Spider-Man is one of the most iconic superheroes out there. His influence on the modern wave of comic book movies cannot be denied. I would attribute the onslaught of this genre to the success of the X-Men and early Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. Sadly, the consistency, due to mishandling by Sony, has been shaky. The franchise has moments of brilliance, but have also been mired by forced villains and poor casting decisions. Since its beginning in 2002, the titular character has gone through three versions of the Webslinger, starring Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and now, Tom Holland.
Yet, momentum is on Spidey’s side as Sony and Marvel have played nice and joined forces with his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War. With this movie being co-produced by Marvel (more specifically it’s head Kevin Feige), Spider-Man’s story now fits within the same universe as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and the rest.
In Homecoming, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back in high school and is already knee-deep in his heroic crime-fighting career. As he dedicates more of his extra-curricular time to stopping small time crooks and rescuing cats from trees, he becomes detached to his high school friends and clubs. His intent is to impress Tony Stark and be accepted into the Avengers full-time. His attention is also on Liz (Laura Harrier), who seems far out of his league.
Meanwhile, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) has used the former alien tech that descended on New York after the events from the first Avengers movie. Using this tech, Toomes dons the role of The Vulture and constantly gets in Spider-Man’s way.
While we’ve seen Maguire and Garfield start off their respective series in high school, the movies never quite captured the day-to-day aspects of the experience. Peter’s time in high school and his small nerdy social circle are the focus of the story. His age and inexperience is central to the growth he, as a character, goes through.
On the inverse, I’m not sure who decided that the only high school movies had to resemble/copy the works of John Hughes. Sure, Hughes captured nostalgia in a bottle, but it doesn’t mean there can’t be a new view of those awkward years for some, but glory days for others. Homecoming literally recreates a scene from Ferris Bueller as the original scene is played for those who didn’t catch the reference.
When viewing Spider-Man Homecoming through the lens of a action-heavy young adult feature, you couldn’t do better. Teens are going to eat this thing up, as it’s one of the best recent action flicks that cater to a younger crowd. It’s a fun ride that is joke-heavy and it feels different than the previous Spidey movies.
A few of my gripes come from my fandom of the character. The all-too-familiar origin with Uncle Ben is skipped, which works for me. But, instead of the gravitas that was set in motion in Peter Parker’s life, he is just a fan of the Avengers and wants to be Tony Stark’s lap dog. Instead of “With great power, comes great responsibility” we get “If you are nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” The line, lazily spoken by Robert Downey Jr, carries no weight in the Spider-Man mythos.
In fact, it’s the Marvel tie-ins that drag this back from being a solid Spider-Man standalone. His suit is completely crafted by Tony Stark and is complete with a flying spider-drone and a female Jarvis voice. This modern take, along with the absence of a tragic beginning, removes any feeling of Peter Parker earning his heroism. Spider-Man is a great character and has never needed a mentor. This all becomes even more pathetic when you realize that Happy Hogan, a D-list Marvel character, is the all-too prominent tie-in from the MCU.
Tom Holland shows both inexperience and potential in the role. He absolutely looks and sounds the part of a young Peter, but there’s very little shown in terms of his range. It’s not entirely his fault, as the script only calls for him to tell jokes or act surprised in every scene. I do think he’ll grow into the role in the sequel and have a chance to play both a needy Peter Parker and a brave web-slinger. Michael Keaton is chewing the scenery in every scene he’s in. The movie is no worse for it. He’s a blast to watch and makes what should be a mediocre character arc, into a dynamic villain with a cause.
The biggest positive of Homecoming is that it’s fun. Young audiences will devour it and should. The humorous moments land and will have good playback. The negatives of this movie have to do with useless characters getting too much screen time (Michelle, Happy, Flash, etc) and that there is zero emotional weight to the experience.
Spider-Man is essentially a younger, lighter Batman. He’s a hero born out of tragedy, that happily takes on the mantle and has fun with it. Homecoming gets the fun part right, but leaves out any sort of gravitas. B-