Spider-Man: Homecoming movie review - Marvel’s best Spidey movie in 13 years
Director - Jon Watts
Cast - Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei
Rating - 4/5
Meek, mild-mannered Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers. After witnessing a robbery, and in a bout of indifference, letting the thief get away, he learns that the same man mugged and killed his beloved Uncle Ben just moments later. There, Peter learns the most valuable lesson he would ever learn: With great power comes great responsibility.
With Uncle Ben’s wise words in mind, he vows to fight crime, squeezes himself into homemade tights, and becomes the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
Spidey’s origin story – thanks in no small part to the numerous times we’ve seen it on screen – is perhaps second only to Batman’s in terms of familiarity. There is a good chance that even someone who has never read a Spider-Man comic in their lives, or seen one of the several films or cartoons, could recite his origin story to you with moderate confidence.
It is also a plot point no one was interested in seeing in Spider-Man: Homecoming – mostly for the same reasons.
Luckily for everyone, they’ve spared us. Spider-Man: Homecoming, the character’s first solo film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the movie in which you will remember, Tom Holland’s Spidey made his debut – and if we’re all being honest, got us psyched, despite almost losing patience for these films, for more.
But it has been a few months since that battle at the Berlin airport, and now, Peter’s back at home in Queens, pretending like none of it really happened. And he’s faced with an even bigger challenge: School, exams, bullies, and girls. To make matters worse, Tony Stark has flat-out refused to involve him in any more superhero stuff, and would like it very much if Peter were to just remain the ‘friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man’.
Marvel movies have been consistently good, but there is an innocence to this film that we haven’t really seen before. It is, like they promised, a quintessential American coming-of-age movie John Hughes would’ve been proud of, complete with jocks and nerds, bored teachers and detention, after-school hijinks, and first love.
From the first time you hear the opening bars of the original Spider-Man theme song – you know the one. You’re humming it right now – you know what you’re in for. And a big reason for how well it all works is the cast. Holland, without making any comparisons, is terrific as both Peter and Spidey. He is a boy, despite what he says, and this is his journey – to prove, mostly to himself, that he is ready for the big, bad world.
Robert Downey Jr meanwhile could play Tony Stark in his sleep – especially since the two have blurred into each other indistinguishably. But what a fine, fine actor Michael Keaton is - menacing when he needs to be, but also pathetic, and weak.
Homecoming is the second time they’ve ‘rebooted’ the character. And that’s not an extraordinary event in itself – they do this all the time. What’s interesting is that on both previous occasions – the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire series, and the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield run – the final films sank the franchise. For exactly the same reason – both Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were an overblown, overstuffed, and overpopulated mess. They were more preoccupied with setting up future sequels, than telling their story.
But Homecoming is different. For one thing, it’s much smaller. In tone, and in spirit, it comes closer than any Spider-Man movie before it to nailing the character Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created in the ‘60s. It’s so refreshing to see a movie which everyone expected to be huge in scale, and instead, get a teen comedy about a vulnerable boy fighting to be noticed in a world run by powerful men.
It’s too early in his career to tell – prior to this, his only feature credit was the odd indie Cop Car – but director Jon Watts shows he has a talent for handling character-driven films. There is action, make no mistake (how could there not be?), but unlike some other superhero movies, it isn’t overwhelming. It arrives infrequently, but when it does, you actually care about how it will end.
Marvel has accumulated tremendous power with their decade-old series of films. They’ve broken box office records. They’ve changed blockbuster moviemaking forever. They’ve made stars out of unknown actors. With these films, they’ve brought to life what old fans could only dream of, and they’ve given a new generation idols to look up to. These aren’t small achievements. But with this power, they also had a responsibility - to make good movies. It doesn’t sound like too much to ask, but sometimes, it can be.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the good ones. Like Peter, there is earnestness in its heart. No Spidey movie can come close to the greatness of Spider-Man 2, but this one swings right up to its face.