SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, he gets rebooted like no one else can. Remember how much of a big deal the first Spider-Man film was back in 2002? After the superhero film genre pretty much petered out after failures like Batman & Robin, Sam Raimi came around and showed us that superheroes could be taken seriously again on the big screen. Sure, X-Men came out two years before, but it wasn’t as big of a hit as Spider-Man, which inspired many more superhero films down the road, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). After the initial trilogy and a short-lived, unsuccessful reboot series, we’ve come full circle with Spider-Man swinging home into the hands of Marvel.

In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is living your typical teenage life of cruising his way through high school, crushing on girls, and fighting crime as a spider powered superhero. Eager to join the Avengers, he begs Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) for a spot on the team, but Tony is apprehensive about Peter’s immature and reckless demeanor. Frustrated, Peter tries everything he can to impress Tony, leading him on to an underground criminal operation ran by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who has a pretty cool set of giant metallic wings. Unfortunately, endangering Toomes’ operation results in Peter’s life becoming endangered as well.

Spider-Man is one of those film characters that you’re just kind of numb to now. It’s clearly Sony Pictures’ only cash cow at this point and each new attempt at a film just feels shameless. Now that Spider-Man is [sort of] back home with Marvel, there’s just something about this film that feels more authentic than The Amazing Spider-Man films did. Yes, it’s still Sony Pictures holding onto the movie rights in order to survive as long as they can, but while watching this, I never felt an ounce of cynicism. It felt like an honest film by filmmakers that had a story tell and they told it well. Of course you need all of the Marvel universe building, but the screenwriters and director John Watts incorporate everything in ways where it relates to the Peter’s story and his character. It was the perfect combination of telling a full story and building a universe, and it’s up there with the likes of Iron Man and Ant-Man in that respect.

Probably the biggest reason why the film works is due to Tom Holland’s absolutely terrific performance. He’s the star of the show, as he should be, perfectly embodying who Peter Parker and Spider-Man are. He’s a superhero with extraordinary powers, but he’s also just a kid. He’s intelligent, yet impetuous. Eager to help, yet naïve about the overall situation at hand. As much as he tries to help, he usually ends up causing more trouble in the end. He’s the epitome of a teenager trying to be a hero, down to Tony Stark acting as a father figure throughout, babysitting him along the way. He needs to learn to juggle the huge responsibilities of being a hero, while still maintaining his normal, everyday life. Yes, these are themes we’ve seen in Spider-Man films before, but giving it the high school spin gives it a sincere earnestness that’s represented in Peter’s character.

Peter is of course surrounded by variety of supporting characters, such as his nerdy friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), another standout role in the film. His charisma and comic timing is on par with Hollands and they feel like real best friends going through this journey together. Having him know Peter’s alter ego was a nice touch, as it gives Peter more of a chance to grow as a character and we don’t need a bunch of contrived scenarios to keep the secret from his closest friend. While the overabundance of comedy has become a large annoyance to me in the MCU recently, I felt a lot of it worked here because it felt a lot more clever and natural. It was perfectly in line with the story, tone, and characters; never overdoing it. I actually remember laughing quite a bit, and certainly don’t ever remember groaning.

The rest of the characters don’t have a whole lot to do, though, such as Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Peter’s crush, providing your basic high school film stereotypes. While Michael Keaton did turn in a great performance as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture, I didn’t find his character too interesting, especially after a completely lame third act revelation.  I wasn’t quite sure was his motivations were beyond building weapons to sell to criminals and make money, his big plot being hijacking Tony Stark’s plane filled with alien artifacts. His character felt very thinly written, but Keaton really elevated it with his threatening performance. Murky villain motivations aside, I actually really appreciated the rather small scope of the story. The climax isn’t the villain trying to level an entire city, or kill thousands of innocent civilians. This is just a guy who wants to steal some stuff. It wasn’t about Peter stopping a criminal and saving the day, but proving to everybody else and himself that he’ll be able to when the day comes.

Not only did Peter prove to everyone that he could be hero, but everyone involved in this film showed that Spider-Man could once again be a hero on the big screen. With six screenwriters, two competing studios producing it, and being a second reboot after only fifteen years, Spider-Man: Homecoming joins the pantheon of films that are much better than they have any right to be. It’s not perfect and it’s not groundbreaking, but that’s okay. It feels a lot more sincere than a lot of the other comic book films coming out these days and it set out to do one thing: tell a good story. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

7.5/10

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