PG-13: Sci-fi action violence, some language, and brief suggestive comments.
Reviewed by: Benjamin Ferrarini
Spider-Man has had a rough go of it in his cinematic versions. Marvel sold the cinematic rights to Spider-Man in 1999 to Sony but it wasn’t until Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” in 2002 that Spidey got his big screen debut. Staring Toby Maguire “Spider-Man” faired well with critics garnering an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and went on to gross a little over $4 hundred million at the domestic box office. The sequel,“Spider-Man 2” released in 2004 is, prior to “Homecoming”, widely agreed to be the best entry in the franchise sitting at a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, after the fiasco that was “Spider-man 3” in 2007 Sony decided to reboot the franchise with a new director and new Spider-Man. In 2012 “The Amazing Spider-Man” premiered starring Andrew Garfield and directed by Marc Webb, who prior to this had been better known for his work on music videos for bands like Maroon 5 and Green Day. Webb’s follow up “Amazing Spider-Man 2” in 2014 struggled with critics and fans alike, criticized for being overloaded with villains, having a convoluted plot and it’s handling of Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. After “Amazing Spider-Man 2″ Sony was again faced with the prospect of rebooting their Spider-Man franchise. Then came word that Marvel and Sony had at long last worked out a deal to allow Spider-Man to appear in the MCU. This time the wall crawler was portrayed by Tom Holland appearing first in “Captain America Civil War”. The question everyone’s been asking is: can Holland carry a solo film? Can Spider-Man come home to the MCU so late in the game?
“Spider-Man Homecoming” acts almost as a sequel itself picking up right after “Civil War”. Tony Stark drops Peter off back home in Queen’s, New York with his high tech suit and the promise to lay low. This of course is easier said then done as Peter is still riding high from his experience in “Civil War” and desperately wants to rejoin the Avengers for another adventure. But, he tries to make due busting bike thieves and purse snatchers. This changes with the emergence of the Vulture, a villain in a winged suit that is stealing remnants of technology left by aliens and Ultron. He then uses that technology to create overpowered weapons he sells on the black market. Peter becomes determined to take Vulture down, but this is a young Spider-Man who doesn’t have a good handle on his powers or his new suit yet. All of this may make up the comic book plot of the film but it isn’t really what the film is about. “Homecoming”, like some of the other films in the MCU, is a grounded story set in everyday life. Peter Parker has always been one of the most normal characters on Marvel’s slate. A regular guy with regular problems who just happens to have super powers. “Homecoming” handles this aspect of Spider-Man better then the other films that came before it. There is nothing larger then life about Peter’s high school, where the biggest worries are talking to girls and dealing with a bully that likes to call him by an obscene nickname. This balance between Peter’s “real” life and his super heroics is what drives “Homecoming” and works well enough carry the film.
Tom Holland is my favorite Spider-Man thus far. His exuberant youthful take on the character works from his social awkwardness to his pubescent voice cracks. Holland sells this film’s take on a Peter Parker that is still struggling to come into his own. Holland is flanked by a strong diverse cast of supporting characters. Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) also does a great job pulling off an intimidating antagonist with just enough characterization to stand out in the catalog of MCU villains. “Homecoming” also features Robert Downy Jr. returning as Tony Stark. If, like me, you had any fears of Iron Man taking over what’s supposed to be a Spider-Man film, rest assured Stark is used sparingly and to good effect acting as a mentor for Peter.
Keaton’s Vulture may have a bit more character then the villains in some of the other Marvel films but only just a bit more. There is still more that could have been done with Vulture to build his motivation and personality. Keaton does a great job with the material he is given, it’s just a shame he wasn’t given more. Furthermore, it’s worth pointing out that six different writers worked on the screenplay for “Homecoming” at some point during the process. Showcasing the diversity in the writers, two worked on the 2011 film “Horrible Bosses” while two others are responsible for the new “Jumanji” reboot due out in December. For the most part all the different writers jive together but there certainly are some places with strange tonal shifts. The differences between the writing in the comical high school world and the super hero world are rather apparent. Juggling so many writers and the duality of Peter Parker’s world is no simple task; hence despite a misstep or two “Homecoming” works remarkably well.
“Homecoming” isn’t over loaded with action sequences but the few it does feature are well choreographed and shot highlighting Peter’s character and driving the plot forward. It also carries Marvel’s now trademark bright color pallet which matches the over all light tone.
Despite being absent from the first two phases of Marvel’s MCU Spiderman has received a proper homecoming with plenty of hope for his continued presents in Marvel’s unfolding plan.