Film Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Sony has finally given up the reins to Marvel’s marquee character (or rather lent him back to Marvel while Sony takes in all the profits), and the result is pretty great. After an impressive debut in the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man gets the official Marvel treatment in an entertaining and action packed super-hero film. Sony’s attempt to reboot the series with the Amazing Spider-Man films fell short, due primarily to muddy and moody scripts, but Spider-Man: Homecoming places the web slinger back where he belongs, firmly in the Marvel Universe. Letting Spider-Man play in such a well established universe was exactly what the flailing Spidy franchise needed. More so than Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film, Homecoming has a fresh, somewhat light hearted approach, while still carrying the emotional weight that a superhero film, in particular a Spidy film, should have.

The film begins by briefly recapping the events of Captain America: Civil War from Peter’s perspective, so those that have not seen the film are brought up to speed pretty quickly. The film then focuses on Peter’s desire to continue his adventures with the Avengers, while balancing school and his web slinging heroics. While Tobey Maquire did a fine job in the  first three Spider-Man films,  Tom Holland’s younger age makes him perfect for the role. This is an inexperienced teenage taking on pretty big responsibilities, which Holland captures perfectly.

Homecoming benefits from a very strong supporting cast. Aunt May is less of a focus than in previous Spider-Man films (thankfully), and Marisa Tomei’s take on the character is more “concerned older sister” than “neurotic grandmother,” which fits this universe better. Peter’s best friend and confidant Ned (Jacob Batalon) was a very nice addition to the Spidy cinematic world, but unfortunately, I felt the character was written a bit too “sitcomy” and cliched. Zendaya was a real stand out in the film, playing Peter’s school mate Michelle. She brought just the right amount of snark and sarcasm to the film. Comedian Hannibal Burres has a very small role as school gym teacher Coach Wilson, but manages to deliver one of the funniest lines of the movie while presenting a Captain America educational film to his class. And it was nice to see the always likable Jon Favreau return as Tony Stark’s put-upon head of security Happy Hogan in a relatively sizable role (Favreau remains as one of the Executive Producers of the MCU after directing the first two Iron Man films, so his over all role in the films has always been sizable).

To me one of the most refreshing aspects of the film was how the villainous Adrian Toomes (Vulture), is portrayed. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t initially too keen on the casting of Michael Keaton in the role. Since his recent film resurgence, Keaton has put out some of the best performances of his career, so taking on the role of a villain in a superhero franchise seemed like a step backward (although, unlike his Birdman character, Keaton still completely embraces his time on screen as Batman). That said, I was happy with how Toomes was written, and how he was portrayed by Keaton. The character does not have any contrived motivation for his villainy. He is simply an owner of scrap metal salvage company looking to profit from the aftermath of Avengers battles. This relatively realistic approach to Toomes is aided by Keaton’s very grounded performance. We don’t have the over top performance of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, or the over sentimentalized portrayal of Sandman by Thomas Hayden Church. Keaton keeps his acting firmly on the ground, which lends a lot of credibility to the film.

Robert Downy Jr., returning to the role he was born to play, is great as always as Tony Stark/Iron Man, but while I enjoyed Peter’s student/mentor relationship with Stark (which is based partially on the same comic storyline that Captan America: Civil War took inspiration from), I felt Peter’s character arc within that relationship was entirely too predictable. Peter is given flaws, as any hero off his young age would have, but I would have liked to see the writers go in a slightly different direction with them. There were also just a few too many familiar tropes, though I suppose that’s par for the course in a film of this nature. One of the subplots of the film involves Peter’s use of the Stark technology in his new Spidy suit, which I think gets a bit too much focus in the film. It creates a fair number of gags as Peter gets use to the technology, and it helps reiterate the recurring Spider-Man theme of responsibility, but the script tends to lean in the direction of a Iron Man side-kick film, rather than a Spider-Man film.

Despite a few flaws, Sony and Marvel have put together an incredibly solid film. Spider-Man: Homecoming does not elevate above the comic book movie genre like Logan did, but like Wonder Woman, it definately rests near the top, and is a welcomed addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Exciting and entertaining super-hero film, and a welcomed addition to the MCU8.4

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