Spider-Man fans have had a rough go of it at the theater. We’ve gotten emo Spider-Man from the Sam Raimi films and hipster Spider-Man from Marc Webb’s, but never “true” Spider-Man. Then Tom Holland stole the show in Captain America Civil War and webheads everywhere rejoiced. They had finally done it; they brought Peter Parker to life. And so Homecoming quickly became one of the most anticipated superhero movies in quite some time. Everyone wanted to see how Holland could do without the rest of the Avengers around to bolster him. It’s finally hitting theaters this week, and while it’s easily the best Spider-Man film yet, it’s just a perfectly ok superhero piece overall.
Homecoming takes place several months after the events of Civil War. Peter is back in Queens being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man while anxiously awaiting Tony Stark to call him with his next assignment. Just when it feels like that call might never come, Pete crosses paths with the Vulture and his crew, and realizes that this may be his chance to prove his worth once and for all.
That’s a perfectly adequate plotline for a superhero movie. It’s not the most conventional movie in the MCU, but it’s also far from original. As Tony Stark says in the film, “there’s a little grey area in there, and that’s where [Homecoming operates].” It’s a simple, enjoyable story overall, but it’s not genre-defining. If you’re looking for a groundbreaking superhero movie, please temper your expectations before July 7th.
However, what really makes Homecoming special is all of its non-superhero related content. What’s always made Spider-Man a captivating character is how the writers focused on his personal life, and that’s finally translated to film here. Watching Peter in his everyday life – going to school, dealing with girls – is what’s going to keep your interest when the Vulture stuff wanes. It’s character development at its best, and it’s relatable.
Every critic out there is comparing Homecoming to a John Hughes movie, and that’s absolutely intentional on the part of director Jon Watts. There are tons of visual cues – some more blatant than others – meant to recall the likes of Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club. And much like those films, this is a coming-of-age story. Perhaps that’s why the superhero action sticks out as somewhat weak. Because we want to see less action and more of Peter coming to grips with who he is as a hero. He dreams of being called to The Show, but he also thrives as the man on the ground – the guy that deals with threats, again as Tony says, “below [the Avengers’] paygrade.”
Tom Holland further proves himself to be the best Spider-Man put to film yet. He’s the perfect amount of awkward, chatty, and energetic. He plays Peter as someone just happy to be where he is, as Holland himself must feel. Watts and his team of screenwriters also deserve a lot of credit for bringing this character to life. They hit all of the quintessential beats for both alter egos (something previous films have failed miserably at). Peter struggles to balance his social life with superheroing; he’s forced to let his friends down on more than one occasion. Plus there’s an early scene that shows Spidey stopping small time crooks and helping little old ladies that will put a huge grin on lifelong fans’ faces.
Admittedly, they might go a little too far with the suit. It crosses into Iron Man territory with all that it can do now. But it actually helps to emphasize the awkward, comedic side to Peter, since he has such a hard time figuring out how to use it at first.
With all that said, if you are a Spider-Man purist, you might walk out of this film with some issues. They nail the titular hero himself, but they take some mighty fine liberties with his supporting cast. It definitely feels like an Ultimate version of the universe, where everything is just slightly left of center. But this is one of those times where you just have to suck it up and accept that not everything from the comics will carry over into the films.
Especially because the supporting characters in Homecoming are so much fun to watch. Marisa Tomei as May, Jacob Batalon as
Ganke Ned – they’re all as stellar in their roles as Holland is as Peter. And Michael Keaton absolutely slaughters as the Vulture, even if his storyline falters a little. Keaton plays Toomes so low key and menacing, kind of like Vincent D’Onofrio in Daredevil, making a previously goofy rogue terrifying.
The Bottom Line
Homecoming is the most accurate film portrayal of Spider-Man to date. And while the overall superhero story is just ok (but not bad by any means), the smaller coming-of-age story is what makes this a movie to watch time and time again – just like those John Hughes movies you’ve seen a hundred times.