When I was a wee little lad watching the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man flicks in theaters, never did I think that I would live to see two – let alone three – cinematic incarnations of the character in my lifetime. Yet as is the case with superhero films these days, the most iconic ones are the ones most likely to get reboots and reimaginings.
This brings us to Spider-Man: Homecoming, the sixth Spidey movie in less than 20 years, and the third incarnation of the character. Following the ill-received sequel to Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, former webhead Andrew Garfield passed the torch to the youthful and charming British actor Tom Holland, who made his debut as the new Peter Parker in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Quickly capturing the hearts of audiences everywhere during his appearance in that behemoth of a blockbuster, Holland was no doubt ripe for a Spidey solo film.
Holland had proven himself as the perfect successor to Maguire and Garfield with his witty and charismatic performance in Civil War, but in order for Homecoming to be a success it needed a team of filmmakers who could give audiences something fresh. After five movies centered around the thesis that being Spider-Man sucks, it was time for Kevin Feige and company to deliver something more exciting with their MCU rendition of Peter Parker.
Fortunately, Homecoming contains as much excitement and fun as one could hope for in a summer blockbuster. Much like the Brian Michael Bendis Spider-Man comics, Homecoming fuses the comedic flair of a John Hughes movie with the effects-heavy superhero action that the MCU is famous for delivering.
The movie opens in the aftermath of the first Avengers movie, in which the alien technology from the New York battle catches the attention of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who uses the tech to build his criminal empire. Flash forward to eight years later, and young Peter Parker is hoping Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) will recruit him for another mission after he helped him battle team Cap in Civil War. Alas though, Peter hears nothing from Tony or Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and is stuck dealing with his rudimentary life at Midtown High while swinging through the streets as Spider-Man in his spare time.
In school, Peter is surrounded by all the usual suspects in this type of setting: his nerdy best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), the obnoxious bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), love interest Liz Allen (Laura Harrier) and a plethora of mundane instructors. And while he tries to cover up his Spidey escapades by telling his dear (and insanely attractive) Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) that he has an internship with Stark, it’s becoming harder for the lad to keep his superhero alter-ego a secret.
Yet just when Peter is getting bored with the wall-crawler life and wondering if he’ll ever get the chance to join the Avengers, Toomes shows up as a technologically-enhanced super villain calling himself The Vulture. In what seems to be his rite of passage toward becoming the hero he aspires to be, Parker must stop Toomes and show everyone just how amazing Spider-Man truly is.
From the opening sequences, director Jon Watts injects the movie with a tone that’s almost alien to the previous Spidey films. Rather than open with a Shakespearean soliloquy about the sheer suckiness of our hero’s life, Watts provides an inexplicably fun recreation of the iconic airport scene from Civil War, only this time from Peter’s perspective. As he records the whole experience on his camera like the giddy teenager he is, Peter invites audiences to join him on this ride.
What’s more is that this kind of fun, energetic tone is never lost at any point in the movie. Watts and his team of screenwriters manage to avoid even a summary of the all-too-familiar Spider-Man origin story, and instead get straight to the present action. Whether Peter is trying to survive the school day, rescuing his friends or fighting Vulture, the filmmakers do a nice job building and maintaining the momentum here.
The only major issue I have with the movie stems from my inner fanboy who can’t help but compare it to the comics, and since this is a geek site I may as well lay out these qualms. Now, the fact that the movie changes a lot about the Peter Parker mythos isn’t what bothers me, and it does change a lot. Uncle Ben is never mentioned, Betty Brandt is a student at Midtown who looks even younger than Peter, Flash isn’t a jock but rather a douchey nerd and (as previously established) May is much younger (and hotter) than her comic book counterpart. Yet the character who’s sparked the most discussion within the comic book community is the movie’s version of Ned Leeds, who is in essence the spitting image and personification of Ganke Lee.
In the comics, Ganke is the best friend of Miles Morales, who we all know as the Ultimate Spider-Man created by Bendis in 2011. As if to throw fanboys a bone, the movie does drop a line midway through that pretty much confirms Miles’ existence in the MCU. That said though, by taking a key element of Miles’ story and handing it over to Peter, it makes me wonder how Marvel will handle this when it does come time for a Miles movie. Clever changes to a character’s mythology for the purposes of an adaptation is something I welcome, but simply interchanging one character’s story with another’s is in my opinion a less creative way of going about it. Ok, nerd rant over.
All in all, though, Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie fans have been waiting for. Holland no doubt steals the show, and Keaton’s Vulture ranks among the better MCU villains. Between a more fleshed out backstory than most Marvel antagonists and a charismatic performance from Keaton, I certainly wouldn’t mind this character returning in future installments. And while the action scenes aren’t nearly as visceral or memorable as those in the first two Sam Raimi films, they’re still as fun as the rest of the movie.
Whether you’re a casual moviegoer or a die-hard Spidey fan, Homecoming provides more than enough reasons to swing into your nearest theater, and I left the film more than satisfied with what Watts, Feige and Marvel have delivered.