Web of Success
Out of all the superhero movies and comics that I have seen or read, there two that stand the title of being my favorite both in personality and in modern adaptations: Batman and Spider-Man. I remember when I was 7 or 8 years old and I would be running around my house in my Spider-Man costume pretending to be swinging around on buildings through my living room. It wasn’t just his powers that were intriguing, but the man behind the mask, Peter Parker, was equally interesting and relatable. However, Spider-Man has had a slew of weirdness when it came to the big screen with reboots that failed to generate a mass interest. Now on the third actor playing the titular character and finally with Marvel Studios, it is time to see if the web-head has finally found its footing and it is a relief for me to say that this iteration of Spider-Man is the best I have seen and perfectly captures the character and his situations through great storytelling, excellent character moments, and perfect comedic timing.
After his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is dropped back into his normal regular life yearning for his next mission with the Avengers. He does some small friendly neighborhood jobs but he is looking for the big scale events he experienced with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Hoping to make a difference, Peter dons his suit and starts trying to stop the new enemy Vulture (Michael Keaton) while also navigating his high school life.
Tom Holland, to me, is the definitive Spider-Man and they have finally cast an actor that imbues what makes the character so intriguing. He is just a kid who has everyday problems just like we do. He is not a billionaire or a god, but just a simple kid who has to navigate high school and still make something of himself despite having these amazing powers. Holland captures both the nerdy kid and quippy superhero sides of the character perfectly and it makes for some excellent humorous moments between the other characters. When it comes to dramatic moments, Holland also rises to the challenge and makes you sympathize with a hero that is iconic for a lot of people. There have been complaints that the actor is too young, but he is supposed to be young and in high school and that’s something the previous two iterations (while both good in their own respect) never fully captured.
The other actors in the film also do a great job. Robert Downey Jr. once again is perfect as Iron Man but he is not in the movie much. That is perfect as I was initially worried that he may overshadow our hero. Stark mainly acts as a father figure to Peter and pops up sparingly to either discuss certain scenarios or update him. Tony’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is in the movie more often and serves as Peter’s connection to Tony. He is hilarious and makes the most of the time he has on screen.
The plot of this film operates like a high school/coming of age story. This is not a “origin” story per se like the previous iterations were but rather a story of how “Spider-Boy” becomes “Spider-Man”. Peter has to learn what it means to be a hero as he is very inexperienced in the film. He makes mistakes but attempts to learn from them and come up with creative strategies to combat new situations. This is also a high school film and Peter navigates being the nerdy kid in school while also having a crush and bringing to life a real high school experience. There are equal parts Peter Parker and Spider-Man in this film that make the film well balanced. Holland is excellent at executing all of the parts of this character and makes them believable for a kid learning to be a superhero.
The actions set-pieces are great as well. This is a pretty small-scale film and no where near as monumental Civil War was. Peter is stopping weapon’s dealers and robbers in attempts to prove himself as a full-fledged Avenger. The stakes are still real however and with Peter being inexperienced, it makes the moments especially more tense as you do not know whether he will make a costly mistake. However, it isn’t as confidently helmed as with previous Spider-Man movies and there isn’t as much excitement as you might expect. The smaller set pieces are fresh, but you feel this was a step back instead of forwards for the MCU’s action department.
Michael Keaton’s Vulture gets a better treatment than most superhero villains these days. He is motivated for good reasons that make you understand where he is coming from and also sympathize with. He is a good dynamic with Spider-Man and is also menacing to his henchmen when he needs to be. However, he is still not a fully formed and realized villain that you can completely get behind. Nonetheless, Keaton delivers successfully in his third iteration of a bird-like person.
The comedic relief in this film is excellent and executed perfectly. With Peter being inexperienced, there are some great humorous moments where he is learning to use his powers or hide them from people close to him. His quippy side comments when fighting the bad guys are also signature providing some good quotable moments. Peter’s friends Ned and Michelle (Jacob Batalon and Zendaya respectively) also offer some small quick one-liners that ground the film and immerse you in the high school experience. This is by-far the funniest Marvel movie we have had to date and it is successful in every manner.
The film falters a bit in its pacing. There is some downtime, both when Peter is in the costume and out, in which there is not really anything majorly exciting happening. This is due to the film being more grounded and small scale so I did not mind it as much. The downtime is mainly used for humor, and when the writing is this good I don’t mind a few more quips and jokes.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a great Marvel movies and the best iteration of Spider-Man and Peter Parker combined. The film does not retell the origin story but rather shows Peter’s struggles in being Spider-Man that made him such a relatable character in the first place. The action can be exciting even with its small scale and the Vulture is definitely a villain more compelling than previous Marvel villains. The humor is where this film excels the most imbuing both good quips and age appropriate jokes for all audiences. Tom Holland is fantastic and I am super excited to see more from him and his team-up with the rest of the Avengers next May!