Updated: Feb 4
Spider-Man: Homecoming, the sixth Spiderman movie (and second reboot), is an entertaining entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Holland (a very youthful 21 years old, playing 15) is a nice change of pace from the previous movie Peter Parkers. Where Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were quiet and awkward, Holland is goofy and exuberant. You can feel the delight a fifteen year old boy would have at using these powers. His energy spreads to the whole film and gives it an enjoyable charge.
The film, like the other Spider-Man films, follows Peter as he struggles to balance the two halves of his life: as Peter Parker he has his responsibilities as a high school student (classes, the debate team), and his relationships with his loyal friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his crush (Liz played by Laura Harrier). As Spider-Man, he is trying to prove himself to possible mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) while investigating a group of arms dealers (led by an intense Michael Keaton).
It seems like a lot of plot, but director Jon Watts (making only his third film, but with an estimated budget about 76 times larger than his first two films combined) does a good job of keeping the focus on how Peter is affected by everything. This makes the film feel like more of a character study than the average superhero film, though the story still includes its fair share of fight scenes featuring things blowing up real good.
My usual issues with superhero movies (too long, fight scenes feel redundant, dull villain, it never seems like anything is really at stake) do not get in the way too much. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a relatively lean 132 minutes (122 without the end credits which feature 2 extra scenes (the first is probably important to the overall story, the second is a funny payoff to one of the films recurring gags)). Most of the fight scenes are more plot based so they never get too dull. Michael Keaton’s Vulture never really interested me, but the film does not spend enough time with him for it to become problematic. By allowing Peter Parker to be a child, the script makes high stakes unnecessary.
Spider-Man: Homecoming has one significant advantage over the first series entries for both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield: it is not an origin story. This version of the character was already introduced in last year’s Captain American: Civil War. Therefore, there is no reason to tell his story from the beginning. That allows the film to focus on Peter Parker as a human being instead of needing to recreate his well-worn mythology. Additionally, the film benefits from treating Peter and his friends as the kids that they are. Their youthful enthusiasm is refreshing and makes the film feel like a cross between a superhero film and a John Hughes film.
Homecoming is the second best Spider-Man film thus far (after the excellent 2004 Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man 2). Peter’s youthfulness makes this entry refreshingly different from the first five. Coming in, I was concerned that the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe story arc would overwhelm this film (and confuse me since the last of their films I have seen was 2012’s The Avengers). But Jon Watts does an excellent job of balancing Peter Parker’s story with the Avengers mythology. That makes this film a piece of the series and also its own beast. It does not have the emotional heft (or social relevance) of last month’s Wonder Woman, but it is fun and diverting and, most of the time, that is what audiences look for when they go to the movies in the summer.
3½ out of 5
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture
Jacob Batalon as Ned
Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Laura Harrier as Liz
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan
Zendaya as Michelle
Tony Revolori as Flash
Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz
Directed by Jon Watts
Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers