Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017.
Directed by Jon Watts.
Starring Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Michael Barbieri, Abraham Attah, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Angourie Rice, Michael Chernus, Michael Mando, Logan Marshall-Green, Jennifer Connelly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Chris Evans.
Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges
Throughout Spider-Man: Homecoming the titular web-slinger winds up donning a variety of versions of the classic trademark red and blue suit. However, the reasoning is more than just for summer blockbuster over-indulgence, as thematically director Jon Watts (responsible for 2015’s criminally overlooked Cop Car) and his team of multiple writers (surprisingly, even with a full kitchen the results are appropriately cooked) is essentially humbling Peter Parker and hurling the teenage wannabe Avenger at breakneck speed through cinema’s first superhero coming-of-age story.
Thanks to his allegiance and helpful contributions to Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. here in a role that dances the line between glorified cameo and a key component in the development of Peter Parker as a person in last year’s Captain America: Civil War), Peter has life made as far as fighting crime goes. The technologically advanced suit from Stark Industries comes complete with a plethora of stealth and combat abilities, many of which wouldn’t feel out of place in a video game (some already have been implemented); Peter listening in on enemy conversations from far away or playing back videos of encounters is next-generation level Spider-Man. The betrayal of trust comes from the fact that he disobeys Tony’s wishes of using the basic forms of advanced technology in frustration that his skill sets and dedication to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is not being taken seriously. Without going too far into spoiler details, what results is Spidey actually downgrading costumes over time, learning to understand his limits and capabilities.
Furthermore, this all comes together to paint a portrait of a gifted teenager navigating high school life alongside serving criminals justice. Early on during production, the writers made it known that Spider-Man: Homecoming would be drawing influence from John Hughes’ (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) comedic musings on the same subject (obviously without superpowers), and they succeeded. Many of the best scenes here are simply of Peter interacting with his lone chubby but equally nerdy pal Ned (played by Jacob Batalon with perfect humorous line delivery and some of the movie’s best jokes, and who also is the only person aware of Peter’s alternate ego), awkwardly trying to land a date for homecoming and girlfriend in general (Laura Harrier) as academic decathlon team partner Liz), and brief stubborn exchanges between parental figures (both blood and non-blood related) in Aunt May (Marisa Tomei as the against tradition younger, more attractive interpretation of the character) and the aforementioned Tony Stark.
On that note, it’s worth quickly mentioning that although Spider-Man: Homecoming fearlessly makes a number of minor lore changes, the creative decisions turned out rather well. Sure, the majority of comic book fans collectively scratched their heads and went “WTF” at the previously noted aesthetic alterations to Aunt May, but it worked and gave audiences something refreshing. In addition to that, there’s Flash Thompson played by Guatemalan stud Tony Revolori (most known for Wes Anderson’s exceptional The Grand Budapest Hotel) who now is depicted as more of an intelligent rival to Peter rather than a stereotypical physically imposing jock bully. There are also some major surprises that should be definitely left experienced in the theater, but the point stands that playing with the source material will not be met with negative critical or fan reception so long as the changes fundamentally fit and deliver a fresh take.
With that said, the greatest strength to Spider-Man: Homecoming (aside from once again regurgitating the origin story everyone on the planet is already familiar with) is the script’s crucial understanding of both Peter Parker and the wisecracking do-gooder. Up until now, Toby Maguire was the best representation of the superhero, but he has now been usurped; Tom Holland IS Spider-Man. He’s also a perfect Peter Parker. Spider-Man’s jokey insults during battle never feel forced or out of place, with Peter coming across as a lovable nuisance to both his high school peers and anti-villain fighting compadres. I could probably watch him pester Tony Stark all day (the quick shot of their text message conversation is gold), but when it comes down to it there’s also a relatable connection to the character, as he struggles with finding his confidence.
It also helps that unlike most Marvel films, Michael Keaton’s Vulture actually makes for an intimidating and slightly less one-dimensional villain. Contracted by some sort of alien waste clean-up team from post-Avengers world-saving encounters (Spider-Man: Homecoming actually takes place after both entries in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War double-bill, starting a new chapter in the universe) who begins running the advanced weapons on the streets of New York. First off, it’s incredibly interesting to see a world where these kinds of catastrophically destructive firearms can easily be acquired by random no-name criminals, posing endless possibilities for the future tone of films in the franchise. Beyond that, Vulture isn’t necessarily fully evil; this aspect of the movie could have used a bit more fleshing out, but he’s actually first and foremost a family man when outside of the visually awesome looking high-tech suit built from his findings (it’s also a healthy mixture of CGI and practical effects). Obviously, Michael Keaton kills the role; just watch his sadistic half-smile when he uses his wits to piece together a crucial piece to an important puzzle (the traffic light reflection from his vehicle even turns green the moment he comes to this realization).
Unfortunately, Spider-Man: Homecoming does fall into some of the obvious trappings previous entries in the franchise apparently cannot avoid, along with running into its own singular problems. Michael Keaton is fantastic in the villain role, but as mentioned could have been given more material. As a matter of fact, so could many of the characters present here. It’s hard to get emotionally attached to the brewing romance between Peter and Liz when not enough time is spent on it. There are even worse examples, as characters like Shocker are briefly present, along with Easter Egg teases of Miles Morales via an Uncle. I’m also not entirely sure of the purpose for Zendaya’s classmate character, as she seems to solely exist to annoy Peter during detention, but also strangely feels semi-important as the ending does offer an intriguing observation. Even Aunt May has a shockingly low amount of screen time, which feels almost offensive for a Spider-Man movie.
Poor character development aside, the action sequences on display here fall flat, utterly lacking in emotional weight or danger. Some of them just fail to leave a lasting impression, coming and going like standard Hollywood blockbuster roller coaster ride material. It’s also very well possible that Logan and Wonder Woman, two superhero movies that have raised the bar as far as emotional stakes go, have spoiled us, meaning that what’s here in Spider-Man: Homecoming pales in comparison. The astonishingly high-tech nature of the Spider-suit is definitely fascinating, but the grander scale of spectacle is simply lacking.
Perhaps the focus was intended to be exclusively sharply honed in on the mindset of Peter Parker. Whatever the case may be, it’s safe to say that the collaboration between Sony and Marvel has given us the best, most accurate Spider-Man to date, along with a summer blockbuster that is both consistently hilarious alongside presented as an in-depth character study of the beloved superhero. This isn’t just a homecoming for high school, it’s a homecoming for great Spider-Man movies. Spider-Man: Homecoming is another hit for the carefully crafted MCU, which is a force of nature in itself and showing no signs of fading away.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★