Back in the summer of 2014, when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was panned by many, critics and fans alike, talk began to circulate about what would be next for the wall crawler on the silver screen. Thanks to the Sony hack later that year, fans of SPider-Man, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, were teased with possibility of the friendly neighborhood hero, finally making his way truly home. Now, after only a brief introduction in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man has his first solo film in the MCU, and this third incarnation of Peter Parker, feels like the truest version of the character on the big screen.
Spider-Man: Homecoming, a fitting title for his true debut in the MCU, takes Peter Parker back once again to high school, the same place the previous films have started, though this time everything feels different, it feels like he is truly in high school. Where the other films set Peter as a senior, on the cusp of graduating, Homecoming is set when Peter is just 15, though he exhibits all of his trademark smarts, and scientific prowess that other version never really captured. These traits are as essential to the character as the Uncle Ben, the spider bite, and famous “Parker Luck.” In this film the high school stuff is as important as the superhero stuff, because Peter balancing real life with his dreams of being an Avenger, is what is going to allow the character to grow. He has friends here, and not just the same Mary Jane and Harry Osborn, but a group that makes it feel like he actually belongs in the school, not just surrounded by extras who never interact with him. The friends are some of the better aspects of the film too, Ned Leeds, who really is just the film adaptation of Ganke Lee, Miles Morales’ Lego loving friend from Marvel’s Ultimate Universe line of comics, is funny, just as awkward as Peter, and every bit the perfect companion for this universe’s version of Spider-Man. The dynamic between Peter and Ned is portrayed like any normal friendship, which when set against the larger issues in the film, enhances the story.
While many criticize Marvel movies for their cookie cutter formula, you would almost have to agree that by and large it works. Homecoming isn’t really that different, and while thankfully a true origin story is skipped, the film does share some of that same Marvel formula that made millions for lesser characters like Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange. While a good majority of the film takes place in Peter’s day to day as a high school student, the larger threat takes shape, with the Vulture serving as the film’s big bad guy. The film does a great job with grounding(no pun intended) Adrian Toomes, and making him one of the better villains present in the MCU. The film actually begins with his backstory, a normal city contractor whose livelihood is taken away by Tony Stark, and the debut of the clean up crew from the comics, Damage Control. The idea that a regular working class guy, being pushed around by a billionaire like Tony, and by the government taking his job, would then turn to crime to provide for his family, is one that makes a lot of sense. While not everyone in his position would choose that route, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, and in this universe, it won’t be last. Vulture throughout the film actually makes valid arguments as to why he believes what he is doing is right, and the character is better off for it. Other smaller, though still notable villains from the comics are present, including the Shocker, and The Tinkerer, though thankfully the film is never overloaded with foes for the hero.
Part of what makes the film as good as it is, is the cast they have assembled. Tom Holland is already the best all around movie version of Spider-Man, thanks in no small part to his phenomenal performance. Where previous actors in the role excelled in only one facet of the dual identity, Holland perfectly captures the essence of Peter Parker, make him relatable, awkward, and smart, and conveys all of the elements needed to bring to life the character. However when he puts on the mask and web shooters, he takes on the fun, quippy, and brash persona that Spider-Man has always had. He drops the meekness for confidence, but still feels like it is the same person doing these incredible things, which is what was always so endearing about Spider-Man. The perfect dichotomy also makes all of the action scenes stand out, as they truly embody what Spider-Man looks like when zipping around, and shooting webs. Holland isn’t the only one though playing a convincing high school student, as Jacob Batalon’s Ned is exactly what a film like this needed to shine. The trailers have shown off that he knows about Peter, and the manner in which he handles the information is great, because he is every bit the awkward kid that Pete is, though has a much harder time finding out his best friend is a hero, than his friend did at actually becoming. The two actors also play so well off of each other, and have already built a convincing friendship, that hopefully isn’t strained too much in future adventures.
As mentioned, the Vulture is one of the better villains Marvel has put on-screen, and Michael Keaton’s portrayal is a huge reason why. The actor brings a lot to the role, and given how they chose to adapt the character, Keaton serves as the perfect actor to bring him to life. As the film progresses, Keaton brings more and more out of the character, and helps craft some really tense moments in the films latter half. The rest of the film’s supporting cast are all good, though are given considerably less to do, with characters like Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May, Laura Harrier’s Liz, Tony Revolori’s Flash, and Zendaya’s Michelle, all having memorable moments, though do not do much to enhance the film the others do. While the trailers played up his role Robert Downey Jr, and Jon Favreau, thankfully are not in the film a great deal, and while Tony Stark and Happy Hogan are welcome additions to the story, if thankfully never turns into a full team up movie, nor does it feel more like an Iron Man film than a Spider-Man one.
With so much hype leading up to the film, given the character’s previous appearance in the MCU, Homecoming convincingly crafts a John Hughes-esque high school film, ands sets it against the larger backdrop of the world that Marvel has been creating. The big action elements mix so well with the smaller moments in the film, making it a small-scale contained story, while also picking the right time, and the right way, to incorporate the larger Marvel Universe. The film isn’t without criticisms, and there are a few fan service moments that fall flatter than intended, but overall Spider-Man: Homecoming, is one of not just the best Spider-Man films, but also one of the better MCU films as well.