When Sony and Marvel got together to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with Captain America: Civil War it signaled hope for many fans of the web crawler that a truly endorsed rendition of his adventures would finally come to fruition. With Spider-Man: Homecoming (Marvel/Sony/Columbia Pictures, Rated PG-13. Directed by Jon Watts, Running Time: 2 hours 13 minutes) the character’s story immortalized in five previous films this century finally gets the creative assistance fans have longed for from the comic book company that brought this hero to life. But just how good is this entry now that Marvel is actually able to lend a helping hand?
After the Sam Raimi directed adventures of the last decade and the Andrew Garfield starring misfires in recent past, Sony reached out to Marvel to try and find a way to kick start the Spider-Man saga in a positive direction. Flash forward to 2017 and coming off the good vibes from Civil War, Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) returns to his life as a high school sophomore as he tries to balance the life he has with the hero duties he so desperately wants to be more involved in. As a way for the audience to familiarize themselves with this version of the Spider-Man saga, director Jon Watts does an outstanding job of combining the complexities of teenage angst with the double duty of a “wanna-be” Avenger in training. Holland embraces the role of Parker in a way not done before in any of the previous films, capturing the essence of the web-crawling hero with enthusiasm, naivety and flair needed by someone who believes he’s ready to take the next step but maturity-wise has a long way to go.
To help guide his way on this journey is Peter’s (kind of) mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who once again in the all-too brief appearances he makes provides his brilliant-yet familiar turn as someone who is invested in Parker’s future as an Avenger (with sound advice and a cool “Spidey” suit to boot), but only on the premise if he can do so from very far away. The interactions between two are just one of the many highlights of the film which can be best described as more of a coming of age movie best detailed in the John Hughes movies of 1980’s lore. The familiar essence of that beloved decade with nods to such iconic music from that era and notable films such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are present throughout as Parker navigates his way through modern day high school mediocrity and his secret life at the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
When the challenges of that dual life rear their ugly head is when Homecoming shines at its showcases its most profound and brilliant moments. If one is looking for a ton of screen time for his on-screen nemesis the Vulture (Michael Keaton), high school classmate Michelle (Zendaya), Tony Stark or his right hand man Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) prepare to change the thought process because each are sprinkled in and in most cases just the right amount to keep things moving very smoothly. Keaton’s performance as the Vulture is one of the better MCU villain portrayals in the film series as a former salvage chief turned arms dealer whose continued “David vs. Goliath” rationale works for most of the film.
Spider-Man Homecoming works best is when it relies on the brilliance of Holland’s performance, whose desire to be the next great Avenger puts him in constant odds with the realities of his life. The film also proves to be a great foundation for setting up elements and planting seeds in the future for a certain movie universe, just not the one that quickly comes to mind. One of the goals clearly laid out in the movie was to build a foundation for the Spider-Man movies going forward, with little time unfortunately for those wanting to see a greater advancement in the overall narrative in Marvel’s bigger picture.
That being said what the film attempts to accomplish it does so very well and presents itself as a terrific reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. As a somewhat self-contained introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has no problem placing itself up there among the best of the bunch. Now as a “can’t miss” viewing experience, Spider-Man Homecoming will be slinging it’s web across theaters for weeks to come and in the process has firmly entrenched itself as the summer movie event of 2017.