In 2016, thanks to an unprecedented deal between Marvel Studios and Sony, Spider-Man finally appeared in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film—Captain America: Civil War, for those who weren’t paying attention. Now, Sony and Marvel collaborate again with Spider-Man: Homecoming, a solo Spider-Man film that takes place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Does Homecoming break the current streak of awful Spider-Man films?
The film, directed by Jon Watts, takes place shortly after the events of Civil War, with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returning back to school after his adventure abroad with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of the Avengers. However, Peter is having a hard time adjusting back to his normal routine of going to high school and being Spider-Man after classes. He wants more from his superhero gig—he wants to play in the majors as an Avenger. Stark poo-poos this idea and tells Peter to stick to smaller level crimes and leave the big-time stuff to the professionals. Sticking to neighborhood crime, though, leads Peter into the path of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), AKA The Vulture, a former salvage contractor who was bumped out of the cleanup after the first Avengers film due to Tony Stark and a new government agency, Damage Control. Now Toomes salvages technology after super-people squabbles and creates weapons to sell on the black market. Peter decides he needs to take Toomes down. Meanwhile, he tries to deal with: his crush on Liz (Laura Harrier); school bully Flash (Tony Revolori); artistic weird girl, Michelle (Zendaya); Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) possibly finding out he’s Spider-Man; and preventing his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), from telling anyone and everyone Peter’s secret. Will Peter succeed in stopping Toomes and will he ever graduate to the big leagues and become a full-fledged Avenger?
Though Batman and Wolverine have been my two favorite superheroes since I was a teen, when I was much younger, Spider-Man was one of my favorites. The character still holds a special place in my heart, which is why every Spider-Man film that has been released to date has gutted me in some way. I never loved the Sam Raimi films, though I like half of the first one and admit that Spider-Man 2 is at least the best of the three—the less said about The Amazing Spider-Man films, the better. So, when I saw Marvel and Sony were rebooting Spider-Man again, I had to groan. So, I went into Homecoming with cautious optimism, as I liked Holland’s take on the character in Civil War, but I was afraid there might be too much Tony Stark. So, what was the end result?
I’m happy to report that Sony and Marvel have delivered, hands down, the best Spider-Man film. This film gets so much right about Spider-Man, it’s insane. First off, it’s a relief to have a story where the stakes are on such a small level. The majority of Spidey’s villains in the comics are simply outlandish bank robbers and in this film, the Vulture is not robbing banks, but he’s stealing things, not trying to destroy the city. The film is also super hilarious, which is what a Spider-Man film should be. There are plenty of great action scenes as well as emotionally-charged scenes of drama, but for the most part, this is a high school comedy and it’s one that works. I’m shocked that the script works so well since the film has six credited screenwriters. Usually, that’s a sign of a terrible movie, but Homecoming makes it work. Kudos to Watts for wrangling this thing together. Another aspect that the filmmakers got right is that there’s just enough Tony Stark in this film. His presence is felt throughout the film, but he never overshadows Spider-Man. When Stark is not onscreen, he’s adeptly represented by his right hand man, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who serves as a liaison for Peter Parker as he tries to impress Tony so that he’ll let him into the Avengers. I’ve always loved Happy in the Iron Man films and his presence here makes up for the fact that he was mostly relegated to a plot point and sidelined for Iron Man 3.
My biggest complaint with the film—and honestly, the film is so entertaining, it’s really just a quibble—is that I felt that Peter’s suit from Tony was a little too tricked out at times. I enjoyed the voice of “Karen” (Jennifer Connelly) interacting with Peter at points in the film, but it made it feel a bit too much like Iron Man in those moments and Spider-Man should be his own man. We’ll see how it goes in future films, but I’d like to see the filmmakers dial back the suit’s “techier” aspects in future films. Again, though, this complaint doesn’t lessen the entertainment value of this film in any way.
The cast is absolutely fantastic, with the biggest praise saved for Tom Holland and Michael Keaton. Holland is the best Peter Parker AND Spider-Man we’ve seen yet. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield seemed to get certain aspects of the character right in their past performances, but Holland is the total package. He’s also young enough that it’s believable that he could be a teenager in high school. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his take on the character in the future. Michael Keaton has been on a hot streak the last few years and that continues with his turn as the Vulture. When the biggest knock on the MCU is that the majority of their villains are weak, the Vulture is a breath of fresh air. He’s a villain with relatable motivations and that makes him infinitely more compelling. Batalon is great as Ned, who seems to be based on the comic book character Ganke Lee from Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man book featuring Miles Morales as the webslinger. Batalon has great chemistry with Holland and it’s totally believable that they could be best friends. In a film that is very funny overall, Batalon stands out, which is saying a lot. I really like Tomei as Aunt May too. It’s taken some time to adjust to “young and hot” Aunt May, but it’s an interesting approach to the character that works. Zendaya is also great as Michelle, who is a little mysterious, but is always ready to take the piss out of Ned and Peter while at school. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of her in the sequel and how her friendship with Peter develops. Revolori also does well as Flash, proving that asshole bullies don’t always need to be jocks. And finally, Downey brings his usual charm to Tony Stark. I wasn’t completely sold on pairing Tony and Peter together, but it works and like I said, he doesn’t overshadow the hero at all.
There’s a lot more praise I could heap on Spider-Man: Homecoming, but I don’t want to give away all the humor and surprises that pop up throughout. Just know that it’s not only the best Spider-Man film yet, but it’s also one of the best MCU films—Top 5 at the absolute worst—and that’s an honor that Spider-Man deserves. Be sure to stay through all the credits for the requisite post-credits scenes. The first is a nice epilogue to the film, while the second is flat-out hilarious. See this movie, post haste.