Spider-Man has had somewhat of a roller-coaster history in Hollywood. With two previous versions of the character brought to the big screen, Spider-Man has been featured in one of the best superhero films (“Spider-Man 2”) and two of the worst in the genre (“Spider-Man 3” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”).
With Sony and Marvel Studios striking a deal that brought Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” comic book fans were impatiently waiting to see how Marvel Studios would present one of the top three characters in comic book history.
In his short stint in “Civil War,” Spider-Man was finally presented the way fans have always imagined, and comic book fans then turned all their anticipation to this year’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the second reboot of the Spider-Man character and tells the story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) a few months after the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” Peter is patiently awaiting contact from Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) for his next mission with the Avengers.
To pass the time, Peter starts solving crimes that are particularly dangerous, and this leads Peter to cross paths with Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton). Toomes is a former salvager who lost his contract to collect the debris and alien technology leftover from the attack on New York City (occurring in 2012’s “The Avengers”) when it was taken away from him by the U.S. government and Tony Stark.
With no income and a team of loyal employees struggling to make ends meet, Toomes and company steal the alien tech and begin to modify it into weapons and traffic them to various gangs and criminals on the east coast. Spider-Man works to stop Toomes all while being constantly monitored and restricted by Tony Stark.
What makes this film good is the attention to character. Peter is a well realized character and is more than just a kid in a spandex suit. He’s a 15-year-old high school student dealing with grades, family, friends and his own personal life. He comes across as a relatable kid, one who most of us remember being when we were his age, except he just so happens to be able to crawl up walls and lift buses over his head.
The story in this film doesn’t shy away from Peter outside of his suit. A great deal of the film is dedicated to understanding Peter Parker instead of understanding the hero he becomes when he dons the mask. We see Peter struggle with his feelings toward a girl he likes, anxiously attend a high school party and balance all of the school activities he participates in.
This focus on the character makes the audience care about Peter in a more personal way than they care about most superheroes. It also has the effect of allowing the audience to better understand why he feels the need to be Spider-Man. I feel as if “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the best presentation of the character Peter Parker in any film.
Peter isn’t the only character that shines in “Homecoming.” Michael Keaton’s Vulture ends up being the second-best villain in the MCU behind Loki. Marvel films have often had a villain problem, where they are underrepresented in the film, or have characterizations that don’t resonate with audiences once the credits roll, but I believe that the Vulture breaks that chain.
Keaton gives a layered performance that gives Spider-Man a villain really worth his time. He’s smart, confident and motivated by his familial obligations. Vulture has a sort of tragic characterization and comes off as a blue-collar man driven to a life of crime that he’d otherwise rather not partake in. He’s fairly sympathetic, but he is also brutal.
Every time Vulture was on screen, I felt as if Spider-Man was outmatched in every regard. That feeling really helped to sell the tension of their interactions and made for a truly entertaining viewing. Praise must go to the creative team for giving Vulture enough meaningful screen time to make an impact, and praise must also go to Michael Keaton for portraying the character in such a resonant way.
Aside from performances, what made this film shine is the way in which Peter’s world is portrayed on screen. The scenes in the school fairly accurately display what it feels like to be in a high school. The awkwardness, division of various social groups and the omnipresent topic of “growing up” are all presented to perfection. At its best, the school scenes in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” feel like a John Hughes film. That seems to be the intent, too, as there are a few nods to a couple of his films in this film.
As for negatives in the film, I felt as if they could have given a few more scenes to Vulture. The intent was to make him a well-rounded and sympathetic character, and they achieved that, but I feel as if they could have made him an all-time great MCU villain if just a few more character-building scenes were given to him. Some of his character pacing feels a bit rushed.
I also wasn’t the biggest fan of Zendaya’s character, Michelle. Most of the instances where she popped into a scene felt really forced, and the comedic effect they were looking for in those scenes didn’t work as well as I think they thought they would. Michelle also has some characterization problems that I won’t get into due to spoilers.
Outside of those two issues, I saw a couple of VFX hiccups, but for the most part the film is brilliant. The negatives I find in this film are far outweighed by everything this film does right. If you’re looking for a film to take the whole family to see, you’ll be hard pressed to find a summer film better suited to fill that role than “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
The authentic and exciting presentation of Spider-Man in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” gives comic book fans and general audiences alike a presentation of Spider-Man that stays true to the source material. By film’s end, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a charming, funny and earnest superhero film that fits well in the MCU yet feels distinctly different than every other film in the catalog.
I give “Spider-Man: Homecoming” 9 / 10