As many fans have pointed out, despite having 2 iterations of the character portrayed on the silver screen, we have yet to see a movie that really masters the duel personalities of Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Many will say that Toby Maguire did an excellent job capturing the essence of Peter Parker, but lacked the wit and delivery expected from Spider-Man, where as Andrew Garfield nailed those aspects of the character but outside the suit he struggled to bring the character to life. While I do agree with this overall widely accepted opinion, I have say that Maguire was never the selling point in my opinion. For me director Sam Raimi changed the game in 2000 with his bright-lighting, creative camera work and well developed villains. That combined with some great performances from the supporting cast is the reason I am able to look past the fact that this supposed high school “kid” is a full grown man. When it comes to the last reboot, director Marc Webb did seem to have a better handle on what fans expected to see when it came to the character delivering some sharp quips while fighting crime , but everything outside of that was just so/so (and at times down right awful). Point being, I understand why fans of the character were excited about another reimagined version. Someone that could truly usher in a “new age” for Spider-Man that all the fans could get behind. That effort has certainly paid-off.
After a brief prologue introducing Michael Keaton and laying the foundation for his character, the film jumps to this new portrayal of a young, over excited Peter Parker, in a fun way that nicely ties this film to the events of “Captain America: Civil War”. I won’t say too much (although its already been shown in the marketing) but I thought this was a really clever way to kick-off the film. This not only does an excellent job setting the tone for the rest of the movie, but also gives fans a good look at the humor Holland is able to bring to the screen. From there we receive an amazing origin story, that makes the smart move and jumps past the standard Spider-Man origins and goes right into MCU world-building before pulling back and focusing more on a coming of age storyline. This is again an excellent example of the balancing act this movie is able to pull off. It really is impressive how “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is able to take a ridiculously goofy premise and some how make it feel more grounded than anything else currently going on in this shared universe.
We already knew that Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. have excellent on-screen chemistry just based on what we saw in “Captain America: Civil War” alone. Whats even better is the fact that Tom Holland seems to have that chemistry with everyone! This movie has a stellar cast, with some obvious stand out performances (more on that later) but what really kept me entertained throughout was watching Holland’s incredible interactions with his co-stars. Everyone from Jon Favreau’s “Happy Hogan” to Marisa Tomei’s “May Parker” get there moments to shine with Holland, and provide a lot of the humor in the film. But its not just the heavy hitters that stand out in the film. Some of the best lines and moments come from Peter’s best friend Ned, played by Jacob Batalon. The two actors do an amazing job reminding you what it’s like to be best friends in your young teens and what it was like when school was pretty much the only thing you had to worry about. The dialogue between the two is realistic and at many times laugh out loud funny. Ned’s character is also used to carry-out some necessary exposition is a fun and creative way.
As mentioned earlier, the film opens with a prologue introducing Michael Keaton’s “Adrian Toomes”, the films main antagonist. We see Toomes as an “average” working guy, who is in charge of cleaning up the destruction and debris caused by the alien invasion from first Avengers film. All in all, he appears to be nothing but a good guy. But almost immediately Toomes is put out of business by some shady government-like group, leaving you to feel bad for the guy. Not only was he doing a decent thing by cleaning up New York, but he works hard to make a living and provide for his family. This is a character that almost everyone in the audience can empathize with. We then quickly find out that joint efforts with the government and Tony Stark were now responsible for cleaning up the damage. Toomes and his crew see this as the people responsible for the mess are now profiting off of it, and it becomes the straw that breaks the camels back. Flash forward 8 years and we are introduced to “The Vulture”.
Director Jon Watts does a great job getting the performances he needs from this incredibly talented young cast, which was clearly the reason the young director was chosen. I mean lets be honest. Marvel already knows how they are going to visually handle Spider-Man and when you hear “one-time feature director Jon Watts chosen to direct Spider-Man reboot” it’s safe to say it’s not for his visual flare. That’s not to say he didn’t bring some creative visuals to the table but it was his work as a director on last year’s indie film “Cop Car” that landed him the job. The film showcased how well Watts could work with a group of young actors/actresses and getting them comfortable to really put themselves out their on camera. That is no easy feat, yet Jon Watts and company are pulling it off seamlessly. There is one particular moment in the third act where Holland gives arguably the best performance in the film and you can just tell that Watts knew exactly how to get him to deliver.
I know at this point I have mentioned Michael Keaton’s character a few times, but that is because I think he is not only a highlight of the film, but of the MCU in general. Marvel Studios has received a lot of criticism surrounding their villains, usually about lack of motivation or character development. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” nips that problem in the butt. They immediately set-up an antagonist you can relate to, with a clear motive to earn money and provide for his family, even if it is illegal. Overall pretty straight forward, and very fitting for this chapter of the Marvel universe. So we have a well written villain being portrayed by one of todays most iconic actors. Keaton gives a fantastic performance throughout, always delivering what the scene called for at the time. We all know Keaton can be hilarious, adding levity to serious situations but what was really impressive is the intensity he brings to the character, and the moments he gets on screen with Holland.
Overall its clear that Marvel Studios put a lot of time and thought not only into casting a new Peter Parker, but listening to fan feedback over the years on what it is they hope to see when the day finally comes to add the well known web slinger to the MCU. First and foremost they hired a cast of actual kids that look like they belong in high school. One of the many elements that make Spider-Man so great is the shock when people find out he is only a kid. In the past versions the audience has had to go out of their to really suspend disbelief when it came to age, but for the time that didn’t seem like a huge stretch in comparison to believing the main character has super powers after being bitten by a radio-active spider. Now that we actually have an age appropriate actor portraying the role, you can really see the difference it makes in tone and story. At the end of the day what makes “Spider-Man: Homecoming” such a success is the fact that every aspect of this film is plausible if not relatable, and thats what makes Spider-Man so popular in the first place.