Bolstered by the cinematic juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming spins a funny, well-written story that not only reboots the franchise, it provides some much needed perspective to the superhero genre.
Fresh off of his first big mission with Tony Stark, 15-year-old Peter Parker (and his fancy new Spider-suit) are ready to take Spider-Man to the big show. Despite his spider powers, web shooters, and the integral role he played in the Civil War battle, it seems like the Avengers are perfectly happy keeping Parker a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” But when the low-level criminals of New York start pulling jobs with incredibly advanced alien tech, Spidey sees his chance to prove to Tony that he’s ready to be an Avenger – at least after he finishes his homework.
Blessedly, Spider-Man: Homecoming is not an origin story. There is no spider bite in Oscorp, no awkward realization of his burgeoning powers, and no one named Ben gets murdered. We start well after Peter is established as Spider-Man, and because the first act of the film doesn’t have to devote time to an origin, more time is spent on action, humor, and character development – something that is unfortunately lacking in a lot of superhero films.
Director Jon Watts focuses on telling a local, character-driven story which leaves room for his characters to grow, to change, to evolve enough to give the audience an emotional stake in their success or failure. Tom Holland is fantastic as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man (something that previous portrayals have had trouble with), mixing the comic characters comedic snarkiness and intelligence in the perfect proportions to make him funny, as opposed to a jerk. Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is both terrifying and sympathetic. Even the secondary characters, from Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May to Jacob Batalon’s hilarious Spidey side-kick Ned are tons of fun to watch.
This is a huge point of progression for Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, as well, as his mentorship of Peter is a step toward a more grown-up, thoughtful Stark than we’ve yet seen. There’s even some great character development for Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, who plays the role of Peter’s “handler.”
Much of the time, the action scenes are fluid and well-paced, although the frenetic pace of some of the bigger battles can make things a bit difficult to follow. The CGI is excellent, and there are relatively few points where the characters feel unreal.
The film feels very reminiscent of the classic high school coming of age stories of John Hughes (think if Ferris Bueller spent his day off fighting crime instead of pretending to be the Sausage King of Chicago), having Peter struggling to find balance between his superhero and school lives and the pain of failing at both when he tries to take on too much. This tone feels incredibly well suited to this younger Spidey, and the mentor/mentee relationship between Parker and Stark feels genuine and, at times, it’s incredibly funny.
While there are a few pacing issues that slow the film down a bit around the middle, all-in-all Spider-Man: Homecoming is not just a great superhero movie, it marks what could be a distinct change in the genre – focusing on the smaller, more personal stories of heroes we all love.
Rated: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover,
Release Date: July 7, 2017
Runtime: 2h 13m
Post-Credits Scene: YES; one just after the animated credits and one after the full credits – both worth staying for