There’s yet to be a bad movie stemming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So instead of trying to convince people that Spider-Man: Homecoming was a good movie, instead I’ll mention the things I really liked about it (and maybe a couple things I felt fell short) without giving too much away in the process. I hate spoilers.
The main question everyone should have when it comes to a new Spider-Man movie is whether or not the lead actor fit the parts. And by “parts”, I mean both the Peter Parker side AND the Spider-Man side, and I can assure you, Tom Holland nailed each. As Peter Parker, he did great at emoting the troubles of an orphan who isn’t popular at school and not only deals with having a dangerous alter-ego (you know, the weight of the whole “responsibility” thing), but also pines over the pretty girl on whom he has a crush.
There’s a scene in the movie where Spider-Man gets locked in a warehouse and has to figure out a way to escape. I thought that whole part of the movie was great for character development, because we got to see him get accustomed to his suit, and talk about the problems stemming from his social life, all the while trying to problem solve. It might’ve seemed like a slow-down in terms of the pacing of the film, but from where I sit, the character benefited from it significantly.
The key to having a great villain is that the character is not a villain in his own mind. Such is the case with The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Originally when I heard who the villain was for the film, I was slightly disappointed, but they pulled it off nicely. They took a villain I wasn’t familiar with prior to the movie, they put a lot of time and effort into developing who he was as a person, and his motivations, and how he got his “powers”, and it worked. Michael Keaton played the role perfectly, as if there was ever any doubt that his career revival would continue on its upward trajectory. Excellent decision by Marvel with the character, the storyline arc, the casting of Keaton, and the state of things with respect to the character when the credits have finished rolling. Very pleased with it.
I realize that everyone loves Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and he has helped make Iron Man the most popular character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I really like the work he has done, and can’t imagine the MCU without him. However, when I originally found out that Iron Man was going to play a significant role in Spider-Man Homecoming, I was disappointed. It felt unnecessary, and actually got me a bit frustrated at Iron Man’s omnipresence across the MCU. But, again, just like with Vulture, my initial frustrations had dissipated by the end of the movie. In fact, I actually really like how they used Iron Man and have integrated him into the overall Spider-Man story as something of a mentor. There’s a speech in the film, just after the ferry incident, where Tony Stark explains his reasoning for wanting to help Peter Parker, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s a reason totally intermixed with emotions and sympathy and it works perfectly.
One of the things I liked most about the film is how it clued people in to what had happened in Captain America: Civil War, when Peter first starts working with Tony Stark, in case people hadn’t seen that film or simply needed a refresher. They did it in a creative way that actually helped show us more of Peter’s personality.
The Supporting Cast
Marisa Tomei is a fine choice to be Aunt May, but the character doesn’t do much thus far, aside from occasionally worries about Peter. There’s no mention of Uncle Ben or Peter’s parents. She seems to simply exist in the film so that Peter has an adult to live with, and so they can perpetuate the joke that most of the male characters in the cast have a crush on her, because she’s hot. Did I mention she’s hot? Because I can’t remember, because the film said it about four times. Or more. It’s almost like they were trying to beat us over the head with the fact that this is a completely different type of Aunt May than what’s in the comics, and different than what she has been like in previous movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the villain of the next film is someone who’s dating Aunt May and just so happens to be Kraven The Hunter.
How else do we know this is a totally different spin on Spider-Man than we’ve seen before? Because there’s no Gwen Stacy and there’s no Mary Jane Watson. Remember all the hoopla about how Zendaya was cast as MJ, but that she’s not a tall redhead with supermodel good looks? Well, she’s not Mary Jane Watson. She’s a character named Michelle, and her character has tons more personality than Mary Jane Watson has shown in the Sam Raimi movies or in the comic books (that is before she and “Tiger” got married, that is). I would venture a guess that anyone who watches the movie without any sort of preconceived notion that Zendaya is supposed to be Mary Jane Watson will actually come away enjoying that character. Especially because she’s not the love interest. I like it when a guy character and a female character can be friends without one of them being the love interest.
I liked what they did with the female character who actually is the love interest in this movie. Am I surprised that a Spider-Man movie had him romantically interested with someone other than Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, or Felicia Hardy? Yeah, a little, but it makes sense. High schoolers probably all have multiple crushes / girlfriends (or boyfriends) throughout the four years they’re there, so this is actually way more natural than Peter liking Gwen Stacy the whole time. And it’s actually important to making Peter a more relate-able character, as well.
Also important to the plot is Ned. No matter how socially awkward or geeky they want Peter Parker to be, people like that always have friends. Always. Especially if they’ve been in the same school system for a while. How do I know? Because I was (am?) that geeky. I didn’t fit in with the athletes or the cool kids, but I had plenty of friends, and I think it’s important to give Peter a friend, not just because he seems awkward without one, but also because it helped move the story along by giving him someone to interact with, other than just the voice inside his suit.
(Fun thing about the voice inside the suit… it’s Jennifer Connolly, who is married to Paul Bettany, who was the voice inside the Iron Man suit before he became Vision)
I like this take on the Flash Thompson character. It definitely plays into the fact that not all bullies are athletes, and I think that’s an important stereotype to break.
Having Shocker as a side-villain was a cool inclusion in HOMECOMING, for me anyway, because as a kid, my cousin had that action figure and I was low-level obsessed with it. Having the sleeves on this Shocker’s jacket mimic that of the 80s costume really provided a fun little moment for me.
The inclusion of Donald Glover’s character in the film is great for a couple reasons. First, someone on the internet a few years back suggested that Donald Glover should be the next Spider-Man. The “movement” got a little traction, but alas, he didn’t become Spider-Man. Instead, he got to be involved in now two Spider-Man projects in Hollywood (doing voice-over work for a television series). The second reason it’s cool is because his inclusion into this movie ends up providing a reference to Miles Morales, the young African-American Spider-Man in the comic books. The fact that Donald Glover plays his uncle? That works for me!
I also really liked the fact that the storyline brought Spider-Man to Washington D.C. for part of the action. Part of the movie was all about how badly Peter Parker wanted to be able to join The Avengers and not just be a “Friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man”. Battling villains in other parts of the world is something The Avengers do, so I’m glad he went the route of getting outside the Tri-State Area to deal with Vulture. I love the fact that we get to see Spider-Man in Washington D.C., partially because it’s my hometown, but partially because I don’t recall ever having seen him there before. It’s a place I’ve seen Superman, and I’m sure Captain America frequents it (didn’t the Helicarrier crash nearby in WINTER SOLDIER?), but not Spidey.
I’ve seen probably 15 different incarnations of Spider-Man at this point, so I know all about his backstory. I know people are happy that we didn’t have to see Uncle Ben get killed yet again, and I understand that perspective, but I would like a little more context to show people why he does what he does, and a little bit more explanation on how much he has explored his powers. Sure, having him stumble through using the features of the suit (specifically the different types of web-shooters) was a fun little part that helped to show growth, inexperience, and a bit of naivety, but I think they could’ve done more. It’s not a huge complaint, just something I wish was addressed a little better.
Without giving too much away, I thought Happy Hogan was a bit too careless and negligent with the two huge tasks he was assigned by Tony Stark, and had he been better involved, much of the bad things that happened throughout the course of the movie wouldn’t have occurred. Sure, it would’ve forced the writers to come up with something more creative, but this is a character whom Tony Stark trusts with a lot of secrets and a bevy of priceless artifacts. It’s not like he’s going to get fired… but there’s no backup? There’s no “quality assurance”? Just a little disappointing.
Also, his quips towards the villains could’ve been better. I realize he’s still coming into his own, and he had significant reason to be intimidated by The Vulture, but the witty one-liners are one of the best parts about Spider-Man, and I felt like they definitely could’ve improved that part of the movie. He had a couple good lines when fighting people on the ferry, so it’s not like they ignored that aspect of the character. I’ll be looking for an improvement there for future involvement by Spidey in the MCU.
If you can’t tell, I really, really liked the movie. Did I love it? Yes. Was it perfect? No. Did I like it more than the other two Spider-Man movie franchise openers we’ve had over the past 20 years? Hard to say, because I like this movie as it fits into the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s a big part of what makes it hard to compare to the other two franchise-starters. Technological advances, in terms of CGI and filming techniques, also makes it hard to compare this to the older ones, especially the 2002 version. I do have a considerable amount of hope for the future of this character, and I’ll be one of the first people in line to get a ticket to a sequel.
My rating: 92 out of 100