spider-Man himself. He’s great. To those fans who have been waiting for a true interpretation of the Peter Parker character, this is probably the closest we have ever gotten. While it was clear that Tom Holland fit the part based on his role in Civil War, he really drives it home here, nailing the high school nerd aspect of Peter Parker, as well as the more smart-ass Spider-Man alter ego. This interpretation is also buoyed by this particular incarnation’s constant desire to impress Tony Stark. With the possibility of one day joining the Avengers, it really gives him an overall drive and style that helps separate him from any other Spider-Man before him.
Now I’ve been praising this film a lot, so were there any flaws? I think there were a couple small ones. I admittedly wish we got a bit more of his high school antics. His classmates were all great in their scenes together, and I wanted to get a bit more of that dynamic. That being said, in the interest of keeping the film tight and pacing brisk, it’s understandable why they couldn’t. Zendaya’s Michelle was great, but woefully underused, and at the end of the day, while the film was fun, the reality is that outside of Peter and Ned, I never got attached to any of the side characters. I don’t necessarily think it was a script weakness as much as a time thing, but if a couple of the characters were picked off, I’m not sure I would have cared too much.
That being said, the movie itself was such a good time that I didn’t really realize the weaknesses much until after the fact. All in all, Spider-Man: Homecoming is yet another strong entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and proof that there are plenty of places for this character to go. We can’t wait to follow him along the way.