Spider-Man: Homecoming movie review. Minor spoilers below.
As mentioned in previous reviews, I was cautiously optimistic about Wonder Woman and Logan heading into 2017. On the contrary, I was pretty sure that in the hands of Marvel Studios, Spider-Man: Homecoming would turn out to be at the least a good superhero flick.
Sony and Marvel Studios’ vision for a Spider-Man reboot is confident and vibrant. It’s clear that Marvel Studio President Kevin Feige knows what he wants from his version of Spider-Man and how Spider-Man fits into the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man: Homecoming does not disappoint, neither am I blown away. The latest reboot is a substantial improvement over Amazing Spider-Man 2 and has a bright future with actor Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man.
The story picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Peter Parker wants to prove to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) he belongs in the Avengers. After some friendly neighborhood crime fighting, Spider-Man gets in over his head when he faces off against metal-winged Vulture (Michael Keaton).
This reboot has some noticeable differences from the other Spider-Man movies. For starters, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is the youngest at 15 years old. Spider-Man’s origin story isn’t rehashed, it’s simply mentioned he was bit by a radioactive spider. Harry Osborn, Jonah Jameson, Gwen Stacey and Mary Jane Watson aren’t in the film. The villains in Homecoming haven’t been featured in any of the previous movies. And as you know, this Spider-Man is connected to the other Marvel superheroes. These decisions offer a reinvigorated take on Spider-Man, it also serves to cut out unnecessary baggage and comparisons at this point.
Homecoming is meant to be a subtle nod to John Hugh’s teen films. The idea is to take honest observations about high school life and relationships in a way that doesn’t pander to the viewer. So while Tom Holland’s Peter Parker isn’t as nerdy as Tobey Maguire’s version, he doesn’t have much game with his crush, a senior girl named Liz (Laura Harrier). The playful humor in Peter’s social awkwardness is relatable to a lot of young teens.
When I think of certain John Hugh’s teen movies, there’s a particular poignant feeling they capture with a perceptive truth. Homecoming doesn’t have anything revelatory to say about the high school experience. The emotional beats are present but don’t hit home as hard as it could. What it does have is a wonderful “I did not see that coming” moment that works on many levels and then watching it play out is so much fun.
Like a lot of young people, Peter Parker is developing his own identity and figuring out where he fits in the world. The story explores this in a few different ways. Spider-Man’s super hi-tech suit courtesy of Stark Enterprises presents some comedic moments and is meant to be overly decked out. It’s familiar to the Iron Man 3 scenario where the suit doesn’t make the hero, it’s the man within which sets up moments for Peter Parker to show what’s he’s made of. Tony Stark is a father figure of sorts, he’ll bail you out when you’re in a jam. But at some point, as Peter learns the hard way, you need to spread your wings and find your own path.
We’ve seen Spider-Man swinging from building to building many times before. Homecoming takes Spider-Man to some other locations like the suburbs where he’s out of his natural element. While Spider-Man will be in future Avengers movies, at this point keeping him as a down-to-earth, working class type of identifiable hero suits him well. For this reason, it’s good to match Spider-Man up against mid to street level villains to start off with.
I’m not using “street level” as a derogatory term towards the Vulture. He’s very powerful, clever, menacing and of course can fly. I mean that Vulture’s origin is an ordinary, blue-collar guy who just wants an opportunity to work hard and provide a good paying job for his crew. Michael Keaton is fantastic in this role as expected and I like the Vulture’s look.
Vulture is a disgruntled every-man, yet he has a conscience which sets him apart from being another one-layered, malevolent or crazed villain. Also, Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine) and the Tinkerer (Michael Chernus) are pleasantly low-key and have likable personalities. In case Jamie Foxx’s Electro left a bad taste in your mouth, there’s nothing cheesy or groan-inducing about Homecoming’s bad guys.
Replacing Harry Osborn in the best friend role is Ned (Jacob Batalon). I don’t think Spider-Man necessarily needs a “man in the chair” type sidekick, he’s typically a lone superhero. Ned is part comedic relief and part sounding board for Peter to talk to, the same with Karen, the suit’s AI voiced by Jennifer Connelly. In the comics and animated shows, Peter often talks aloud to himself, in this movie franchise he’ll have someone to actually talk to.
By casting Tom Holland, I envision Marvel Studio’s game plan is to take the journey of a boy hero into a grown up over a couple of more movies at least. Holland is a great fit for a teenage Peter Parker and should be able to grow with the character. The young actor naturally conveys earnestness and an innocence about him. Who says teens and superheroes need to be angst ridden? He also comes across as authentic, like he could be a kid from New York City, even though Holland is English.
The rest of the cast I have some mixed opinions on. Jon Favreau as Happy and Marisa Tomei as May are both great. At this point, Michelle (Zendaya) isn’t much of a factor, I imagine she’ll play a bigger role in the future. Casting Tony Revolori, you might remember him as the kid in Grand Budapest Hotel, as Flash Thompson is an odd choice and doesn’t work. Liz Allen is the girl you know Peter would go for, but isn’t for the long-term. Knowing that, the story thankfully never takes the high school crush (you can’t call it a romance) into sappy territory.
Aside from the teen drama, there’s plenty of action set pieces. A lot of these are like an amalgamation from the previous movies and inspired from the comics, but with its own self-aware context. One fun sequence is a literal nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day off. If I were to nitpick, the final showdown could have been more satisfying.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is receiving it’s share of hype. Some of it is deserving, some of it is a bit exaggerated. The bench mark for an excellent Spidey movie is Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 and if you’re talking overall superhero movie then it’s The Dark Knight. Unless we are going to lower the bar, which we shouldn’t, Spider-Man: Homecoming does surpass the upper echelon. However, it’s a well-made Spider-Man reboot which leaves fans yearning for more, not just for Spider-Man but perhaps the villains too and hope in a Tom Holland era that’ll last for some time.