Spider-Man: Homecoming is aptly named, and one can't help but sense that title is a bit of a dig at Sony and their recent misguided attempts at rebooting the Spidey franchise (Don't get me started on the way Sony handled Spidey during and post Spider-Man 3, because that is a full post in and of itself). If you don't know, the cinematic rights to the Spider-Man character have been owned exclusively by Sony for the past fifteen years, but Marvel struck a deal with Sony to get Spidey in the MCU proper. Suffice it to say, our favorite web-head is back where he belongs, and I'm happy to say that is a very good thing.
Following up on Spidey's show-stealing debut appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Homecoming does several really smart things that anchor the movie in a way that is perhaps more true-to-character than any cinematic iteration of Spidey we've yet seen.
First, they make Peter Parker younger than he's ever been on screen, and the troubles of being a fifteen-year-old kid fit really well within the framework of a Spider-Man story.
Second, the movie wisely foregoes yet another origin story, choosing instead to focus on what happens next - namely, the part where Peter Parker has to figure out just what it means to be not only a hero, but specifically Spider-Man. We've seen this kind of thing in brief sequences in other movies, but we've never had an entire Spider-Man film centered around that struggle, and Homecoming does it justice.
Third, Homecoming dovetails Peter's struggle with the prospect of growing up in a post-Avengers world, and just how confusing and disorienting that must be for a fifteen-year-old kid. There are echoes of 9/11 here, and it resonated really well, at least with me. The villains of Homecoming spring directly from this newborn world of heroes and monsters, and are grounded and believable because of that origin. That aspect anchors Spidey firmly in the MCU, while still allowing him to stand on his own.
Michael Keaton's Vulture is one of the better villains in the Spidey cinematic canon. He is cooler and more intimidating than I thought he would be, and as a side note, it's fun to see Batman '89 as a bad guy.
But of course, the real highlight is Tom Holland. Not only is he the best Peter Parker yet, he's also my favorite Spider-Man. The script and Holland's performance work together to really drive home the fact that this is just a kid trying to figure things out. He is suitably enthusiastic and thrilled, but also confused and anxious. And watching Peter chart his own path, including a significant choice toward the end of the film, is the main thrust of the movie, and it works really, really well.
Both RDJ as Iron Man and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan play important mentor parts in the movie, but aren't overused, as I feared they would be. The interplay between Hogan and Parker is where a lot of the humor comes from, and it feels genuine. But it is Downey Jr's Tony Stark that serves as the guiding force for Peter, and it is the lessons Peter learns from him, both positive and negative, that define Peter's journey. There are a couple lines delivered by Stark that perfectly serve as the crux of the theme, but I won't quote them here - that's best reserved for the theater. Watching Peter figure out where to adhere to Stark's advice and where to diverge from it feels real, like a boy really deciding who he wants to be. And that makes a good story.
The supporting cast members are all good, in particular Peter's group of high school misfits, specifically Jacob Batalon as Peter's best friend Ned. I hope we see more of him.
The action is good, but takes a backseat to Peter Parker's existential journey, but that journey is the heart of the movie, so it works. I was also worried that the movie would focus too much on the high-school aspect and not enough on the Spider-Man adventure, but the film manages to keep those two sides in equal balance. This is equal parts a Peter Parker and Spider-Man movie, and that's as it should be.
Overall, this is a really good movie. If Sam Raimi and Tobey Macguire's iteration is the classic take on Spider-Man, this is the version for a new generation, and thankfully it's one that really works. There are a couple nitpicks I have, but they are kind of spoilery, so I won't address them here. I'm so glad to see Spidey where he belongs, and as good as this movie was, I'm excited to see what comes next. 🕷
#spiderman #homecoming #mcu