The latest reboot finally gets Spider-Man right.
Six films, two reboots, and one unprecedented deal between Marvel and Sony later, Spider-Man: Homecoming finally gives us the Spider-Man we’ve been waiting for. Homecoming nails the essence and character of Peter Parker in ways all previous incarnations have fallen short. Sure, he’s a superhero with amazing abilities, but he’s also a fifteen-year-old kid. When not fighting crime, he still has to contend with math homework, awkward talks with girls, school bullies, and being home at a reasonable hour.
The film picks up shortly after the climactic events of Captain America: Civil War. After being dropped off at his humble Queens abode, Peter (Tom Holland) is instructed by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to “stay close to the ground” and remain the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Tony sees real potential in Peter but realizes he’s inexperienced and needs time to hone skills.
However, participating in a massive superhero brawl has made Peter eager to enter the superhero big leagues. Stopping bike thieves feels mundane when compared to fighting Giant-Man, after all. Nevertheless, he’s still a fifteen-year-old kid. He’s definitely not ready to be an Avenger. But Peter doesn’t see it this way. He thinks Stark is holding him back from doing as much good as possible. At his core, Peter wants to save the day because it’s the right thing to do. With great power comes great responsibility and all that.
Before Peter saves the world, he must finish high school. Homecoming takes our favorite wall-crawler back to high-school. While this may seem par for the course for a Spider-Man film, Homecoming is the first to truly use this to its advantage. While there are copious amounts of the usual superheroics, Homecoming is the first Spider-Man film to focus on the teenage life of Peter Parker. Director Jon Watts’ portrayal of the modern life of a New York teenager (who happens to live in a world filled with superheroes) is both genuine and amusing. Peter has his go-to corner deli, his routine subway route, and has to watch old Captain America PSAs in gym class. John Hughes was often cited as an inspiration for the film and it’s immediately felt. There are multiple parallels between Homecoming and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Breakfast Club, and they all work in the context of the film. Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like a true coming-of-age story for the character.
Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is so delightfully earnest. He’s charming, sincere, and instantly likable. The dude embodies everything that’s made Spider-Man’s character endure for over fifty years. Holland’s Parker is the first one who seems to actually enjoy being Spider-Man. His youthful enthusiasm for being a superhero is infectious makes the character so damn engaging. It also helps that he actually looks like a fifteen-year-old kid in high school, as opposed to a full-grown thirty-year-old man. Looking at you, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Holland proves to be the quintessential take on Spider-Man. I can’t wait to see Holland’s further growth into the role.
Peter has a wonderful supporting cast to bounce off of throughout the film. His friendship with Ned (Jacob Batalon), who serves as his sidekick/”man in the chair”, is hysterical. His tiny romance with Liz (Laura Harrier) is both sweet and cringe-inducing (in a good way!). Zendaya’s character is underplayed, but she managed to illicit laughs whenever she was on screen. The character who draws the short end of the stick in Homecoming is Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May. I loved the dynamic between her and Peter, I just wish the film had more time to further explore it. What little there is, however, is great.
What helps make Homecoming feel so fresh as a superhero film is its relatively small stakes. Spider-Man isn’t saving the world, or the city, or hell, even the neighborhood. No, Homecoming pits Spider-Man against a glorified high-tech thief with a penchant for bird costuming. The low stakes allow the film to maintain its more lighthearted tone and atmosphere. That isn’t to say that Michael Keaton’s Vulture isn’t menacing. Quite the contrary, the Vulture is perhaps the most threatening and effective villain in an MCU film to date. Not only that, but Vulture actually feels like a fleshed out character. He’s got believable motivations and a full arc. I even would dare to say Vulture is the best Spider-Man villain put to screen to date.
Spider-Man has some new tricks up his sleeve to take on this fearsome flying fiend. Spider-Man’s suit is one built by Tony Stark, which comes with quite a few nifty upgrades, including web wings, countless web-shooter combinations, and his very own A.I. While Spider-Man purists (such as myself) may find themselves slightly annoyed by these upgrades, they fit within the world of the film and have real thematic relevance. Due to certain circumstances, Spider-man loses all his gadgets and must rely on himself, proving that he, not the suit, is the real hero.
For those worried that Tony Stark’s inclusion in Homecoming would overtake the film, worry not. While he does show up for a few scenes throughout the film, a team-up movie this is not. Stark serves as a lingering presence over the film as a standard that Peter tries to live up to. Despite the limited screen time, Stark still gets his own arc as he attempts to be a father figure towards Peter. As expected, Robert Downey Jr. crushes the role of Tony Stark. At this point, I’m sure he could actually play Tony Stark in his sleep.
Spider-Man: Homecoming had six writers, a rookie director, three production companies, and two different movie studios all involved in the production of the film. By some miracle, Spider-Man: Homecoming managed to not only be the best Spider-Man film yet, but one of the best films the MCU has to offer. The film knocks it out of the park in near every category. It’s hilarious, exciting, and bursting at the seams with heart. It’s amazing. Spectacular. Hell, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the ultimate Spider-Man film.
Welcome home, Spider-Man.