Disclaimer: I’m not a Marvel comics reader. I’ve read a few and enjoyed them, but not enough to be an expert on anything. All I really know is that I want to see a Kamala Khan movie already. That’s about it. So I don’t have an opinion on how well this movie represents the Spiderman comics.
My faith in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been restored! I’d been feeling a little bit “meh” about some of their Phase 2 movies and Civil War, but I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the new Spiderman so much that I’m looking forward to what’s next again. They’re well-made, well-told, fun movies.
Like Guardians 2, Spiderman: Homecoming stands out by having a great villain: Michael Keaton as the Vulture. His connection and relationship to Peter doesn’t start to get truly interesting until the third act. But his backstory and motivations aren’t needlessly complicated and he serves as a good foil to Spiderman. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, so I’ll just say that I really liked the way his arc got resolved at the end of the movie.
Tom Holland continues to give an entertaining performance as Peter Parker. In this movie, he’s just gotten back from his big battle with Team Stark in Civil War. Tony says that he’ll call with future assignments…and then he doesn’t. He thinks Peter has potential, but also knows that he’s dealing with an eager teenager who could easily get killed in action. The film’s conflict centers around Peter trying to prove that he’s capable of officially joining the Avengers while also trying to navigate high school drama and stop the Vulture.
These three different narrative threads integrate well together and Homecoming has good pacing. For example, Peter uses a school event in Washington D.C. as a means of transportation when he needs to track the Vulture’s movements out of state. And as you’d expect, Peter hopes that his investigation of the Vulture will impress Tony Stark. I appreciate that the plot never gets too complicated but doesn’t play dumb either. It’s full of jokes concerning Peter balancing a normal teen life with his double life as Spiderman, yet these jokes don’t get old after a while.
Speaking of which, it’s nice to watch a Spiderman movie that didn’t play up the drama of Peter’s secret identity as much. I know everyone loves Spiderman 2 from the Sam Raimi trilogy and I agree that it’s a good movie. But I felt that it rammed you from all sides with Peter’s struggles until the third act. Everything was going wrong for the guy in that movie. He loses his job because he keeps abandoning it to be Spiderman. His best friend hates him because of his connection to Spiderman. His crush, Mary Jane, hates him because he can never make it to her play, because he keeps showing up late after fighting crime as Spiderman. Then he watches her get engaged to another man. He’s failing college because he’s spending all of his time crime fighting as Spiderman. On top of that, he’s so overwhelmed by his life falling apart that he doubts whether he can still be a hero- and that doubt causes his powers to stop working at crucial moments. The man cannot catch a break.
There’s nothing wrong with a hero who struggles; I prefer one of them over a hero who can do no wrong. Still, I liked that Homecoming got the point across without dragging it out so much like the Sam Raimi films did. His secret hero work can and does have negative impacts on his life without utterly ruining him.
It helps that Peter’s best friend knows his secret identity this time around. Ned’s a fun character. The way he and Peter react to the whole thing feels so real. Of course he’d have so many questions about how Peter’s powers work and what he does with the Avengers. Of course he’d struggle not to tell everyone and of course they’d be tempted to use Peter’s alter ego to impress girls at parties.
The rest of the cast works too, although Peter’s love interest, Liz Allan, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. I like where they’re going with Michelle, the girl who makes sarcastic comments at everyone else’s expense throughout the movie. The decision to make Flash more of an academic rival to Peter was an interesting choice. That said, he’s still a bully who makes Peter’s life miserable, so he hasn’t changed that much, as far as I can tell.
Last, but not least, Spiderman: Homecoming has some spectacular action sequences. The final aerial battle literally had me on the edge of my seat. Obviously, Spiderman’s going to survive for more films, but he gets knocked around so much in this movie that it can be easy to forget that he will. You can see why Tony Stark worries about Peter Parker. He barely makes it out alive.
There’s also a nice touch of realism in the final battle after Peter lands on the ground and the sound becomes muted. Having flown in an airplane on vacation recently, I struggled with my hearing because of the air pressure and it makes sense that would happen to superheroes too- especially if it’s accompanied by explosions. This detail adds to the tension as well. If Peter’s having temporary trouble with his hearing, then he can’t hear Vulture coming for him. It was a small addition that didn’t last long, but a good one.
Although Spiderman: Homecoming isn’t a very deep film, it’s a lot of fun. I’m very glad that I saw it and can’t wait for the sequels!