Comic book fans were all excited when Marvel Studios and Sony worked out a deal that would allow Spider-Man to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his cameo in Captain America: Civil War was certainly a highlight of that film, yet how well Sony and Marvel could work together to make a solo Spider-Man movie was still an unknown factor, but now we finally have that answer.
There is no Uncle Ben in this movie! Yeah, hip-hip-hooray! I’m about as sick of seeing and hearing about poor gunned down Uncle Ben as I am about Batman’s parents, we certainly don’t need another origin story for a character that has been around for decades and who has starred in numerous cartoons and five major motion pictures, so I was thrilled that Spider-Man: Homecoming not only doesn’t mention poor dead Uncle Ben get a mention but we also don’t even have wasted flashbacks to how he got his powers. This movie is an origin story but not one about how this kid got spider powers but how he becomes the hero we all know and love.
This is more of a coming of age story for a hero than your standard superhero film, he’s not a god or a high tech billionaire he’s just a high school kid with all the problems that entails, and because he’s just a kid he will make idiotic mistakes that due to him having super powers will have greater impact than if you or I made them. The film has a theme of “With great power comes great responsibilities” but it didn’t feel the need to have someone spell that out for us, director Jon Watts trusts his audience. Some may find that the film’s focus on Peter Parker and his personal problems outweighing the Spider-Man action moments to be a negative but I found it to be integral to creating a character that we can get behind and enjoy watching his growth as a hero.
The plot of Spider-Man Homecoming revolves around Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) trying to balance his school life with his superhero gig, and after getting a taste fighting alongside Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) he really wants to play with the big boys, but Tony Stark doesn’t think he’s quite ready so Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is assigned to keep tabs on the kid. Peter drops out of many of the school’s social clubs to focus on his “Stark Internship” but soon realizes that there isn’t much major league crime in Queens, bike theft is a crime yet not really something that requires the proportionate strength of a spider, and then he encounters a bunch of crooks breaking into a bank’s ATMs. These dudes are armed with some serious high tech weaponry and gives Spider-Man his first taste of collateral damage. Which brings us to this film’s main villain in the form of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) who eight years ago landed a lucrative contract to clean up the mess after the Battle of New York, the site is of course littered with Chitauri technology and so the government steps in stating that the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.) will now be taking over the cleanup. Toomes had over extended his credit to buy new trucks and hire a bigger crew so this is not good news for him, but during what work they did get done they had ended up with quite a bit of that Chitauri tech so instead of turning it in he and his crew began an arms dealing business specializing in super-weapons.
Marvel hasn’t had a great track record with villains in their cinematic universe, aside from Tom Hiddleston’s Loki they are mostly forgettable, but here we get a rather sympathetic who is not EVIL but just someone who is tired of the little guy always being stepped on. Him and his men need to put food on their tables and they believe that selling weapons to bad guys isn’t that far off from how Tony Stark made all his money. So you can easily imagine the progression of a guy breaking the law for what he believes to be a legitimate reason and how over eight years that would shift said person to becoming a little bit darker. Keaton isn’t playing a mustache twirling villain with a plot to take over the world, nor does he relish in killing like a certain Green Goblin, but when push comes to shove if you are in his way you will get hurt.
Meanwhile Peter has to deal with his crush on Liz (Laura Harrier) his fellow academic decathlon teammate, his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who discovers his secret identity, he must try and keep his being Spider-Man from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), he has to put up with bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) trying to make “Penis Parker” a thing, and then there is the snarky outsider Michelle (Zendaya) who really kind of keeps the two boys grounded. With all this and Happy Hogan not returning his calls poor Peter’s stress levels reach a new high, and that’s when mistakes are made and shit hits the fan.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a solid relaunching of a character that was almost destroyed by The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Tom Holland breaths fresh life into both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, here is a Spider-Man that not only shows fear but breaks down and cries, because he’s a kid for Christ’s sake. Even as he makes bad choices after bad choices Holland manages to keeps us on his side, we not only want him to succeed in defeating the Vulture (though technically he is never actually called The Vulture in this movie) but we also want him to go to the Homecoming dance with Liz. The choice to give us a young Peter Parker was a wise move as it grounds him better and harkens back to his early comic book roots.
This version is probably the best when it comes to the balance between how Peter Parker acts and functions in his life and the fun and quippy banter of his costumed alter ego, and basically the entire supporting cast make this corner of the MCU well worth visiting. If I have one quibble it is that I’m not sure if this version of Spider-Man has “Spidey-Sense” or if it does it’s not very effective. We get Spider-Man crawling into his bedroom without a single “tingle” of warning that his friend Ted is there.
• Betty Brant as high school news anchor was great.
• Web swinging through the suburbs is not very easy.
• Spider-Man’s costume has an A.I. voiced by Jennifer Connelly who is the wife of actor Paul Bettany who original voiced the Stark’s A.I.
• Tony Stark gave Peter Parker a suit that has kill settings. Yikes!
• Captain America provides brilliant PSAs.
• The film has tons of Easter Eggs hinting at things to come such as Miles Morales.
• Happy Hogan is bad at his job.
• The Shocker (Bookeem Woodbine) being a thug and not a primary villain was a good decision.
• The film uses iconic imagery from the classic issue of The Amazing Spider-Man #33