Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review
When it comes to Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s actually hard to pin down what might be the most remarkable thing about the movie. I could say that it completes the introduction of Spider-Man into the framework of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that had begun in Captain America: Civil War. I could begin by saying that Spider-Man: Homecoming more or less repairs all the damage done to the character from Spider-Man 3 and both Amazing Spider-Man movies by the 20 minute mark. I could say how nice it is for a comic book movie to both skip the origin story, so we don’t have to watch Uncle Ben die for a third time, or I could even just praise how subtle the set up for potential spin offs was subtle, or how there wasn’t product placement for Sony products shoved into every frame of the film. None of these are the most remarkable thing about Spider-Man: Homecoming though.
While all of the above is true, I think the most remarkable thing about Spider-Man: Homecoming may simply be the fact it delivers both a very unconventional comic book movie, and one of the year’s most entertaining movies in the process, and still managing to do all of the above and more. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a movie that absolutely needed to stick the landing in a big way, and does it ever manage to do just that.
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens with snippets of the climax of Captain America: Civil War, with Peter Parker being recruited by Tony Stark, making a good showing at the airstrip battle, and returning to Queens with a new Spider-Man costume to show for it. Now that he’s had a sampling of life as an Avenger, Parker begins putting his work as Spider-Man ahead of everything else, desperate for more than just busting petty crooks. When those petty crooks start breaking out some advanced alien weaponry however, it puts Spider-Man in the cross hairs of a cartel of weapons dealers led by a winged thief known as the Vulture. More so than just taking down the bad guys, Peter has a choice ahead of him regarding just what kind of hero he wants to be.
Almost immediately, Spider-Man: Homecoming establishes a style and tone that is very different not only from any prior Spider-Man franchise, but from the other movies in the MCU and comic book movies in general. The stakes are smaller, more personal and down to Earth, and alongside a script that takes its time establishing the stakes, goes a long way to restoring Peter Parker to his roots as a working class neighborhood hero, who wants a little bit more out of life, be it to hear back from Tony Stark or for a date to the homecoming dance. It skips the origin story almost entirely, and focuses much more closely on how a young teenager might struggle to strike a balance between schoolwork and super heroics, and it works brilliantly.
A lot of this has to do with the script, which takes the time to make even the little things like Peter’s floundering social life in high school matter. It helps that it also has a real sense of energy and a sense of humor, keeping the movie fast-paced and funny. Spider-Man: Homecoming even manages to execute a number of plot twists, one of which sparked vocally surprised reactions from the attending audience, and should have people talking about it for weeks, and one of which falls completely flat, and will probably be ignored by everyone outside of internet message boards.
Tom Holland continues to prove yet another home run casting choice by Marvel Studios, and if there was any doubt about him being the best Spider-Man actor after Captain America: Civil War, there won’t be after this. Holland brings more charm, likability and personality to both Peter Parker and Spider-Man than Andrew Garfield ever did, this in spite of the fact Garfield is more than a decade his senior. Holland brings a lot of presence to the movie in spite of his youth, but part of his appeal may well be because of his youth. Tobey Maguire and Garfield were both pushing 30 when they were cast as Spider-Man, and maybe they were just too far removed from the characters’ high school roots. Holland in the meantime, sells the hell out of it, and a big reason Spider-Man: Homecoming works the way it does is because we’re not dealing with a tech billionaire or a super soldier, or a 30 year old man playing a high schooler, we’re dealing with a kid, and kids are selfish and make mistakes, and it’s kind of cool to see Spider-Man can be too.
Michael Keaton comes very close to stealing the movie as the villainous Vulture, both due to a wonderfully developed character arc over the course of Spider-Man: Homecoming, one that highlights each step he makes further down the path of villainy, and a roguish blue collar performance from Keaton that highlights that the Vulture isn’t out to take over the World, he just wants to make a few bucks and pay off his mortgage. One of the movie’s strongest points is how it draws parallels with Spider-Man and the Vulture, be it their working class backgrounds or their struggles to balance life in the costume with life outside of it, and it makes for a really compelling angle for the villain.
The supporting cast is large and mostly firing on all cylinders Robert Downey Jr. shines once again as Tony Stark, making the most of a limited amount of screentime, managing to further develop Tony’s attempts to work within the system and nurture “better” heroes like Spider-Man to follow in his footsteps, all while sticking to the background enough not to dominate the film. Marisa Tomei is endearing as a very different sort of Aunt May, a middle aged woman doing her best at surrogate motherhood, while Jacob Batalon is a hoot as Peter’s friend and confidante Ned. Meanwhile Donald Glover shows up as a small time crook who gets to enjoy some great banter with Spider-Man while setting up one of the movie’s best easter eggs.
Meanwhile, for all the hype she got in marketing, Zendaya never really does much in the movie aside from the rare snide comment she delivers flatly every 15 minutes. She must have one hell of an agent to have been sold as a co-star who a glorified cameo with less than 20 lines in the movie who could have been cut from the movie with zero impact on the story. I’m actually shocked she got top billing over Laura Harrier, who plays Liz, who beyond even just acting as Peter’s love interest, is just a much more substantial role in the film.
Though a relative newcomer as a director, Jon Watts proves capable at the helm of Spider-Man: Homecoming. While he does keep most of the action and drama pretty close to the ground, he still delivers some memorable action set pieces that manage to wow without going overboard. Some of this plays into the movie’s sense of humor – Spider-Man’s web crawling abilities are great in New York, but almost useless in Washington DC – while at other times, it once again helps to set Spider-Man: Homecoming apart from the glut of other comic book movies. I can’t begin to say how great it was to have a climax that didn’t have the hero fighting a world-ending beam of light shooting in the sky. It even boats a great soundtrack, and I had a big grin on my face as the old Spider-Man theme played at the start of the movie.
Another enjoyable part of Spider-Man: Homecoming are the multiple easter eggs throughout the film, both for Spider-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large, ranging from the running gag over Captain America doing school PSA’s, Kenneth Choi, who played Howling Commando “Jim” Morita in Captain America: The First Avenger, showing up as the character’s high school principal descendant, to breadcrumbs laid for everything from Damage Control to Miles Morales. Honestly, the only real complaint about Spider-Man: Homecoming that I have are the two post-credit scenes, both of which are rather pointless, and the second of which was just there to troll. I kind of expect better from the studio that made waiting for post-credit scenes the new normal for moviegoers.
Spider-Man: Homecoming had a lot of things riding on it going into the movie, and it shows that sometimes, the best way to deliver on high stakes is to simply focus on making a movie that strikes the right balance of action, drama and comedy, showcases some compelling, relatable characters that all feel grounded, and going against the grain enough to stand out, the rest will fall into place.
It’s easily the best Spider-Man movie in more than a decade, and a joyful highlight of the summer movie season in desperate need of some. Spider-Man: Homecoming dances to its own beat, and it delivers one of the best movies of the summer, one that leaves you looking forward to what comes next for the webslinger at that.