Hot Take: The best Spidey flick yet. The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues their spectacular run.
Full disclosure: I was a comic book fan growing up and Spider-Man was easily my favorite. I like Spider-Man enough that even Spider-Man 3 was enjoyable to watch. (Amazing Spiderman 2? Not so much… sorry Andrew Garfield.) Also, it’s important to note that ever since Spidey’s cameo in Captain America: Civil War, I’ve been pretty stoked about the prospect of another Spider-Man reboot.
Going into Spider-Man: Homecoming, I tried to temper my expectations. However, the trailers which were obsessed with telling you how great critics thought the film was to the point where it was selling itself as the best Spider-Man movie to date really made it difficult to do so. Walking in, I was expecting the new Spider-Man to knock my socks off. While I wouldn’t go as far to say that Spider-Man: Homecoming accomplished such a feat, it’s safe to say that selling itself as the best Spider-Man movie to date was a fair sales pitch.
Tom Holland took over the titular role in this latest reboot. Before his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, unless you saw 2012’s The Impossible, 2013’s How I Live Now or were a Broadway fan and saw Billy Elliott The Musical between 2008-2010, there’s a pretty good chance you’re unfamiliar with his work. Director Jon Watt has a similar resume with 2015’s Cop Car and 2016’s Clown the only films on his resume. Outside of Michael Keaton as the villain, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Jon Favreau as the link to the rest of the MCU in their familiar roles of Tony Stark, Captain America and Happy Hogan and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, the majority of the cast — especially the cast you spend the most time with — is relatively unknown. It’s an interesting approach that works very well because you spend most of your time concentrating solely on the film rather than thinking about the casting choices.
Another smart decision the film makes is to pick up right after where the Captain America: Civil War timeline would have put the story. We don’t spend any time reliving Spider-Man’s origin story. Uncle Ben is already dead. Even though the film is much earlier in Spider-Man’s timeline than any other previous Spider-Man or Amazing Spider-Man tale, this opening installment to the third incarnation of Spider-Man feels like it has progressed further than the previous two incarnations in their initial installments. The 21-year-old Holland plays a 15-year-old version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man while a 27-year-old Tobey Maguire was a high school senior in the original Spider-Man and a 29-year-old Andrew Garfield played a high school version in Amazing Spider-Man. While Holland is still 6 years older than the character he portrays, his age is much more believable than the more accomplished Maguire and Garfield who were also hampered by being more familiar to the audience.
The film itself has a straightforward story. Peter wants to prove his good enough to be an Avenger to Happy and Tony while fighting crime in and around Queens. One night, he attempts to stop some armed robbers at an ATM and finds the group has some pretty powerful weapons. Eventually, he finds out the weapons are being sold by a mysterious man in a winged suit which if you’re familiar with the comic you’d know as Vulture (Keaton). Keaton’s gang has been planning to hijack shipments from Tony Stark’s U.S. Department of Damage Control containing alien weapons and re-sell them for profit. With the help of his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who accidentally finds out his secret identity, Spider-Man tracks Vulture and his goons to Maryland and nearly thwarts the hijacking of the shipment. However, things don’t go exactly as planned and he instead gets trapped inside the D.O.D.C. while he figures out the technology he left with Ned is actually dangerous and will likely explode. Of course, it explodes while Peter’s classmates (including his crush Liz played by Laura Harrier) are touring the Washington Monument. Of course, Spidey has to save the day in D.C. while dealing with working out the bugs of the unlocked features of his enhanced suit from Stark. Eventually, the story leads to a showdown between Spider-Man and Vulture on a Staten Island Ferry while The Vulture is selling some of the hijacked weapons. During the battle, the alien weaponry explodes and splits the ferry in half leaving Spider-Man to try and hold the two halves together. Luckily, Stark/Iron Man shows up and prevents a horrible disaster but because Peter continues to try and take on what Stark thinks are battles too big for him, he takes the enhanced suit back and leaves Peter to figure out how to be a superhero without a super suit.
As always, these reviews are spoiler free and the preceding paragraph contains nothing you couldn’t glean from the trailers. The film’s third act picks up from there and we’ll leave all the details of what happens there although my guess is based on how every other superhero flick progresses, it isn’t a major surprise. It is well done and delivers a story that progresses rather quickly even with a 133 minute run time. Credit the MCU angles with Stark and Hogan’s involvement for helping string together the Spider-Man universe with the rest of the MCU. It makes for a more interesting, layered tale than just the Spidey stuff and, as always, gets you excited for the next chapter. Spider-Man: Homecoming also delivers something that can sometimes be lacking in these comic book tales: FUN! Holland exudes enthusiasm as he grows into Spider-Man. It’s obvious on the screen that he not only feels duty bound to use his powers to stop the bad guy but he appears to be having a blast doing so. That’s something very obvious in the comics that wasn’t always completely obvious in the Maguire-led Spider-Man saga or the Garfield-led Amazing Spider-Man tales. Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t perfect. The progression of the tale isn’t outside of the box. There’s a nice twist in the third act that you might not see coming but even the surprise isn’t shocking. The film feels a little smaller than the previous incarnations as the gravity of those tales since they involved Uncle Ben’s death or one of Parker’s well known love interests MJ or Gwen Stacy, there’s a TV special vibe for what is actually a feature film. Some might take issue with that but while those other films had bigger stakes, this Spider-Man character grows more than the others even with lesser stakes and smaller personal consequences.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- That Enhanced Spider Suit
Once best friend Ned takes off the “training wheels” protocol put in place on the Iron Man-enhanced Spider suit, we are introduced to Karen (Jennifer Connelly), the A.I. inside the suit. The interactions between Karen and Spidey are entertaining as well as his struggles with dealing with all of the new features the suit has to offer.
- Hannibal Buress
In the Spider-Man universe, there’s always a bunch of characters in and around Spider-Man that are aloof to Parker’s alter ego. Buress is Parker’s gym teacher and self-describes his character as “one of the dumbass characters that don’t realize Peter is Spider-Man.” His moments on the screen are almost “blink and you’ll miss it” but they provide some of the humor you’d expect in a Spider-Man flick.
- The Captain America PSAs
Another subtle but funny touch are the Captain America PSAs tossed in throughout the film. Stay through the credits, too. It’s worth it.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Iron Man Entanglement
There were a number of things that happened between Parker and Stark that didn’t make sense if you thought too much about them. We find out early on Stark put a tracking device inside Peter’s suit but that fact is only conveniently introduced at just the right moment. Later, though, when Peter removes the tracker and leaves it in a D.C. hotel, no one from Stark Industries notices the tracker hasn’t moved in hours? I get that Stark has bigger fish to fry but Stark Industries is a big place with 21st century technology, you’d think such behavior would set off a red flag.