I will be honest with you, true believers. I was not looking forward to seeing this one at all. Spider-Man has been through FIVE movies with two different lead actors and this would end up serving as the second time the franchise was rebooted. How did I view the other films? Well, I liked Spider-Man, loved Spider-Man 2, pretended that Spider-Man 3 never happened and then the Andrew Garfield ones were… fine. I was a bit burned out on the character in general but Tom Holland’s appearance as the web-slinger in Captain America: Civil War gave me some hope for his future. How did it all pan out?
Spider-Man: Homecoming tells the story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and begins pretty much where Civil War left off. Parker has just finished helping the Avengers and is stoked to go on another mission but instead doesn’t really receive any calls and just spends his time going after petty criminals. All of that changes though when former salvage worker Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) gathers up artifacts from the Chitauri battle at the Avengers headquarters (back in 2009) and is able to create super-powerful weapons to sell them to various criminals. Despite Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) attempts to stop him from doing anything beyond his capabilities, Parker is determined to stop Toomes from continuing his enterprise while at the same time juggling the angst and awkwardness of being a teenager in high school.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief about twenty minutes into this film when I realized that the audience was going to be in pretty capable hands. The film is everything you would want a Spider-Man movie to be: funny, light-hearted and action-packed. The first thing I wanted to mention that really grabbed me was that we didn’t have to sit through a THIRD version of Spider-Man’s origin story. That made a huge difference as anyone can just jump into this movie and already know what Spider-Man is all about without having to see him getting bitten by a radioactive spider yet again. We don’t even get flashbacks but rather just passing mentions of it, which are usually in scenes with Peter’s inquisitive friend Ned played by Jacob Batalon in a rather fun comic relief performance. Alternatively, Tony Revolori does a swell job at playing a smug bully and adversary to Parker.
That being said, the story, while simple, is quite good and allows for some great balancing between superhero movie and teen drama. The film asks the traditional “will he get the girl/save the day?” question and that kind of uncomplicated plotline was a welcome distraction from the usual complications that arise from somewhat-involved plots of comic book movies. The action scenes are pretty frequent with a lot less downtime than previous Spider-Man films. That starts right away with all of the stuff after the credits showcasing Parker filming himself as he helps the Avengers in the climactic battle in Civil War and two major set pieces involving the Washington Monument and a giant ferry, respectively.
The film is at its best though when dealing with Peter Parker as a human being trying to make it through his adolescence. He’s frequently told by others (namely Stark) that he’s still just a kid but his reaction is always that he could be doing so much more than that. When his friend Ned discovers his identity, Peter reacts in horror only for a brief moment because it is soon overcome by pride, especially when Ned fawns over the fact that he is “the spider guy on YouTube.” His capabilities of commanding the sky and stopping crime are juxtaposed with his inabilities to talk to girls, especially potential love interest Liz (Laura Harrier), who has a couple of years of life experience more than him. Another cool thing about the Peter Parker scenes is that it’s not about him going after “the hot popular girl” or anything either. While Liz is quite stunning, she is the same kind of nerd as Peter. In fact, even the “bully” of the group is one of the nerds! Everything about this felt very similar to the best kind of John Hughes plots. This material also has real weight to it insofar as you actually feel the crushing disappointment when Parker must abandon his friend at a party to continue his superhero duties.
Besides the performances I already mentioned, Tom Holland is magnificent. He is the be-all end-all of Spider-Mans. I would place him at the top with Maguire 2nd and Garfield 3rd. Holland looks to be the right age (the actor is about 4-5 years older than his character but he has a young face) and he plays him with the appropriate amount of maturity. Holland is definitely the closest thing to a perfect portrayal of Spider-Man that we will ever get on film. Michael Keaton shows up as Adrian Toomes/Vulture and clearly had a great time with the role. My only complaint is that his character could have been fleshed out a bit more but there is a great reveal later in the film that allows for some terrific acting between he and Holland in a really well-shot scene.
Robert Downey Jr. sporadically appears as Tony Stark/Iron Man throughout the film but it’s really just a bit more than an extended cameo while Jon Favreau returns as Happy, a man who is anything but that. Favreau lights up the film though and his scenes talking with Holland provide some of the highlights. Marisa Tomei returns as Aunt May and provides a younger, fresh spin on the character. I am definitely in the camp of enjoying this more than an elderly grandma type from the original films. Tomei is a great actress and her scenes with Holland provide some warmth to the film.
What else can be said? This was yet another wonderful addition to the Marvel franchise. As the DCEU struggled to make one good film (Wonder Woman), Marvel continues to churn out quality in mass quantities.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)