Editor’s Note: Spider-Man: Homecoming opens in wide theatrical release on July 7, 2017.
After more than a decade and five films, Sony faced an almost impossible predicament (albeit of their own making): To reboot or not to reboot (that was the question). Stay the course and reward the Marc Webb-Andrew Garfield collaboration with one more film to cap off a trilogy or restart the entire series a second time in just five years? The decision became a no-brainer once Marvel point man Kevin Feige stepped in to negotiate Spider-Man’s entry into the ever expanding, extremely lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Not even an extended cameo/trial run in last spring’s Captain America: Civil War guaranteed anything beyond perfect or near-perfect casting in Tom Holland. Opting once again for a little known, inexperienced director, Jon Watt (Cop Car), came with major risks of its own, but the decision turned out to be a wise one. Between Holland’s career-making turn as arguably the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man to make the jump from the comic-book panel to the big screen and Watt’s confident, assured direction (minus one or two chaotic fight scenes), Spider-Man: Homecoming re-confirms Spider-Man’s status as an A-list superhero worthy of another trilogy (possibly more).
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a surprisingly fresh coming-of-superhero-age story centered on Peter Parker’s maturation from stubborn egotism to selfless altruism.
When we last left Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland), the Battle of the Berlin Airport (or whatever it was called), not only showed what Spider-Man could do as a superhero, slinging and quipping his way around the Avengers A- and B-squads, but left Spider-Man eager to become a full-fledged Avenger, but with Parker still in high school, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) decided to play mentor to Parker, deposit him back in Queens with stern words about staying local and not thinking globally, but leaving Parker with the state-of-the-Stark-art, blue-and-red suit loaded with all kinds of tech, including its own A.I., Karen (Jennifer Connelly). Parker’s Avengers high leaves him in a state of constant anticipation, awaiting a call that never comes from Stark or Stark’s right-hand man and Parker overlord, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Watt and a screenwriting team too numerous to list here take a playful, sly approach Parker’s Avengers fascination, emphasizing everyday, relatable humor in Parker sending a steady stream of texts to Hogan or leaving him countless voicemail messages.
Peter’s obsession with the Avengers and what the Avengers represent – not just adult-like freedom, but the friendship and camaraderie associated with being part of a team – understandably impacts the whole teen-in-high-school thing. Parker attends the MCU equivalent of the Bronx High School of Science, a magnet school for the best and brightest New York City has to offer. He skips out on class, lets his grades slip, and bows out of a school trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual Academic Decathlon as one of the team’s strongest members. but more importantly, he repeatedly sabotages his chance to impress his longtime crush, Liz Allan (Laura Harrier), a seemingly ungettable senior who just might reciprocate Parker’s romantic interest. His longtime best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), discovers Parker’s super-secret identity, eventually convincing Parker to let him be the “guy in the chair,” the superhero helper who functions as extra eyes and ears, hacking into servers, tracking phones, and otherwise making himself (somewhat) useful as the superhero saves the day.
Copious amounts of humor, combined with Spider-Man’s inherent limitations (e.g., he can’t fly, web slinging and two-floor family houses in suburbia cancel each other out) and Holland’s star-making performance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, make for a standout first entry in what surely be many Spider-Man-related adventures to come.
Maybe more than any genre, the superhero genre often succeeds or fails not on the strengths or virtues of the superhero, but on the supervillain. Spider-Man: Homecoming gives Spider-Man not just an antagonist or foe, but an antagonist or foe with more than petty grievances or misguided revenge on his mind: He’s a working-class supervillain, motivated to salvage or steal alien tech leftover from the Battle of New York (eight years earlier in the MCU) to survive and thrive in an economic system (capitalism by any other name) that puts men like Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) at an extreme disadvantage, especially after the federal government shuts down Toomes’ salvage contract, essentially dooming him to poverty and bankruptcy. It’s a wildly different origin story for the Vulture, one of Spider-Man’s oldest foes, but Toomes is definitely a supervillain for and about our time (the end of the Obama Era and the beginning of the Trump one).
Spider-Man: Homecoming, however, isn’t about Obama, Trump, or what they represent – though Parker’s meritocratic multi-ethnic, multi-cultural high school seems more like a dream of a post-racial America than the tangled state of current affairs – but a surprisingly fresh coming-of-superhero-age story centered on Parker’s maturation from stubborn egotism to selfless altruism, even for the supervillain who wouldn’t think twice about killing Parker as a cost of doing business. Toomes may not be a genius inventor like Stark or to a lesser extent, Parker (he has a tinkerer on staff), but he’s still shrewd, cunning, and perceptive. In Spider-Man: Homecoming’s standout scene, Toomes slowly unravels the mystery of Spider-Man’s identity as Parker, a virtual prisoner due to unforeseen circumstances, squirms as Toomes inches closer to the truth (Toomes can and does handle the truth). It’s almost enough to forgive Spider-Man: Homecoming’s repeated detours into fan service or stitching Spider-Man into the MCU. Luckily, copious amounts of humor (Parker gets physical, often), combined with Spider-Man’s inherent limitations (e.g., he can’t fly, web slinging and two-floor family houses in suburbia cancel each other out), and Holland’s star-making performance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, make for a standout first entry in what surely be many Spider-Man-related adventures to come.
Despite Spider-Man: Homecoming’s repeated detours into fan service or stitching Spider-Man into the MCU, the humor and Holland’s star-making performance make the film a standout first entry in what surely will be many Spider-Man-related adventures to come.