[Spider-Man: Homecoming is now in theaters. In case you missed it, here’s my review from last week.]
Spider-Man: Homecoming presents the third solo iteration of Spider-Man in the last 15 years, but it’s arguably the best one yet. While Sam Raimi’s movies have their merits, and the less said about The Amazing Spider-Man films the better, Homecoming takes Peter Parker in a fresh direction not only by making him a teenager (and actually investing in that world rather than using it as a backdrop), but by letting him run towards being Spider-Man rather than wrestle with the weight of his responsibilities. Raimi’s movies couldn’t resist Peter seeing his powers as both a blessing and a curse, and the Marc Webb films are too busy weaving a conspiracy plot, but Jon Watts’ picture features a young hero desperate to prove himself and having a blast while doing it.
After quickly recapping the events of Captain America: Civil War from the POV of young Peter Parker (Tom Holland), who clearly had relished being part of the action, he’s dropped off back home in Queens and told that he should keep in touch with the cantankerous Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). After two months of expecting Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to call, an antsy Peter comes across some dangerous high-powered weapons, which leads him to tracking down the scavenger Adrian Toomes a.k.a. Vulture (Michael Keaton). As Peter tries to maintain his friendship with pal Ned (Jacob Batalon), pursue crush Liz (Laura Harrier), and keep his identity secret from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), he also starts taking greater risks to bring down Toomes and his crew.
The best word to describe Spider-Man: Homecoming is “fun.” It’s a joyous, effervescent picture that may not have the thematic heft of darker pictures like Logan and The Dark Knight, but nevertheless forges its own identity within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a hefty helping of the MCU’s primary virtue: humor. It’s a movie that will have you laughing throughout even though it’s not technically a comedy. Other Marvel films are busy spinning epic yarns, but Homecoming is very comfortable keeping its hero close to the ground.
While the Marvel Netflix series have touted their identity as “street-level heroes,” the Spider-Man of Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like a better realization of that promise. He’s still got superpowers, and he’s working against a powerful villain that can wreak havoc, but Watts always wants us to know that this Spider-Man lives among us. He’s not a billionaire or a demigod or a super soldier. He has superpowers, but he’s also visiting his local bodega and swinging through the suburbs. Homecoming is a movie that emphasizes the “neighborhood” part of “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
For some, that may sound like the movie has lower stakes, but if anything, it gives this Spider-Man a unique identity to the point where his struggle feels far more character driven. Other Spider-Man movies are about the angst of being Peter Parker, but Homecoming is about the desire to grow-up and be a part of something bigger. Civil War gave Peter a taste of something greater than himself, and now he desperately wants to stay at that level even though he’s not ready for it. You also kind of feel for the kid because he could desperately use a mentor, and Tony Stark is rarely around.