When Sony announced it was rebooting the Spider-man movie franchise for the second time in the last five years, the news was met with reasonable skepticism. After all, how many times could you hit reset on a film property and still expect it to be fresh? This would be the sixth Spider-Man movie with its third different lead in fifteen years (fans were already waging wars online over who was better; Tobey Macquire or Andrew Garfield). The news was met with an understandable wave of indifference.
But not only is everyone’s favourite Wallcrawler back, he’s better than ever.
Following is adventures in Berlin (See Captain America: Civil War); Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back in New York, anxiously waiting his next call from the Avengers. Months later he’s still waiting and rescuing cats from trees and attending high school just aren’t cutting it for the adventure starved 15 year old anymore. Even without a call from his would be mentor Tony Stark, Pete already finds himself running ragged, juggling school, extra curricular activities and his alter-ego. Crushing on his school’s popular girl (Laura Harrier) doesn’t make things any easier and life becomes more complicated when his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) discovers his secret.
When Peter learns of a weapons dealer in New York, he’s forced into trying to take the criminal enterprise down himself after being snubbed by the hero community’s higher ups. But these are no simple weapons. They’re engineered using tech salvaged from super hero clashes across the world, beginning with the Chitauri invasion of New York. Leading this criminal ring is the fearsome, unrelenting Vulture (Michael Keaton), a man driven to succeed and prepared to kill anyone in his way.
This movie works on just about every level. Sony’s decision to partner with Marvel in their latest effort to bring the Wall Crawler to the big screen is a home run. As a result, Homecoming perfectly captures the spirit of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Whether it’s making Peter 15 again, casting an actor closer to that age to play him or making Spidey a heroic rookie dismissed by the mainstream super heroes, no other movie has portrayed the friendly neighborhood hero so accurately.
Holland was a brilliant casting choice as Parker/Spider-Man. Not only does he master the hyper-kinetic quips and constant chattering that is Spider-Man’s trademark, but he also captures the character’s shaky, unreliable confidence brilliantly. He more than meets the comedic demands of the role and is more than up to the challenge during the film’s heavier dramatic moments (and yes, there are one or two serious moments). Michael Keaton crushes it as the villainous Adrian Toomes/Vulture. Often considered impossible to bring to film, the seasoned, confident Vulture is the perfect compliment to Holland’s naive, well meaning yet completely green Spider-Man. And as always, RDJ steals just about every scene he’s in (which aren’t enough to hijack the film, allowing Downey to shine as a supporting character). Downey and Holland even manage to forge a solid mentor/student relationship with their limited scenes and play incredibly well off one another.
Homecoming is a perfect example of Marvel’s mix of humour and action, blending the spectacle with sight gags and rapid-fire jokes. In truth, Spider-Man is the one character in the Marvel Universe perfectly suited for this formula and Homecoming proves why. The action is genuinely pulse pounding and the visual effects never overshadow the action beats, a pitfall that has claimed other comic book movies (looking at you, BvS).
Homecoming also succeeds where other Spider movies have failed in the past; with a coherent story that doesn’t ramble or meander all over the map. What’s sort of brilliant about it is it returns Spider-Man to his roots-to the teenage outsider struggling with high school that we could all identify with-yet it significantly modernizes him. From ethnically diversifying Peter’s high school to giving him a high tech suit to making Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) an attractive, 21st century New Yorker instead of a frail octogenarian, Homecoming makes Spider-Man sleeker while also keeping him true to his roots.
And it wisely avoids retelling his origin, allowing it to focus on a coming of age story (seriously, who doesn’t know his backstory by now?). In fact, every step it takes seems to be a calculated move to tell its story while keeping it in the larger context of the MCU. And yet, Homecoming manages to preserve its identity and is never swallowed by Marvel’s larger universe (allowing Sony to keep some bragging rights).
It will be interesting to see where the partnership between Sony and Marvel takes Spider-Man from here. Both sides have some very ambitious plans for the franchise and if Homecoming is any indication, we should all be excited to see what the future holds.