Coming to the second reboot and our third Spider-Man in the last decade or so, there’s a risk of fatigue with Spider-Man: Homecoming. How will Tom Holland perform in the shadows of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield? Did we really need another Spider-Man movie? The answers are great and yes, respectively. With Marvel, Spider-Man is back where he belongs.
(Mild, trailer-grade spoilers are included)
Homecoming has a hell of a lot of charm to it. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun, incredibly funny and very well-paced, with each act feeling suitably distinctive. The decision to focus on high school as a part of the story instead of just as a location gives the movie a slightly different feel to the rest of the Spider-movies, as well as the MCU, and is one of Homecoming‘s strongest aspects. It’s got all the familiar ingredients to every good high school movie, the classes and the parties and the generally awkward teenage experience as a whole. It’s like taking a John Hughes set-up and then plopping Spider-Man right in the middle.
It’s this aspect that makes Spider-Man feel distinct as a character within the Marvel universe and what makes him so appealing. Peter may have a superpowers and be a genius in his own right, but he’s the most normal character we’ve met in the MCU so far. We may love characters the Avengers, but they’re not easy to relate to. How many people go through the Tony Stark experience? The closest we’ve had is Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, but even still his experience is quite specific. Here, almost anyone can see themselves in Peter.
This is the youngest Spider-Man has ever felt and it gives him some great direction for development within the movie. His youth is a clear part of his character arc, in both his actions and the way he sees the world, specifically the Avengers. He’s inspired in the way a teenager can be, but he’s far from infallible and we see how much he still has to learn. By remembering that high school is a very real part of Peter’s life that he can’t ignore, some of Homecoming‘s most surprisingly strong moments come from the inevitable push and pull of Peter’s double life.
None of this would work without Tom Holland, who absolutely deserves to be the star of this movie. Holland is simply terrific as Peter Parker and Spider-Man, believable as both awkward teenager and aspiring superhero and the eventual bleed between the two. It’s inevitable that the core cast of the Avengers will one day change, most likely with the upcoming Infinity War. While Robert Downey Jr has been the clear focus character of the MCU so far, Holland seems more than capable of picking up that mantle in a post-Infinity War world.
The supporting cast is also deserve some love. Surrounding Peter with big characters to bounce off is a great move and Jacob Batalon as best friend Ned does a particularly great job, both as comic relief and as a way to ground Peter to his normal life. Having Jon Favreau back as Happy Hogan makes for some solid comedy, along with some great comedic actors like Donald Glover and Martin Starr. There were a lot of fears that Downey Jr’s Iron Man would overshadow Peter in his own movie, but fortunately that doesn’t happen. Tony Stark is in the movie just enough to serve Peter’s story, not his own.
Marvel has always done better with its heroes than its villains in the MCU, but Michael Keaton’s Vulture is a solid exception. The character’s introduction is brief but effective, establishing his motivation and goals clearly and believably without slowing the film down. Like Peter, he’s a character that’s easier to connect to than the larger-than-life villains we’ve seen before and, on top of that, Keaton really digs his teeth into the role and gives one of the best performances of all the Marvel villains so far.
I complained before seeing Homecoming that the trailers seemingly spoiled a lot of the major plot points, which is an unfortunate trend in the film industry right now. Even the fantastic Captain America: Civil War arguably had the same issue, but but there are still some really great moments in the movie that came as a surprise. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a great entry in the Marvel universe, but it’s also a strong-coming of age story and an excellent Spider-Man film.
It also has my hands-down favourite post-credits sequence in the MCU so far. Stay to the end.
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