For years, even decades, Marvel and Spider-Man fans wanted just one thing: our favorite webslinger to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well tonight, we got that, and the final product was a heartwarming, often hilarious, coming of age story that was worth the wait.
This is a Spoiler-Free Review, So Read On.
In an article I wrote earlier in the week, I posited that there were 6 things that needed to happen for Spider-Man to be great. The really great news is that a lot of those boxes got checked and overall, the movie was an excellent addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would be a huge crime if the powers that be at Sony and Marvel did not keep this collaboration going well into the future. They have a young star, an incredibly enthusiastic audience, and a pile of villains whose stories have not yet been told on film, so we don’t necessarily have to return to stories about the Green Goblin. So many tales left to tell in this version, and seemingly, a lot of years to tell them.
While not the origin story we are used to, Spider-Man: Homecoming is absolutely a story about a young man who is still brand new to the superhero game. Sure, he got a little on-the-job training in Captain America: Civil War, but he wasn’t really on his own while learning the ropes and unlike a lot of superheroes, Peter Parker is a sophomore in high school. As a twenty-two year high school teacher, I often tell people that the sophomore boy is the dumbest animal on the whole planet. Imagine finding out you have super powers while you are in a life stage where your brain doesn’t work properly. This movie really painted that reality. Peter is a kid, who was thrust into a very adult situation when he became the man of the house, at exactly the same time he found that he had the powers of a spider. Piece of cake, right? No, and Spider-Man: Homecoming was able to deliver on that very complicated package.
We’re on our third Peter Parker/Spider-Man combo in the last 15 years. (Has it really been that long since we first saw Tobey Maguire don the red and blue suit?) I enjoyed both of the previous incarnations of Spider-Man, but neither of the actors really nailed the Peter/Spidey character. Unlike Batman, who tends to change personas when he puts on the cape and cowl, Peter and Spidey are pretty much the same guy – the wise-cracking, nerdy, super genius. Tom Holland managed to get much closer to the Peter Parker that is the guy I always envision when I read the comics for years growing up. His portrayal was the single best part of the movie.
While on the subject of characters, Michael Keaton, who I think that in his earlier years was one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, really brought his A-game, proving yet again that he is one of the greats in the industry. In the comics, Adrian Toomes is an older character, who debuted in Spider-Man comics in 1963. His strength was his mechanical genius, and while the story of his bitterness changed this time around, Keaton was able to deliver perfectly, and was a joy to watch throughout. He was genius, he was bitter, he was a perfect kind of ruthless at times in a Walter White way, and every so often he showed that he had real humanity about the things that he placed value on. It’s one of the best villain performances in all of live-action superhero movies, right up there with the two guys that played Magneto and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
One of the other things that Spider-Man: Homecoming delivered unexpectedly was a few other familiar characters from earlier in the MCU. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Robert Downey Jr. appears as Tony Stark. He is classic Tony throughout, and we see just enough of him that he doesn’t take over the story. Not gonna lie, I was worried about that. I wanted a Spider-Man solo film, not an Avengers Lite. It is, in fact, the relationship that Peter and Tony have that allows for Iron Man to not have to play a major onscreen role in the film, and yet loom large throughout. Tony also brings with him some other recognizable characters for the MCU that were great to see again and add to the fun.
I have to admit, I had some trouble with Marissa Tomei’s Aunt May. Not because she is a poor actress. She most certainly is not, and I think she delivered incredibly well on a directorial vision that didn’t work for me. Because of those choices by Jon Watts, there were few moments of real connection and chemistry between Aunt May and Peter.
Finally, there is a new set of characters, mostly Pete’s friends from the nerd high school that he attends – Ned, Liz, Michelle, and a different version of Flash than we are used to. They provided a nice sense of camaraderie and were always there to add to the humor of the situation, and this movie was nothing if it wasn’t funny. I found myself laughing loudly and often. Sadly, there were some things that happened with these characters that really didn’t fit in with accepted Spider lore, and in some ways it detracted from the overall experience, and the anticipation of the future of the franchise. Minor details, but I am a Spider-Fan for over 4 decades.
The last installment of each of the previous two Spider franchises suffered from jamming too much stuff into the spider web. Too many villains, too many stories going on at once. It never allowed for real great character development in those two films. I was, of course, worried about that in this film. In the end, there were two stories going on in this film of any importance. It was Peter growing into his role as a superhero at age 15, and the story of Adrian Toomes, and how they intersect, and, boy, do they intersect. In fact, there is one twist that was so unexpected that the entire, full-house theater reacted audibly when it happened. It was safe to say that not a single person saw it coming, and when it happens, that is the moment that young Peter Parker becomes a hero.
At its core, this film is about Peter Parker, and on that mission it delivers delightfully. The story is written to take us from the point in the beginning (which was really way back in Civil War) when Pete was a star-struck kid, although no more star struck than Ant-Man when he first meets Captain America. Homecoming takes Pete through the problems with new found power and the desire to use it, all the way to the point where he is forced to stand on his own two feet and show who he is as a hero. I’m happy to report there are some really nice moments where Tom Holland and the creative staff really showcase what Spider-Man’s core values are.
Like every Marvel film, and as the past Spider-Man films got closer to 2017, the visuals were excellent. It was a treat to watch how well executed everything from Spidey webslinging to the high-tech stuff attached to Tony Stark was. It just keeps getting better, and cooler. There is most definitely some fuzzy science, but who cares? It is a comic book story after all. Forget Tony’s tech, the Vulture suit was incredible. Really cool, indeed.
One of my big, big, big concerns after watching the trailers was the high-tech Spidey suit. That isn’t Spidey’s duds, and I think maybe the film played to a place that makes a little sense for the story that is being told. We’ll see how it lands in the future, but I was pleased with how the suit played, and I am hopeful for the future.
As we were leaving the theater, my son said enthusiastically “Best Marvel film yet”. While it might take me a day or two to really be able to decide where I fall on that, I will say it is right there near the top. I find that I am enjoying the solo films better than those huge mega-team-up films where entire cities get destroyed from top to bottom. As far as Marvel films go, the destruction is kept to a minimum. Tom Holland did a really great job of bridging some of the gaps that were left in the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield films. For the most part, the new characters and the old delivered great, fun, endearing moments throughout.
+ Tom Holland makes a great Peter Parker. Perfect? No, but really great.
+ Michael Keaton, Michael Keaton, Michael Keaton.
+ A really nice story about a kid growing up in an impossible situation.
+Fun and funny, which Spider-Man has always been both to me.
– Jon Watts and his writers took some liberties that, as a long-time Spidey fan, I was not in love with.
– There were some on-screen relationships that lacked chemistry.
Liked this? Check out the additional Spider-Man coverage.
Pete Herr is The Grumpy Geek and The Geekiverse’s biggest Spidey fan (despite what Seth might think… Grumpy outweighs him by half a person, so he is, in fact, the biggest fan). Follow Pete on Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.
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