TL; DR(eview) - Spider-Man: Homecoming, despite being the third incarnation of the character in fifteen years, manages to tell a fresh story thanks to its decision to finally focus on a young Peter Parker. Homecoming doesn’t rehash the origin story we’ve seen twice before, yet it still manages to tell arguably the best iteration to date of a Peter Parker trying to come to terms with his abilities and find the balance between life with and without the mask. A great performance from Michael Keaton also gives the film one of the most fleshed out Marvel villains to date.
This written review is spoiler-free but the video version does dabble in some clearly labeled spoilers for the second half of the video.
I liked the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies but I didn’t quite connect with Tobey Maguire’s portrayal. I liked Andrew Garfield’s portrayal better but he was also too old and saddled with overstuffed and weak writing. As we briefly saw in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland expertly embodies the role of a young, 15-year-old Peter and fortunately has a solid movie around him to boot.
This film, more than any others before it truly captures the youth inherent in the Peter Parker/Spider-Man I grew up with. With actors believably passing as high schoolers, we finally get to see a Spider-Man dealing with the duality of having these incredible powers while still struggling to deal with the realities of high school. This isn’t a story like so many others in the Marvel universe have been where the world is about to end. Except when you’re a high schooler and don’t know if the girl you like likes you back, the world is about to end. That alone weighs on Peter’s mind here. The fact that he’s also trying to follow-up with Tony Stark on his desire to become an Avenger by spending his after-school hours chasing down bicycle thieves and armed robbers adds to his stresses.
Meanwhile, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes has spent the last few years leading a crew of alien tech thieves and arms dealers, angered by his working class construction crew being ousted from their government contract to clean up the aftermath in the Battle of New York. Toomes repeatedly emphasizes that he’s only doing what he has to in order to look after his family but the years on the wrong side of the law have certainly brought out a more sinister side. But Keaton manages to turn from sympathetic blue-collar guy to ruthless Vulture on a dime and his years of experience means he poses a genuine threat to Peter, who is really still testing his own limits.
Elsewhere in the film, there is are a few fun action set pieces. None of them quite reach the heights of the elevated train sequence in Spider-Man 2, though the ferry sequence in the trailers certainly comes the closest to evoking that feeling. But in fact I would say some of the best moments might come from the fact that this is a Queens-based, more suburban Spider-Man who is forced somewhat by necessity to often stick closer to the ground.
Lastly, I think this film balances the humor of Spider-Man incredibly well for the most part. Peter has a ton of great lines, as well as some strong physical comedy moments. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jon Favreau deliver on a lot of the humor that they’ve established as veterans of the Marvel universe. Zendaya has a lot of smart-ass moments as the often-aloof Michelle, one of Peter’s fellow academic decathletes. Potentially the most polarizing character might be Jacob Batalon’s Ned, Peter’s best friend who straddles the line between funny and overly-annoying comic sidekick. I think he ultimately won me over, but I can also see a lot of people walking away from this movie leaning the other way.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a great coming-of-age movie, a wonderful comic book movie, and an incredible Spider-Man film. It tells a solid, self-contained story that avoids the now all-too-common “how about we just call the Avengers” complaint we often see in these stand-alone films by focusing on Peter Parker’s “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” But it also lays out enough little bread crumbs to leave fans excited about what’s next for the web-crawler and his adventures in Infinity War, as well as his own movies.