Since he made his first appearance in ‘Amazing Fantasy’ #15, Marvel Comics has been utilizing words like “amazing” and “spectacular” to describe their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. However, when it comes to his live-action feature films, the web-slinger’s last few solo movies have been anything but since they ranged from terrible to meh to pretty forgettable. But things started to change in 2015 when Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios announced an unprecedented agreement that would see them join forces to co-produce Spidey’s next project. On top of that, Peter Parker and his wall-crawling alter ego would be integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe to join the likes of Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Though we may have gotten a small taste in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ last year, True Believers can finally see the iconic hero right where he has always belonged in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’. And let me tell you, it was most certainly worth the wait.
Months after standing alongside Tony Stark in an epic superhuman showdown against Steve Rogers and his Secret Avengers, generally awkward and super intelligent teenager Peter Parker strives to balance his life as a high school student in Queens while fighting crime throughout New York City as the sensational Spider-Man. But with his mentor keeping him at an arm’s length from the major fights that he craves, Peter is determined to prove that he’s ready to be an Avenger, even if that means getting in way over his head with a supervillain armed to the teeth (or in this case, armed to the wings) with weapons made from advanced alien technology.
With so many places to start when discussing the Phase Three Film from relatively new director Jon Watts, we might as well start with one of the biggest concerns that many fans expressed once details regarding ‘Homecoming’ first came out. When news broke that Robert Downey Jr. would be a part of Spidey’s first solo movie in the MCU, many thought that Iron Man would steal the show. Cries of “Oh, I guess it’s ‘Iron Man 4’ then?” were certainly heard in many circles as soon as the trailers and other promotional material finally started to roll out. But the thing is that this is very much Spider-Man’s movie with its own unique feel that mixes ‘Iron Man’ with ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’, and ‘Superbad’.
A case could also be made that there are many parallels between this tale and the 2008 Jon Favreau film that spawned the MCU. One might even say it brings everything full circle for Stark as he lends a helping hand to the next generation of hero. But what does not happen is that Iron Man doesn’t just swoop in all the time for no reason. Each time we see the Armored Avenger, there’s a very good narrative reason for his presence. The team of writers that included Watts, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers made sure that Tony’s presence wasn’t just a recognizable name and a beloved character used as a crutch for Spidey to lean on. This was completely Peter’s story and it just so happened to include some people that we’ve seen before in this universe. I mean, after ‘Civil War’ it’s completely feasible and totally expected that Tony Stark is a player in Parker’s next big adventure. Luckily, it just wasn’t overdone, which isn’t always the case with movies like this.
Another element of the script that deserves some praise is how small this reboot felt. Similar to any of Marvel’s Netflix shows like ‘Daredevil’ or ‘Luke Cage’, ‘Homecoming was very street-level. Instead of dealing with large-scale foes, this Spidey focused very much on his own corner of this vast cinematic universe. While he did travel to Washington DC at one point, Spidey always had his eyes on local villains that threatened his neighborhood’s safety. Despite being a big budget endeavor from two major studios that stars arguably one of the most popular literary characters of all time, ‘Homecoming’ was much more intimate than expected, which is a challenge all in itself considering how large summer movies or superhero movies tend to be.
Speaking of the villains, Michael Keaton’s Vulture stands out as one of the best parts of the movie. When looking back at the hero’s legendary rogues gallery that has already appeared on the big screen, I don’t think that anyone would have guessed that Adrian Toomes would be one of the most awesome ones. Vulture is right up there with Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus as one of the best because the former Batman makes him incredibly menacing while the audience still empathizes with him a bit.
Similar to the approach to Spider-Man, the changes made to Tommes are much more poignant and modern as opposed to his classic origin that saw him as essentially an eccentric millionaire with an obsession with staying young. Instead, he’s a blue collar guy that works hard to support his family in a world where guys like Tony Stark are more likely to succeed than he is. It’s classic little guy vs. big business, but then it’s amplified even further by each new bit of information that we learn about Vulture throughout the film. At one point, I even found my previous knowledge of the character used against me as I didn’t see an extremely unexpected and well-crafted twist coming. When changes are made to a character during the transition from the page to the screen, one can only hope that they turn out as good as Keaton’s wild winged warrior.
Keaton wasn’t the only standout in the cast. Aside from RDJ and Tom Holland, there were so many memorable actors and actresses like Hannibal Buress, Martin Starr, Tony Revolori, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, and Zendaya. Each one of them stood out in a number of ways. For instance, Revolori’s Flash Thompson was modernized to reflect what bullies are more like today. Bullies aren’t always the star football player anymore. Sometimes they’re just douchebags with rich dads. Batalon’s Ned Leeds was simply a joy every time he appeared on screen. He’s a big guy with an infectiously big smile and an even bigger heart for his friends. And Zendaya’s Michelle added a vibe similar to Allison Reynolds of ‘The Breakfast Club’ or Lindsay Weir from ‘Freaks and Geeks’ that simultaneously brought a great perspective to the events taking place while taking the wind out of someone’s sails when need be. However, the one thing that I disliked about the movie is related to her.
This paragraph contains a SPOILER, so if you don’t want to have anything SPOILED for you before seeing the movie, then I suggest skipping this paragraph. Anyway, it’s true that Zendaya doesn’t play Peter’s most well-known love interest Mary Jane Watson. However, at the end of the movie, Michelle says that her friends call her MJ. To be blunt, this is bullshit. Either make her Mary Jane or don’t. Instead, everyone involved makes such a big deal about her not being that character while covering up the fact that that Easter egg exists. Just like it was super dumb for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ to be called Robin at the end, Zendaya’s Michelle did not need to be MJ. She’s clearly a completely different character and the filmmakers throwing that in as a wink to the audience was more like a middle finger. Seriously, amidst the tight script, fun action, solid performances, sarcastic Spidey quips, and stellar score, this was literally the only part of the movie that annoyed me.
With so many positive things to say about ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, there’s only one word that we can end this review on and that’s “finally”. We FINALLY have a live-action Spider-Man as he should be. A Spider-Man movie was FINALLY able to move past another retelling of his origin story and give us something new and original that felt very authentic to today’s teenage experience while still remaining relatable to the audience no matter their age. And after all these years, we FINALLY have a Spider-Man movie that’s just as good if not better than ‘Spider-Man 2’. You’re definitely going to want to swing by your local theater to catch it as soon as it comes out.
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Martin Starr, Logan Marshall-Green, Donald Glover, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Angourie Rice, Tyron Woodley, and Robert Downey Jr. hits theaters on July 7, 2017.