- Genre: Superhero / Action
- Director: Jon Watts
- Producers: Columbia Pictures / Marvel Studios
- Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
- Running Time: 133 minutes
- Release Date: July 7, 2017
How many more Spider-Man movies should we get? At this point, I’d expect the webslinger to actually lay eggs, but that’s exactly what this film actually does as far as Spidey goes. With Marvel actually having a hand in Spider-Man: Homecoming instead of Sony just hogging it all for themselves, we finally get one that’s going to be a part of a larger continuity. The creative decisions taken with it were interesting, and the future of this Peter Parker is indeed promising.
Spider-Man: Homecoming could’ve been a facepalm moment, but it had to happen once Marvel Studios and Sony came to an agreement with Spider-Man being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What resulted from that is an entertaining movie that took interesting approaches to a well-established character that has had an identity crisis of sorts on the silver screen.
NOTE: As this is intended as a full review of this title, there may be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
At long last, it’s not an origin story. We know enough about him already throughout the years, with kids who grew up with cartoons and the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies now being grown-ups—some even old and creaky at this point.
Despite that, the usual Spider-Man narrative is Peter Parker’s struggle in balancing his life as Peter Parker and his self-imposed duties as Spider-Man—the usual superhero dilemma with an ounce of added relatability through Peter Parker being seemingly a typical boy next door living in New York.
This movie takes us through the standard high school Spider-Man checklist.
- He is a really smart kid. Check.
- He is struggling to keep up with his personal and high school life due to his double life and the need to keep it a secret. Check.
- He is bullied, mostly by one guy. Check.
- He has a crush. Check.
- Being Spider-Man is his escape. Check.
- He matures throughout the film. Check.
Then again, there are plenty of differences between this Spider-Man and its counterparts. This Aunt May is more of a cougar, this MJ is more like Daria than Miss Popular, he has a sidekick, and so on. However, the main difference here is Tony Stark, and that sets the tone for the story of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Instead of Uncle Ben’s death being the driving force behind his character development, it’s the overwhelming desire to become an Avenger. This isn’t a downgrade since while Uncle Ben’s death is the glue that bound Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, it was also the trilogy’s greatest weakness. In this film, Uncle Ben’s memory is in the periphery—never explicitly mentioned, but once hinted at.
Perhaps you can say that no matter what, Spider-Man will always have Uncle Ben’s ghost haunting it at this point, whether it’s due to his looming presence or his glaring absence. However, if you’re able to look past that, this film actually does well with most of its narrative.
A good number of serious moments stayed serious, which is good for a MCU movie these days as its counterparts seem to suffer greater symptoms of Whedonitis. In this case, only the scenes with Tony Stark in them are the really groan-worthy parts. Even the main pivotal moment of the film when Peter gets trapped under rubble went old school with his epiphany with the reflection on a puddle and an voice flashback.
Spider-Man: Homecoming the story of a kid who wants to become more before his time has really come. The title resonates at different levels, and the film does a lot of interesting things. There’s nothing super new to it since we’ve seen three different Peter Parkers on the silver screen at this point, but this iteration is refreshing in that this Peter Parker has all the real awkwardness and bravado expected of a teenager and the capability of growth that must come with being a hero.
Diversity and change are the names of the game in Spider-Man: Homecoming’s casting. Many people on the Internet right now would scoff at the word “diversity” due to the whole “regressive left” thing, myself included (even as a Chinese). But in this case, they’re good things as the resulting twists to established supporting characters made for a movie that works in this day and age. Talking about having diversity for diversity’s sake is a topic for another blog post, but I do have to say that it worked quite well for this movie. I’d even say that the current socio-political climate made this movie even better, if you ask me.
Tom Holland plays a pretty good meek and awkward teenager, making this Peter Parker more believable in terms of his plights in high school. His eagerness to prove himself later creates more problems that get bigger the more he tries to fix them because he thinks he can fix them all as Spider-Man. I do think Holland did well in portraying those struggles and Peter Parker’s growth later in the movie.
Jacob Batalon as Ned was brilliant. He did seem like the kind of guy who would be thrilled about being “the guy in the chair,” playing the perfect sidekick. There’s nothing wrong about that at all, being the perfect example of a “supporting character.” The key to that is making the depiction not take away from the character’s individuality, letting the audience still be able to refer to him by name and not just “the protagonist’s sidekick.” I think his personality came through enough that this pitfall was avoided.
Laura Harrier as Liz Toomes made me a fan of the actress. She certainly played a good dreamy female honor roll student. Meanwhile, Zendaya as Michelle “MJ” Jones was a hit due to the Daria-type character still resonating with audiences. Tony Revolori as Eugene “Flash” Thompson, Peter’s main bully, was quite something for me since that was exactly the type of bully I had to deal with in high school (I went to private school full of rich kids in the early 2000s).
Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes is quietly menacing. Perhaps that wasn’t too hard for him as before coming into this movie, he played McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc in The Founder, a role that saw him go from a floundering salesman to a ruthless entrepreneur. Here in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he’s a family man with one hell of a day job. Him being the father of Peter’s crush was a twist I didn’t see coming (I don’t know if other people did).
Having a villain who does what he does for just profit and not for some “higher” purpose was interesting as it pitted a kid against an adult, with the former’s idealism up against the latter’s pragmatism. The only thing that bugged me with the Vulture was that he left enough loose ends that enabled his defeat and subsequent incarceration. Maybe it’s the father in him who kept deciding to not take his daughter’s date out of the equation altogether, but I came upon that reasoning only well after watching the movie.
But the one who really stole the show for me was Jennifer Connelly as Karen, the Spider-Man suit AI. The expressiveness of the Karen AI was a bit like Scarlett Johansson in the movie Her. Marisa Tomei as Aunt May was also a treat, being a younger version of the character that could pass off as Peter Parker’s sister. That means there’s less of a generational gap between them, which can allow for a closer aunt-nephew relationship in many ways.
Having Marvel on speed dial must’ve been quite the advantage in making a movie about an iconic Marvel character. They had to make certain the ties between this Spider-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, thus the presence of Tony Stark. He is both a strength and a weakness, fulfilling his purpose while also providing the most groan-worthy moments of the movie. It’s not just me, but the undermining of serious moments has become more obvious in recent years, especially in the MCU, mostly due to Joss Whedon’s influence.
EDIT (2017.07.20 8:10PM): I just remembered that part with Happy calling Peter to the washroom to thank him for stopping the Vulture from stealing Stark tech, then a kid came out of the stall. That was also groan-worthy.
While the film did have serious moments that stayed serious because they mattered, the scenes after the climax was just full of bathos. At least they left them there when things have settled down, but that Whedonitis seems to persist like a rash.
Jon Watts directed some episodes of The Onion News Network, and his previous feature films were Clown and Cop Car. Spider-Man: Homecoming was his first blockbuster, and he seems to have done a good job with it. If this is to become a film series in itself, then it would be nice to see more of what Jon Watts can do.
- Back-to-basics approach with some novel twists
- Fair enough balance of seriousness and levity
- Tom Holland is a great Spider-Man; good Peter Parker
- Michael Keaton is quietly menacing as Adrian Toomes
- Marisa Tomei's Aunt May again
- This Daria-like "MJ"
- Karen, the suit AI
- Self-aware post-credit scene
- No Uncle Ben
- Felt more like a side story
- The Vulture is like a sub-boss
- Tony Stark "Adam Westing" himself
- No Uncle Ben
They did well with the various creative decisions that were taken in this movie. It's like a back-to-basics approach with twists and turns in different elements to keep it fresh. This is the third Spider-Man in recent years, with Andrew Garfield last donning the tights. They could've easily did another reboot and tell the same story all over again, thus adding to Spider-Man fatigue, but they avoided most of that with Spider-Man: Homecoming.
With that said, it's not without its flaws. Perhaps you can say it's not that big of a story, but made merely for character development for this Peter Parker, and that's about it. I can say it was slightly more fun than Doctor Strange, but it's less grand as well. But that's what you can expect from a back-to-basics approach.