Dan M., here….
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a really good “Marvel” (too lazy to explain all the Sony stuff) movie that is hopefully the breath of fresh air the MCU needs. It had much smaller stakes, much more realized supporting cast and World that they operated in, a good villain that made sense, and a finale that didn’t turn into a $45million CGI punching. If the future of the solo Marvel films is going to be smaller universe conflicts that are more narrowly focused like this and Ant-Man? I am here for it. Leave space to Guardians & Thor, the end of the World to the Avengers, and weird dimensions to Doctor Strange. Give me low level criminals that Spider-Man has to fight before a math test to break those huge films up any day of the week.
We met Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War so no need for the backstory at all which was a nice change to these first entry superhero movies. We didn’t spend twenty minutes on Peter being bit by a spider and the Uncle Ben story, both events were mentioned in passing because Marvel (smartly) knows the audience has seen/heard/read Spider-Man’s origin story 5 different times in the last 15 years. Instead, the movie starts with Spider-Man already established as a low level hero on the streets on New York. After his actions in Civil War, which are revisited through cell phone footage on Peter’s phone, Tony Stark allows Spider-Man to keep the suit and be a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” Peter is a 15 year old kid who just got to travel to Germany with The Avengers and fight in a (not life or death) battle against the mightiest heroes in the World, so naturally he wants more responsibility and wants to be an Avenger. Stark pawns him off on Happy Hogan who acts a babysitter for most of the film “ignoring” Peter’s requests for bigger assignments.
The smartest decision Marvel has made in a long time is casting Tom Holland and allowing Spider-Man to be a high school sophomore who actually looks like a high school kid. I read Tom Holland is 21 but he looks 16 at most and it works. I love the Raimi Spider-Man movies but 40 year old Tobey Maguire in high school never worked. Holland brings a true joy and innocence to this universe that it is lacking. He wants to be part of The Avengers and, like every high school kid ever, tries way too hard to fit in.
The school aspect is where Homecoming mines most of its charm. The high school and characters feel fully realized. Remove the Spider-Man aspect and throw in any teen rom-com trope and this movie probably would’ve worked really well based on the cast of characters. Peter’s best friend Ned has an “lived-in” friendship with Peter and once he discovers Peter’s secret he doesn’t do or ask anything that you wouldn’t ask your friend if you found out they were a hero. Flash Thompson is no longer a muscular jock, but instead is a rival decathlete of Peter’s who is just an overconfident rich jerk. Is there anything more perfectly high school than a jerk chanting ‘Penis Parker’? The two female leads were serviceable with Michelle stealing the show as a completely cynical, deadpan, member of the decathlete team who just loves stirring the pot. The actress who plays Liz was eye candy and it was never developed why she liked Peter unless she saw him with his shirt off before because the guy is jacked.
I’d like to tip my cap to Marvel for finally having an interesting and relatable villain! Congratulations guys! You did it! Michael Keaton, Adrian Toomes and the Vulture, was a scrap yard and construction removal team leader who got a contract to clean up New York City after the events of the first Avengers movie. As they are cleaning the city up they learn that they have been let go because Tony Stark created an agency to clean up and remove all alien technology. Toomes loses his contract after buying trucks and hiring multiple crews. Upset and angry he keeps some of the alien technology and with his crew begins to use that tech to steal artifacts from destruction left behind by Avengers battles and sell it on the black market. He emphasizes the low level things they do as to not attract the attention of The Avengers. It makes sense and his arc works. There are some spoilers and twists to get to the Spider-Man show down that I won’t reveal here but for the first time in a long time we didn’t have a CGI punch fest to end a superhero movie and could actually understand the perspective of the villain. It was a nice change of pace. It was also nice that the villain was trying to steal stuff. He wasn’t trying to kill Spider-Man or take over the World, Spider-Man would get in his way but at every opportunity The Vulture’s goal was to take the stuff he was stealing and leave.
I should say that everyone concerned about this being Iron Man 4 feat. Spider-Man doesn’t need to worry. Iron Man is in 4 scenes and 3 of them are in the trailers. Iron Man never fights the villains of this film. It is a Spider-Man movie with a few Iron Man cameos. Robert Downey Jr. rules the Marvel Universe and I understand Sony’s request to include him and it worked for me for the most part. Tony acted recklessly bringing a kid to the fight in Civil War but sees something of a son/father figure opportunity and reluctantly takes on that role. It didn’t feel forced in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Stark’s character journey so far. The one major complaint I have with the movie is the suit that Tony made for Peter is an Iron Man suit that Spider-Man wears. The suit has its own female Jarvis named Karen and it gives Spider-Man all sorts of options and sensory abilities that were always attributed to Peter’s spider sense. I didn’t understand the need for Stark to be responsible for so much but towards the end, Peter loses his suit and seems capable of the same abilities he had in the Stark suit so I don’t even know. It was just strange to have a Jarvis in Peter’s head and was the one addition I wasn’t a huge fan of. Spider-Man has spider sense not a sweet AI system in his head.
The bottom line is that this was a really good superhero movie. It is a change of perspective for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it didn’t feel like it existed only to get to the next movie. Of course there were Easter Eggs but they seemed to flow organically, which is weird since like 12 people wrote this movie. I really hope this new focused narrative and plot to the solo films takes hold at Marvel after Avengers 4 in 2019. It’d be nice to see Spider-Man just have to deal with Kraven the Hunter (Gerard Butler anyone?) who just wants to add him to his wall because he’s killed every other animal. Or maybe Spider-Man has to deal with the King Pin who starts running gun or drugs through Queens? The movie left me hopeful for the future of Spider-Man movies and Marvel solo films and that is a good feeling.
If you made it this far: The movie has plenty of humor but the biggest laugh for me was Hannibal Burress as a P.E. Coach playing the Captain America workout tape and saying something like, “He’s a war criminal or something now I think but whatever, I just had to play these dumb tapes.”