In early 2015, much to fans’ surprise and excitement, Sony and Marvel announced a joint partnership that would lead to a rebooted Spider-Man appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2016, fans got their first look at the third actor in nine years to play the web-slinger, with a memorable introduction to Tom Holland in Captain America: Civil War. Holland was a standout to many in that film and fans couldn’t wait to see him star in Peter Parker’s first solo adventure in the MCU. The Spider-Man: Homecoming title serves as a double entendre because the film features an end-of-school homecoming dance, but is also a celebration of a beloved character joining a universe that’s been sorely missing him for a long time.
Homecoming achieves something the Marvel Universe struggles with a lot — a good villain. Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (The Vulture) is introduced very early in the film and quickly becomes one of its strongest elements. Toomes is an ex-construction worker who just wants to be able to provide for his family and begins selling illegal weapons and stealing parts to make his high-powered guns. Unlike other MCU antagonists, he’s small scale. This is a villain who isn’t trying to take over the world or cosmos like Loki, nor is he even trying to be as big as Wilson Fisk from Marvel’s Daredevil TV series. He simply wants to provide a good life for his family. His methods are as flawed as his character, but he is compelling and somewhat relatable.
After Peter Parker’s epic excursion to help Tony Stark rein in Captain America in Civil War, he returns home to a less than exciting couple of months. Stark places Happy Hogan as Peter’s handler, as he’s left to deal with petty neighbourhood crimes, and even just helping old ladies cross the street. After having a taste of the more exciting side of crime-fighting, Peter desires something more. When he finds two of Toomes goons selling his high-powered arsenal of weapons, he think’s he has finally found his chance to prove his worth to Tony Stark.
This Spider-Man film is the first to really nail the high-school aspect and some of that is simply down to the casting. Tobey Maguire never seemed like a kid and neither did Andrew Garfield. Tom Holland, however, was only 17 - 18 when they shot the film and the rest of the cast are also young enough to sell the teen drama. Tom Holland is the best Peter Parker we’ve had on film. He is the embodiment of the fun-loving, and at times naive, kid that comic fans have wanted for such a long time.
Having said all that, this Spider-Man film and Tom Holland's Peter Parker miss something important the last two films got right — a disaster. There is no big Uncle Ben dying shocker moment that helps shape Peter’s character. From the word “go”, he’s just ready to:
a) join the Avengers;
b) impress Tony Stark; and
c) get the girl he has the hots for.
Peter, until the last third of the film never seems to grasp the more serious nature of what he’s gotten himself into, or even the more serious side of what the rest of the superheroes out there like Iron Man have endured.
Keaton picks up the drama of the film and he is fantastic. He plays his role seriously and isn’t trying to ham it up to be silly. After doing Birdman and portraying Batman previously, I was worried he’d do a half-assed job, to be honest, but he is brilliant.
About the girl(s) in Spider-Man: Homecoming: Peter’s love interest is Liz, played by Laura Harrier, the captain of the school's trivia team, which relies on Peter as its star quarterback. The other girl in Peter’s trivia team is Michelle, played by Zendaya, who serves as this odd character in the background of a lot of scenes and never really has much significance until the end of the film. The writers of Homecoming make some really odd choices with these two characters and both ended up feeling wasted. Marisa Tomei’s May Parker is a fantastic loving and hippy-inspired, cool aunt. However, all the “Aunt May is hot” jokes started to run thin on me very quickly.
The supporting cast is great for the most part though - even if the two aforementioned characters seemed wasted, the two actors do a fantastic job with what they have been given. Jacob Batalon is a standout as Ned, Peter's best friend and probably featured in one of the films most meme-worthy moments. Robert Downey Jr is used — thankfully — sparingly throughout, and his presence always makes sense. Jon Favreau gets a lot of screen time as Happy, which is fantastic. Bokeem Woodbine is great and will hopefully return in a sequel and Donald Glover is used in two scenes to great effect - I hope we can see more of him in a sequel as well.
Spider-Man: Homecoming plays out a lot more like an animated series episode than any of the previous films, and it seems a lot more like it was pulled from the web of the Ultimate universe of Spider-Man comics. It’s the most teen high-school realistic that the franchise has felt, with a cast that actually seems like kids who fit their parts. But the fun teen vibe of the film can, at times, play against the film's strongest element, which is Keaton's Vulture. In one of the film’s best scenes, it tries to build an incredible tension between Peter and Toomes, but it adds some physical comedy, perhaps to provide some levity. I have no idea why they made this decision, as the scene would have been amazing if it tried to have kids sink into their seats scared and fearing with Peter, but instead, it made half my cinema begin to laugh, ruining the moment completely.
Director Jon Watts has put together a very colourful Spider-Man film and makes great use of not only the actors but the great costume design from Louise Frogley as well. Watts holds a lot of shots or uses tracking shots, which lets Holland, in particular, shine from his physical performance.
Here’s the thing: if you didn’t like any of the previous Spider-Man films, or you were feeling burned out after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — I don’t think this is going to help you come around. If you’re burned out of origin story type stuff, this probably won’t do much for you either. This is a Spider-Man film that gets Peter Parker right finally but misses a lot of the building for Spider-Man that previous films had done right. Between Holland and Keaton alone though, you have a film worthy of your time. If you loved Holland’s time in Civil War, you’re going to love him just as much here and I can’t wait to see more of him.