Hopefully some bold 20th Century Fox decision maker catches a screening of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Maybe that would be enough to convince them there is a way to make a completely fan-pleasing and financially successful adaptation of the Fantastic Four — let Marvel Studios do it.
It’s taken six films and three iterations of the character, but Spider-Man: Homecoming is finally the comic version Spider-Man come to the big screen. The revered Sam Raimi trilogy were well done superhero movies, but Spider-Man is a motor mouth, not a mute. The Amazing Spider-Man films were better than they get credit for, but too often felt like a slapped together franchise reboot.
Homecoming gets it right. From Spider-Man’s personality, his social awkwardness and his desire to be a better hero, this is the classic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko character made in 1962 adapted for a 2017 audience.
A lot of that credit goes to star Tom Holland, who gives a likable performance as Peter Parker, the high school sophomore turned superhero. Holland has such an easygoing charm that he rarely comes across like he’s acting. We got a tease
Homecoming doesn’t feel like every other Marvel Studios film. In part that’s due to the novelty of a character protecting a secret identity. Peter isn’t an adult working for SHIELD or a billionaire. He’s got family (Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May) and friends Ned (the charming Jacob Batalon), Liz (Laura Harrier) and Michelle (Zendaya) he can’t keep safe if everyone knows who’s under the mask.
With The Vulture (Michael Keaton, Birdman) swooping in on daring heists, Peter is going to need to step up his game even with his upgraded costume.
The MCU struggles on the villain front, but Keaton gives The Vulture a real presence beyond just being Spider-Man’s punching bag. It’s funny that such a low-powered opponent would offer such a memorable role. There was concern with other notable Spider-Man foes Shocker (Bookem Woodbine) and The Tinkerer (Michael Chernus) on board, the film would suffer from villain overload. That’s hardly the case as they’re worked in sensibly.
Director Jon Watts nailed the flavor of a John Hughes teenage coming of age story based in a superhero setting. There’s even a fun nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in an inspired chase scene. MCU films tend to skew away from darker themes making for simple popcorn blockbusters.
Homecoming benefits tremendously from this philosophy as it’s packed with as many funny moments as blow-out action sequences. The casting is all around terrific with Batalon and Zendaya especially standing out. I’m hoping the sequel lets Tony Revolori’s Flash be more of a jerk nuisance however.
No worries on the action front either — Watts crafts a number of amazing fight scenes that make full use of Spider-Man’s abilities.
Watts makes the case for secret identities working in modern superhero films in several ways, but the best is Peter’s various attempts to change his voice.
Probably my biggest concern, no doubt thanks to some of the obnoxious marketing, was Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) taking over the movie. The intent is to affirm this Spider-Man series is connected and deeply entwined with the Marvel Studios universe. With Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan back as Spider-Man’s ‘handler,’ there’s a definite Iron Man vibe. While a Stark/Iron Man scene or two could have been cut with no problem, his appearance works in the context of where Peter is in his superhero journey.
For Peter — a shy, high schooler who’s always wanted to fit in — the Avengers represent the varsity of superheroes. It’s no wonder that would be his obsession. One of the major plots of Homecoming is for Peter to gain confidence on his own, a lesson that puts him on a new path for future installments. Chris Evans’ Captain America also has a recurring role though not quite in the same manner.
Homecoming has a starling six credited screenwriters so it’s somewhat of a miracle that the film comes together so well. There’s a healthy amount of Easter Eggs from costume nods to Spider-Man’s larger universe and the Marvel Universe in general. It’s great to see Spider-Man fully incorporated into the MCU.
There are two post credit scenes, but neither is really essential. The second is a pretty funny trolling the fans gag, but it’s not worth missing the parking validation window over.
Spider-Man: Homecoming makes good on his first solo outing in the MCU. It’s been a long time coming, but for webslinger fans, this is definitely well worth the wait.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures