Spider-Man has the distinction of having been rebooted three times in the last fifteen years. Both the Raimi Films and the Marc Webb films have good points. Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is a high point for super-hero themed films. But they also never quite fully got Spider-Man as a character. Maguire’s Peter Parker could be to goofy, while Garfield’s Peter was to moody and mopey.
Sony hit some hard times, made all the worse by a major hack that exposed all sorts of internal issues. One thing it revealed? Sony had talked with Marvel about a deal that would allow Spider-Man to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The talks fell apart before the hack. But this brought them back to life.
Sony decided to let Marvel bring a heavy creative hand in. In exchange, Sony got to include MCU characters in their Spider-Films. The MCU introduced Spider-Man into their world via Captain America: Civil War. Spider-Man was a highlight of that film. And rather than try to retrofit Peter Parker in, as if Spider-Man had been there all along… they stepped into his career early, so he is new on the scene.
Homecoming picks up roughly eight months after Civil War, with Peter enjoying using his Stark supplied super-suit and anxiously awaiting his next big Avengers mission. Which seems to never come along. Instead, Peter races around trying to get better by fighting street crime and helping lost old ladies. His day to day life has, of course, been tougher since Tony Stark has come into his life, and he starts to withdraw to make more time. He dreams of beautiful classmate Liz and hangs out with his closest friend Gan-uh-Ned. Of course, he makes a major discovery, the adults don’t listen and Peter over-confidently decides to take on guys who may be out of his league.
One of the refreshing story points is that this is not about Peter learning about “with Great Power comes Great Responsibility”…at this point, he has learned that lesson. We only get vague reference to Uncle Ben’s death. In fact, the origin of Spider-Man is tossed out in a two second exchange.
Holland’s Peter Parker is sweet and awkward…his Spider-Man is quippy, but still learning. He is not yet the confident Peter Parker, he practices lines, tries to get into a good pose before alerting bad guys to his presence. But of the previous film versions, this is easily the strongest portrayal of Peter. He may be in-experienced, but there are just so many things that make this version…well Spider-Man.
The rest of the cast of characters are updated in some interesting ways. Ned Leeds is really Ganke from the Miles Morales Spider-Man comics, and he is a very fun character. This is largely due to the comic timing and enthusiasm of actor Jacob Batalon. I was most hesitant about Marisa Tomei as Aunt May…not because of her acting ability…but because she is only a few years older than me…and she feels more youthful and vibrant than traditional portrayals of Aunt May. But I ended up really liking her in the role.
Michael Keaton’s Vulture is a terrific improvement on the character. I never really cared for the comic version…he never seemed like he was all that much of a threat. And the green suit did not help. Keaton’s performance is solid and menacing…yet his motives are understandable. He is a guy who wants to provide for his family, and saw secret government agencies undercutting his business. He turns to crime to make up for that. The Vulture look is a nice combination of modern with hints of his original look. It works very well.
The action scenes are all nice and effective. Sometimes these films can get confusing during busy action scenes. Homecoming makes the action easy to follow. And the film is infused with humor. While theses were not absent from the previous versions, it is much more present here. And yet, the humor is not at the expense of Peter’s character. He feels the heavy weight of responsibility, regardless of his experience.
Admittedly, the film does not break new ground for Spider-Man…but I think it may be the best of the Spider-Man films so far. Or, at worst, a close second to Raimi’s second Spider-Man film. This is a fun film, and fun should be part of (a lot more) super-hero films. Being overseen by Marvel, there are plenty of easter eggs…but what Marvel is usually really good about is that the easter eggs are a bonus for fans who love the comics…and if you have not read the comics, you won’t feel like you are missing something.
Honestly, I recommend seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming in the theater. It benefits from being seen with an audience.