Spider-Man has indeed come home.
After helping out Tony Stark during his little disagreement with Captain America, Peter Parker finds himself unwanted by the Avengers initiative and proceeds to try and make a name for himself. But he quickly finds himself in over his head when a mercenary group starts stealing dangerous artifacts and weapons from Avenger battle sites, and his Spider-Man persona starts to interfere with his normal life.
There’s a degree of atrophy associated with the Spider-Man franchise; this is the sixth movie since only 2002 and the third re-envisioning of the character. With Sony Entertainment keeping the rights to the character and brazenly running them into the ground, fans have demanded for years that the property return to Marvel Studios. Spider-Man: Homecoming has been a certainty since Tom Holland took up the mantle briefly in Captain America: Civil War in 2016. He was, frankly, the best part of that ramshackle experience, albeit rather expendable.
So does Homecoming warrant its deliberate title and stand tall like how Batman Begins followed Batman and Robin? Or does it still suffer as “too little too late”?
Really, asides some narrowly avoided cliches and minor oversights, it is a change of perspective and pace that is extremely required at this stage of the MCU. It was a lot of fun.
Tom Holland is still excellent in the role as a physically capable but inexperienced hero. The film relishes in showing our blue-and-red Spidey falling over, wildly scrambling and struggling to cope with dangers more grounded to reality (not a clone army of robots, or aliens from space, or a living planet). All of this while not being “the Spider-Man origin story” again. There’s not enough thanks in the world to show how grateful I am that we don’t get that again, not even in a flashback or even as a narrative device! Hallelujah!
While the movie is inherently a high school movie (yes, I’m sure some fans are moaning) it is still refreshing to see the setting and even the cliche within the MCU. The MCU is playing around now with references not seen before. Classroom teaching videos starring Captain America? That’s a pretty novel way of using Marvel’s boy scout.
Tony Stark and his assistant Happy Hogan feature, but no more than they have to (this interpretation of Spidey does owe a lot to Stark, post-Civil War) and they provide good character motivation for the young hero.
Perhaps my favourite part of the film is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes (Vulture, although the film mercifully spares dropping the name) a great MCU villain! With the film’s more grounded approach, Keaton is the actor you want for a role that isn’t so black and white, an antagonist with something to lose. I am so grateful his character wasn’t thrown to the winds like 90% of the MCU villains. Loved the character design too, very cool – and again, grounded in reality. If it weren’t for this, I’d probably rate the film a lot lower.
The High School setting of the movie also balances the MCU’s lighter, comedic edge far better than most of the MCU already seen (I am looking at you, Doctor Strange) it feels natural and befitting the characters that such a young character would be surrounded by. There are no off-the-cuff one liners that do not belong.
That said, like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films (2002, 2004 and 2007) this film does go to some darker places. While it doesn’t merge its hero and villain as much as the 2002 film, Spider-Man doesn’t have an easy time here! I’d say this is the best Spidey film since 2004, although being better than Spider-Man 2, one of the best comic book movies ever made, is a big ask!
Negatives: While the High School setting is somewhat required, it wasn’t for me (it is for the younger MCU fans after all!) I’ve seen this so many times. Oh look, Parker’s crush has a crush on Spider-Man but not him, oh how I’ve not seen that before. Oh look, Parker cannot balance school life with heroics, not seen that before. It also feels more like a cog within the MCU machine than say GotG2.
There are other insignificant niggling problems, but the cliches are, as aforementioned, “narrowly avoided”; they are never given focus to drive the story.
Grounded in reality like Ant-Man, but with more of the spontaneity and character drive that the Raimi films enjoyed without the MCU controlling everything. Keaton brings a lot to the table, and the film is a welcome addition to the expanding MCU.
Additional Marshmallows: Really not sure about the inclusion of the Ramones “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!” as some sort of “theme”. Strange choice.