Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Abraham Attah, Hannibal Buress
If you think three different iterations of Spider-Man within a ten-year period were too many, you may be right. I present to you Spider-Man: Homecoming, which may change your mind a bit after the disappointing Amazing Spider-Man movies. We were first introduced to actor Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man last year in Captain America: Civil War. Homecoming opens in the aftermath of the first Avengers movie with Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes collecting various alien debris that was left in the path of destruction. Eight years pass and we see him having fully constructed a variety of weapons powerful enough to cause serious harm to the city. He’s also created a suit for himself giving him the ability to fly. As his alter ego Vulture, he’s the token villain this time around.
The present day scenes are in the days following the confrontation in Civil War. There’s a fun scene where Peter is watching a video he shot of that big fight. It’s all very meta and self-aware. That’s one of the tonal differences you’ll find with this Spider-Man versus the others. Tom Holland looks more like the high schooler he’s actually playing unlike Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. Peter is itching to become an official Avenger and has been working undercover with Tony Stark as part of the Stark “internship program.” At school, he’s a complete nerd often getting picked on as part of the school’s quiz bowl team. He’s determined to keep his other identity a secret, and it’s even worse when best friend Ned (Batalon) finds out that he’s Spider-Man. When Vulture’s weapons start appearing on the black market, Peter gets a little too carried away with his newfound abilities and desire to protect the citizens of New York.
You may be asking yourself why we’re seeing a third Spider-Man. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes legal shenanigans that had to happen as the character was owned by Sony despite Disney owning Marvel. Marvel president Kevin Feige had to pull some legal strings to get the character back to where he belonged. It should be noted that while this is the first full-length movie we’ve seen with Tom Holland as Peter Parker, this is not an origins story. The audience is well aware by now that a radioactive spider bit Peter, so the writers know they can save time and skip over rehashing that part of the story.
I was bit cautious as I didn’t think there was a need for more Spidey movies, but Homecoming has changed my mind. Marvel is continuing to cross genre lines as they did with Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool. We may think of these movies as action-filled superhero movies, but Marvel continues to pump as much comedy in them as possible. This take on Spider-Man is vastly different than the other two series. The six member writing team and director Jon Watts have used the old John Hughes comedies from the 1980s as their guide. Many of the film’s scenes are set within the walls of Peter Parker’s high school. The execution of the high school life feels tangible and realistic. Homecoming aptly brings a welcome diversity its cast of characters, which would be found in this kind of high school. We see some of Peter’s friends prepping for the homecoming dance and there’s talk of whom Peter will take as his date. This is also extended to one of the major action scenes taking place at the quiz bowl competition location.
Due to the extremely youthful presence of the film’s setting, one could see this as Marvel-lite. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It still feels like a Marvel movie, but it’s by far the most kid-friendly we’ve seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Holland brings an energetic vibe to Peter. Sometimes the character’s been too morose in the past dealing with the death of Uncle Ben. That’s another storyline that has been sidestepped in this movie. Holland’s Peter is just so excited about saving the day and becoming an official Avenger. Many kids will be able to relate to what he brings to the character. Going toe-to-toe with Holland is Michael Keaton as Vulture. He’s practically done a 180 in his career as he gained notoriety for playing the hero in Batman, and in Birdman he played an actor who once played a superhero. Keaton brings his lavish and erratic style to Vulture in that quintessential Keaton way that we have come to love and respect him for. Vulture’s a great villain, and Keaton makes him one of the best we’ve seen in a Spider-Man movie. The rest of the cast includes a delightfully oblivious Aunt May (Tomei), Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, and Jon Favreau as Stark’s main guy Happy who has to be in charge of Peter Parker.
It’s refreshing to see an age-appropriate actor like Tom Holland play Peter. There’s an attitude toward Peter when he’s told “You’re too young to understand.” It takes him some time to realize that there’s more to being a hero than wearing a suit. These scenes between Tony and Peter and the connection between Peter and his friends give the film heart. Director Jon Watts is better with these moments than action sequences, which feel a bit sloppy and poorly constructed compared to others we’ve seen from Marvel. The studio likes to take chances on aspiring directors, and this is Watts’ largest film to date. Homecoming may not be my favorite from Marvel, but Holland has made a lasting impression as the character. He’ll be a great addition to the upcoming Avengers movies.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Tom Holland makes this a surprisingly welcome return to the world of Spidey.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS