I remember growing up watching the original Spider-Man trilogy. I could rewatch them and never get tired. I even enjoyed Spider-Man 3 and still do, to an extent. Around the age of 13, I began to read Spider-Man comics. I started with the original Amazing Spider-Man series and went from there. No matter what I was going through at that time, I immediately felt better when reading about Peter Parker and his adventures. The Amazing Spider-Man and it’s sequel both came out at the height of my obsession. Both had plenty of flaws, I still loved them. Spider-Man moving to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was probably the best news I received that year. I stopped reading comics a few years ago but I still consider Spider-Man to be my favorite superhero. Though, I was worried. Marvel movies were either a hit or miss with me and the last few movies have been misses for me. So, I was nervous to see how they would handle Peter Parker. Luckily, I was impressed with Tom Holland’s introduction as Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War and couldn’t wait for his solo movie. So, on Thursday night I entered the theater wearing my Spider-Man shirt and socks and counted down the seconds until Homecoming started.
During the opening scene, we go back to the attack on New York during the climax of The Avengers. We meet our villain, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes. He’s in charge of cleaning up the debris that The Avengers left behind, mostly alien technology. This doesn’t last long, as a government official orders his team to leave the site. Cleaning up battle wreckage is now the Government’s responsibility, forcing independent companies, like the one Toomes owns, out of the job. Adrian Toomes manages to steal some alien tech which him and his employees use to their advantange but more on that later.
The film then jumps a few years to when Captain America: Civil War takes place. Handheld video, shot by Peter Parker himself shows how he helped Iron Man during the fight at the airport. While the handheld footage lasts a little longer than it should, it wasn’t a bad introduction to Tom Holland’s first solo movie as Peter Parker. It also sets up the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker which is explored later in the movie. I was weary about Tony Stark being such a prominent character in the movie, it’s handled quite well. Stark essentially serves as a teacher for Peter Parker, explaining that Peter is better off solving smaller problems in his community which motivates Peter to be the hero he has the capability to be.
Personally, I wanted an adult Peter Parker in the MCU given that the last two Spider-Man franchises featured high school aged Peters. But I was proven wrong. Perhaps the biggest strength of Homecoming is Tom Holland playing a teenage Peter Parker. Tom Holland flawlessly incapsulates who Peter Parker is: a smart but very awkward teenager given extraordinary powers. Perhaps my favorite scenes in Homecoming were of Peter in school. He obviously was one of the smartest students but he seemed distracted and anticipating the end of the school day so he could go ‘fight crime’. In one scene, when talking to his friend Ned, Peter struggles to explain what he wanted to do after high school, but college wasn’t something he thought seriously about. As was the case in the early comics. Peter Parker had no problem getting good grades but he struggled with prioritizing his schoolwork over his powers. Frequently in the comics, Peter would think about dropping of school. This conflict is one of the things that makes Homecoming a refreshing take on Spider-Man, and superhero movies in general.
Homecoming has been described as a ‘John Hughes’ superhero movie and the description wasn’t too far off. Perhaps my favorite scenes were of Peter Parker at his high school with his classmates. As mentioned before, Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is Peter’s best friend who’s with him at all times. Other classmates include Laura Harrier as Liz, a senior at Peter’s school and his main love interest. Zendaya plays Michelle, a loner who seems to always be around Ned and Peter. An interesting addition to the film was Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson. In the comics, Flash is a jock who relentlessly bullies Peter while admiring Spider-Man. Revolori plays an updated Flash who isn’t quite a jock, but still an awful bully to Peter. Instead of having forgettable supporting characters, Homecoming updates these characters and makes them a little more interesting. Hopefully the characters all become more fleshed out in the eventual sequels.
While fighting crime, which includes retrieving a stolen bike and giving an old lady directions, Peter encounters some criminals trying to rob a bank. He tries to stop them, but has trouble because of how powerful their weapon is. The weapon suspends Spider-Man in mid air and shoots him against a wall. Also, the weapon explodes a nearby deli. The pure level of destruction the weapon does makes Peter curious and worried. But, Peter doesn’t know what to do about it. During school the next day, Ned lets it slip that Peter ‘knows Spider-Man’ which gets them both invited to a party at Liz’s house. Peter and Ned are both dropped off at the party by Aunt May played by Marisa Tomei, who does so much with so little. At the party, Peter sees a bright light in the sky, which looks familiar to the weapon he encountered the previous night. With his Spidey Suit on, he follows the light which is coming from a weapon deal. He tries to stop the criminals as they drive away but is intercepted by a menacing character in a high tech suit. The criminals get away before Peter could catch them.
Directly following that scene, it’s revealed that Adrian Toomes was in the suit, as The Vulture. In the past few years, Adrian has been stealing alien tech and turning them into powerful weapons. He does this to support his family and, in a way, to get back at the government who stole his job. Michael Keaton elevates this character that no other actor could have. The Vulture is a lot more terrifying than the comic version but his character alone raises some complex questions. Adrian is doing what he needs to do to support his family but is selling weapons with unimaginable strength to criminals the best thing to do? It was nice seeing such an incredible actor play a complex villain, something that’s rare with superhero movies.
While Homecoming is one of the better examples of a superhero movie, it still suffers from a lot of problems common to the genre. The high school scenes shine, the action sequences aren’t anything special. Luckily, towards the end, theres a reveal that adds much needed tension to the film but it comes too late. The film is much more interesting when focusing on Peter Parker surviving high school. I was surprised by how well written the script was, for a superhero movie, but the directing left much to be desired. There was some faint glimmers of originality but it seems Marvel isn’t interested in giving directors complete creative control, but we knew that already.
Coming from a huge fan of the Spider-Man comics, Homecoming is a successful start to the new franchise which has a lot in common with the ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ comic series. Even if it’s not a perfect movie, I found myself smiling throughout and enjoying every second of it. Homecoming is far better than recent superhero movies mostly due to Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker and Michael Keaton as The Vulture. On a final note, I hate arguing over who’s a better Peter Parker because all three actors played the part differently and drew inspiration from different eras of the character. With that being said, Tom Holland blew me away as Peter. I don’t think I’ll ever decide who the best Spider-Man was, but after a few more movies, Tom might make the decision a little easier for me.