Spider-Man has come home.
Marvel’s most popular superhero made his entry into the MCU proper in Captain America: Civil War in a show-stealing outing – in what was a good but overall underwhelming slice of superhero action that served more as a setup to a fresh status quo. Now, in his third big screen incarnation, Spidey returns, played by Tom Holland as a fresh-faced 15 year old who’s just beginning to learn the ropes as the webslinger.
Homecoming sees Peter Parker return home to Queens after the rush of battling alongside – and against – the Avengers, and despite a advanced new suit given to him by Tony Stark, he finds himself just waiting for that call to once again fight alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Our villain for this outing, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), is a simple man running a cleanup crew in the after the Chitauri invasion of New York City. He becomes the Vulture after he is sidelined by a new government department formed in cooperation with Tony Stark takes over all superhero related cleanups, threatening his source of income, his workers’ livelihoods, and his family.
As the Vulture, Toomes has made a living recycling the debris left in the aftermath of superhero battles into weapons far more advanced than anything humans have been capable of at that point. When these weapons show up in a Queens bank heist, Spidey and the Vulture’s paths inevitably cross, leading us to an epic confrontation over a shipment of Avengers weapons.
All while this is happening, Peter Parker is still a 15-year old student in Midtown High, with all that entails. From his relationship with his best friend Ned Leeds and his Aunt May (the always underrated Marissa Tomei) to his duties as a member of the Academic Decathlon team at school and his attraction to a certain Liz (Laura Harrier) (surname withheld till we get to the spoilery part of the review), Peter is torn in two different directions as his life as Spider-Man becomes ever more complicated with the appearance of advanced weapons on the streets and the debut of his first super villain.
Thoughts (SOME SPOILERS)
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie that comic book fans and movie goers have been waiting for ever since it was first announced Tobey McGuire would be Spidey more than a decade ago. A lot of Spidey’s best defining stories came out of that high school period, when he’s still struggling with his newfound powers and his own place in the world, and Homecoming takes some of the very best elements of Spidey’s school days (616 and Ultimate) to create what amounts to a coming of age high school story that is at the same time one of the best written and executed superhero movies of all time.
The casting may just be one of the most diverse to appear in a movie to date. Midtown High is populated with a colourful host of characters, from Peter’s rival Academic Decathlon member Flash Thompson (Tom Revolori) to the snarky smartass Michelle (Zendaya), even the extras reflect a modern, multiracial city like New York.
The central cast are charming, with even Flash never coming off as the menace he was in the past films and indeed the comics. The decision to cast Flash as a Latin American nerd whose rich upbringing and need to prove himself as smarter than Peter gives the story a much needed refresh to the jock Flash we’ve become accustomed to. Ned is a great supporting character, serving as much of the comic relief while being more than just a sidekick to the hero, while Michelle’s snark provides some great snickers. Personally, I’m waiting to see where they go with her MJ nickname before I let the fanboy in me gripe about it as the character is interesting and fresh as a possible future love interest and deuteragonist.
Robert Downey Jr. is used to great effect. He’s not as ubiquitous to the movie as the trailers suggested, and is given great characterization as a man looking for redemption through bringing up better heroes and as something of a father figure to Peter. Marissa Tomei acquits herself well as usual, and I certainly hope Aunt May is used properly here – this young incarnation of the character is a quiet standout in the film and in the history of Aunt May so far.
The Vulture is perhaps Marvel’s first truly great villain. Where Loki comes off as an entitled brat, Toomes is just a man driven to his wit’s end by the ‘elites’. His turning to crime in the face of crippling debt and the loss of his men’s livelihoods is not only a believable motivation, but one many people could even relate to. He’s somewhat morally grey as his heists are covert and non-fatal, and his determination to operate in secrecy limits the reach of his merchandise – which seems more designed for the functional task of theft. However, a ruthless streak that Keaton plays to chilling effect serves to ground this character as one the audience should be very wary of.
The main superhero plot point of the story here lies with Peter Parker truly learning to be Spider-Man. We give the origin story a miss, and rightly so, as watching Peter trying to fill the shoes of the superhero he wants to be is gripping fare. Tom Holland is undoubtedly the best Spider-Man and Peter Parker on film, deftly capturing the struggles of the fledgling superhero in believable, earnest fashion, and he fills the movie with such fresh-faced optimism and headstrong stubbornness that you can’t help but root for him even as he stumbles into rookie mistakes.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a delight. Superhero movies have become a stereotype unto their own of late, and the magic is starting to give way to fatigue. Yet, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like that first time you stepped foot into a cinema to watch a superhero movie, and makes you fall in love with the stories this genre is capable of telling all over again.
Incredibly self-aware and confident, this movie is a superhero blockbuster is a fun, layered, and very youthful return to comics’ roots that is a fresh breath of air in the somewhat staid superhero genre. The amount of care and love given to this film makes it clear that Spidey’s homecoming is more than just titular – it’s Marvel celebrating the return of its’ most iconic hero to the fold.