June 30, 2017
When two studios join together to make a movie, the end result is always questionable. Too many cooks in the kitchen tend to make for a terrible meal. Rest assured, dear reader, that Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have prepared the most delicious of summer cinematic treats with their fun, effulgent, airy, and oh-so-scrumptious Jon Watts-directed Spider-Man: Homecoming. This is the Spider-Man movie audiences have wanted since Sam Raimi’s 2004 Spider-Man 2. Homecoming focuses on Peter Parker, a gifted high school kid struggling to find his way on the verge of becoming the web-slinging hero we’ve known since his first appearance in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15. Ladies and gentlemen, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back!
After the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns to his comparatively slow-paced life in Queens, New York, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and goes to Midtown High School with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). Peter spends his weekdays in school while spending nights and weekends roaming the streets of New York City as Spider-Man. This takes an enormous toll on Peter as he’s split between being the man he wants to be and the superhero he thinks he is. Meanwhile, in the background lurks Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a man ruined by superheroes who turned to a life of crime, salvaging scraps from Avenger’s battles across the globe to become one of the most sought-after weapons suppliers. As these weapons proliferate throughout the Five Burroughs, Peter decides to track down the supplier, pitting himself against a foe he’s not yet ready to face.
Audiences already have a sense of Holland’s ability to capture the essence of Peter Parker given his introduction in Civil War via Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. With Homecoming, Holland solidifies this, proving he’s more than capable of taking on the mantle of Spider-Man and of headlining his own film. Holland conveys the great joy Peter feels in being Spider-Man – whether stopping bike thieves or just giving directions – as well as the internal struggles that come from living a secret life.
Keaton is an actor who’s enjoying a wonderful resurgence lately, and he is fantastic in the role of Adrian Toomes. Not since Loki in Thor has there been such a fully-formed antagonist in the MCU. Toomes never feels like a larger-than-life character – a technique many of the actor’s playing villains use – but rather like a honest, real individual who, for the sake of his family, has been driven to a life he’d rather not be in. It’s the deep performance characterization lost to Spider-Man films since Thomas Haden Church played Spider-Man 3’s deeply tragic Sandman. A handful of wonderful actors bring to life some well-known and some lesser known characters from Spider-Man lore, but to reveal more would ruin many of the wonderful twisty surprises of Homecoming.
Homecoming is brimming with Easter eggs reminding audiences of stories past or hinting at stories to come – from 80s movie references to deep dives into the Spider-verse. And, just like in the source material, they’re all subtly woven into the fabric of the story instead of shouting “look at me! I’m a thing you should understand!” This suggests an increased maturity from both Sony and Marvel who both tend to lean toward waving their geekdom in front of audiences. Rather than disrupting the story for general audiences by pausing the narrative. Homecoming’s Easter eggs are largely subtle – but their brilliance is beyond description.
However, not everything is wine and roses in Homecoming. Though the story smartly doesn’t delve into Peter’s past – a story that’s been rehashed over-and-over in five other films – Homecoming feels a bit slow in the first part as it takes too much time setting up this world. It’s not boring, but it could be trimmed to increase the pace and get to the meat of the story faster. Additionally, while it’s wonderful not to have a large, exhaustive final act battle to contend with, the final battle does take place at night at which makes the action hard to follow. That said, the film ends beautifully.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an absolute delight. It mixes the discomfort of growing up with the joy inherent in the character of Spider-Man. It shrugs off saccharine teen drama for the MCU hijinks that make coming to their movies so much fun. Oh, and make sure you stay through the credits for what’s possibly the best stinger in all of the MCU. So rejoice, true believers, your favorite web-slinger is back!
Star Rating: 4 out of 5