Arbitrary jab at this being the third Spider-Man reboot, and then lets get to the headline: this movie is great.
Spider-man: Homecoming (2017) is an MCU superhero action movie directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car). It stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, nerdy high-school kid whose itching for excitement after the events of Civil War. As he’s trying to figure out his role in Queens as a ‘friendly neighbourhood’ Spider-Man, a mysterious new villain emerges in the form of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) to threaten the blossoming hero’s alter-ego and personal life.
The Final Spidey?
What a rollercoaster its been to get Spidey here. From the Raimi trilogy of the early 2000s to the botched Sony-restrained franchise-desperate Garfield reboot to the eventual elation of everyone’s favourite wall-crawler finally coming home, Spidey’s filmic journey has had more twists, turns and disappointments than the Clone Saga. This makes the fact that Spider-Man: Homecoming is potentially the best Spider-Man film yet all the more astonishing.
This is also the first film to ever truly understand the Spider-Man of the comics. The light tone, balancing of alter egos, quipping, high school drama and continual struggles of a kid trying to figure out his super-powered place in the world has finally been brought to life in a way that not even the best of Raimi’s work managed. The love Watts and Feige clearly have for the character has made it on screen, with a film that leans into what makes Spider-Man so endearing in the MCU while also paying tribute to his long history. Its distinct and fresh compared to the other adaptations while also feeling comfortably familiar for any fans of the character.
Not only that but thankfully the film manages to feel distinct compared to its MCU brethren. Watts has infused the film with a John Hughsian high school tone that adds a new layer to the expanding universe that we’ve yet seen. In addition the film takes the incredibly necessary approach to Spidey’s origins by crafting a movie that’s not an origin story while still dealing with Peter’s new struggles as a superhero. Refreshingly, Peter spends most of Homecoming being a legitimately terrible and inexperienced hero, which allows us to see him blossoming into the Spider-Man we love without seeing Uncle Ben shot for the upteenth time.
Friendly Neighbourhood Cast
And as for Spider-Man himself, I could hardly think of a better choice than Holland in the role. While Maguire was a great Peter Parker and Garfield the better Spider-Man, Holland manages to embody both in his performance and while I can nitpick and wish they doubled-down a little further on Peter’s science nerd cred, this is still my favourite big-screen adaptation of Spidey to date.
The supporting cast is thankfully just as spectacular. Jacob Batalon steals several scenes as Peter’s new nerdy friend Ned in a character that essentially acts as comic relief but also brings a whole lot more to the movie in a surprisingly necessary role. Robert Downey Jr. is also thankfully not in the movie as much as I expected, and as an essential mentor for the blossoming hero while also consistently outlining Spidey’s place in the rest of the MCU. Marisa Tomei is also a surprise as an amusingly subversive take on Peter’s Aunt May, even if she doesn’t enjoy a whole lot of screen time. Hell, even Laura Harrier is pretty good as love interest Liz. She’s not developed much but at least she’s a character rather than a face for Peter to pine over.
And as for the biggest surprise of the movie, behold Michael Keaton playing another Bird guy! Hypocrisy aside of him taking this role after Birdman, the Vulture ends up being a surprisingly well-done and essential part of Homecoming in a way I did not expect at all. While he’s not a Loki calibre villain, he’s a far cry from the throwaway antagonists of most MCU movies and actually turns out to be a somewhat engaging character to root against. Toomes isn’t a typically evil person, and Keaton (with help from the script) manages to play him more as a desperate family man simply trying to make ends meet and constantly struggling against both his greed and the situation he’s found himself in. He parallels Peter’s struggle as a neighbourhood superhero in very clever ways, with Watts managing to turn the B-list villain into a character just shy of Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. It also helps that his suit is bloody awesome.
Spider’s can’t Animate
Unfortunately where Homecoming begins to dip is with the actual Blockbuster side of the proceedings. Watt’s inexperience with shooting CGI is a little too present through some bad editing and really shaky action scenes. Spider-Man looks like a rubber CGI doll a little too often, making me think that the film would’ve strongly benefited from some more practical effects also. That’s not to say this film isn’t devoid of great, imaginative set pieces but unfortunately they never reach the heights of their creativity. By far the weakest element of a usually great movie.
Stick around Spidey
For the longest time I said the perfect adaptation of Spider-Man doesn’t exist on the big screen. While great, the Raimi movies never tried for the tone and characters of the comics that I long hoped to see. While Spider-Man: Homecoming is not a spectacular movie, this is the damn closest the silver screen has ever experienced Spider-Man in its truest form. The action and CGI may leave plenty to be desired, but ultimately the raw success of Jon Watts bringing the essence of Spider-Man to the screen is the achievement I have waited to see since getting up early on Saturday’s to see the 90s animated Spider-Man. Now lets just hope Sony doesn’t botch it.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended
True Believers (Spider-Man/MCU): Must-see