Published on July 7th, 2017 | by Dan Nicholls0
We’ve finally gotten around origin-it is to see a fantastic Spider-man story. Tom Holland seems like he was born to wear the blue and reds.
You ever heard of a young man named Tom Holland before? You’re not going to forget it now: Marvel Comics’ Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter ego have been reborn in a very big way with the excellent Spider-Man: Homecoming. Holland in the lead role is so good you’ll almost wish we hadn’t had that awkward Andrew Garfield period and had just gone straight to the good stuff. Never before has a superhero faced such turmoil in sticking a big screen landing but Spidey’s time has finally come. He just might be a brand new hero for the ages.
But as we all know, this isn’t exactly a “brand new” story. The filmmakers are aware of this as well and cleverly subvert expectations by trusting the audience to dive right into the action with them. By skirting typical exposition of Peter Parker’s life up to now we get a chance to actually spend some time with the character when he’s in a good place. Gone is the sorrow of watching Uncle Ben die, and a radioactive spider is mentioned once but never seen. After all these years we know all of this anyway so why not get right into the fun? The only bit of backstory we get on this particular iteration of Peter Parker is a fun vlog “shot by Peter” during the events of Captain America: Civil War.
The biggest news with this Spidey is, of course, that it’s his first solo feature in the humongous Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Sony pumped out Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy they also took a couple swings at the reboot bat with The Amazing Spider-Man. That Andrew Garfield-led duology crashed and burned so bad that a future with our favorite webslinger was completely uncertain. But Marvel has the Midas touch, see, and it only serves everyone’s best interests to get this iconic character playing in the same sandbox as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk.
But fear not — this isn’t just another piece of connective tissue leading to the Marvel Mash against Thanos; this is first and foremost a Peter Parker tale and that viewpoint is never forgotten about for any real stretches of time. Homecoming has the look and feel of your typical MCU flick but it marches to a different beat. It’s alt-MCU, in a weird way. But it all completely works in a way that makes the setup feel fresh. You genuinely invest in these characters — even most of Peter’s classmates — and while the stakes are low, emotionally they are high. This all climaxes in perhaps one of the strongest, most genuine superhero moments ever shown in any of these movies.
Our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man spends the start of the movie being just that — a neighborhood helper looking out for the fine citizens of Queens. But His taste of the big leagues that he got fighting with the Avengers has given him a hunger for bigger things. Peter goes out looking for trouble, basically, and runs afoul of a crew run by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton).
Toomes’ crew used to be maintenance workers cleaning up industrial messes, including some big contracts in New York following the events of 2012’s The Avengers. A prologue scene explains how Tony Stark took over with his own AI cleanup crew, leaving Toomes out of work. So all that alien technology and machinery they’ve worked so hard to clean up gets repurposed for sale on the black market. The man’s got a family to provide for and there’s always customers for weapons in America, so it’s a natural fit.
Some of the weaponry has been refitted into a winged suit that flies and claws like a bird – enter The Vulture, Toomes’ villainous alter ego. As Peter attempts to navigate adolescent crushes, school responsibilities, and being a good surrogate son for his Aunt May (an excellent and underutilized Marisa Tomei), The Vulture constantly circles over his head, taunting him to suit up and prove that he’s worthy of being the next Avenger.
Out of all the supporting characters, Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and classmate Liz (Laura Harrier) are the most impactful. Batalon in particular takes what could’ve just been a requisite “computer nerd” role and fills it with warmth and humanity. You leave the movie wanting a friendship like Peter and Ned’s. Some quick turns from comedic players Hannibal Buress, Donald Glover, and Martin Starr also help contribute to the film’s overall air of levity.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a standout superhero movie not just because of the expected expensive setpieces that are exciting and technically accomplished — it wears its heart on its sleeve and makes you care more than almost any other recent comic book movie has. We want to see Spider-Man defeat The Vulture just as much as we want to see Peter Parker get the girl and be a hero to his teenage peers. A lot of people might call it a “John Hughes superhero movie” but it isn’t exactly that. It’s somehow warmer, more comforting. Parts of Homecoming make you want to wrap the movie around you like a warm safety blanket. The film as a whole makes you want to leave the theater and get back in line just to see it again.
Director Jon Watts has only made one other feature – the independent drama Cop Car starring Kevin Bacon (which is quite good). The Marvel movies are really showcases for the Producer Power behind the scenes, bringing in unimaginable talents together and crafting products that are slick and shiny that audiences want to buy. As a result there aren’t any real auteuristic flourishes from the director or any particularly noteworthy mise-en-scene. Watts gets the job done and gets some fantastic performances out of his actors — one can easily imagine him working well in this universe on future sequels, if the backend deal making shakes out that way.
The script has six (!) credited screenwriters but the story doesn’t feel disjointed or bloated in any way. Catharsis is set up and paid off on almost every level, which means overall audience dissatisfaction is highly unlikely. Spider-Man: Homecoming has got the goods and its charms are going to make it one that can be revisited multiple times over the years.
You’d have to house a pretty cold heart if you don’t fall for this one. For the Marvel fans out there, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a supremely successful step in the right direction that’s going to instill confidence. We liked the taste we got in Civil War, but this is a full meal deal. This Spider-Man spins a web you’d be happy to get stuck in.