I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming last week. Here’s my review (SPOILER ALERT):
Though primarily a superhero movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a visual metaphor for adolescent maturity. We are told equal portions of Peter Parker & Spider-Man’s story in the midst of juggling responsibilities. Think of Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 lite with a deconstructed Civil War storyline and modern perspective in their for good measure.
Because of everyone’s familiarity with Spider-Man in the past decade, certain aspects of his history were not included. There’s no mention of the spider bite; the Osbourne family; Gwen Stacy’s death as a mere hint in the decathlon trip; the showdown with the Uncle Ben’s killer; and Uncle Ben’s exclusion possibly is not from death, but divorce. The lack of Peter’s trademark Spidey-sense was a bit jarring, but could be another metaphor for being a late-bloomer.
All these stem from Marvel’s contemporary take on their webslinger, where they dive right in from the events of The Avengers and Captain America: Civil War. If those two movies portrayed the effects of those events on an executive level, Spider-Man: Homecoming does so on an everyman scale.
As with previous movies, Marvel approaches the seriousness of responsibility with a bright, chipper tone. For the most part, it works, as their main character is a teenager all throughout the film.
Homecoming’s cast is diverse for all the right reasons. Since it is set in modern times, Peter’s high school friends aren’t white. They’re mostly African American (Laura Harrier as current love interest Liz Allan-Toomes/Zendaya as future love interest MJ), Mexican (Tony Revolori as smart, unjock bully Flash Thompson), and Filipino (Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds)! Though they all have their origins set way back in the 1970s, Marvel definitely took some liberties. And hey, they own these characters, so why not? The shoe fits.
Peter also gets two mentors per gender: Marisa Tomei as a younger, hotter Aunt May may have received backlash at the beginning, but it fits the update. She is the unsure maternal figure to her nephew, keeping his head below the clouds. That last scene reaction was priceless before the cut to credits.
The spidersuit AI Karen – played by Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany’s (Vision) wife – acts as the logical voice of reason. Though only a humanized AI, she is Peter’s best friend, truly understanding the ins and outs of normalcy and celebrity.
If you think that Iron Man hogs screentime, he doesn’t. While Aunt May is hands-on, Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark is more of the passive-aggressive father figure. “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” and “I want you to be better.” are his most memorable lines, inspiring his protege to avoid the same mistakes he made. His unusual mentoring and discipline stem from his own parental issues, which he deals with through Peter. Though at first treating him like an unneeded machine, Tony learns to value him because of Peter’s simple altruism.
Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan is the most detached from Peter, likening him an annoying insect in spite of attempts to connect. However, like his boss Tony, he eventually warms up to Peter in the end.
Marvel did a surprisingly good take on the Vulture. They turned a B-list Spider-Man bad guy an A-lister by making him a smart, psychopathic genius. Adrian Toomes is forced into a life of crime because of Tony Stark’s mistakes. He isn’t really evil, just a victim of circumstance like many of us. Michael Keaton was the right person for the role. I’m pretty sure Birdman was his audition for Vulture. His reveal act as the dad of Peter’s love interest was totally unexpected and fresh. The respect and secrecy he gives Peter towards the end is an interesting dynamic between the two.
If Tobey Maguire is the better Peter Parker and Andrew Garfield the better Spider-Man, lead actor Tom Holland brings balance to both personas. As Spider-Man, he is the immature, unripe hero. He learns that limitations and guidance are not exactly a bad thing. They discover your greatest strengths, weaknesses, and prevent burnout.
As Peter, he is the blossoming teen, discovering that what is right and what feels right are two completely different things. As he matures, he comes to terms with both and chooses the former. Because of that, we the viewers have this sense of growing up with him, because we’ve all gone tread that path before.
This is why Spider-Man is a beloved character in the first place. He is Marvel’s first teenage superhero, someone we can all relate to. Perhaps the greatest example of a flawed, but noble personality. As shown several times, he just wants to do right, setting himself as exceptional just like any teenager.
There were hints of the Sinister Six in some portions (Scorpion and Shocker being the most obvious), but they were only minor. Good of them to mix the Spider-Man baddies with current Avengers events, giving us a sense that both are somehow interconnected.
The balance of natural locations and green screen sets reflect the perspective of the creative team. Some moments we are in Peter’s Queens apartment or Midtown High School. Other times we are with Spider-Man in Washington D.C. or in the air fighting the Vulture.
Michael Giacchino’s subdued score reflect that the Spider-Man we’re seeing isn’t fully mature, merely on the cusp of discovering his full potential. Dave Jordan’s music supervision also portrays this in Peter Parker’s life. He is young and immature, so the inclusion of The Ramones’ “Blitzkreig Bop” tell us musically that adolescence is fast, rocky, but also fun at some points. The colorful, crayon-based end titles get that point across too.
They retained the suit design from Civil War, following the modern update. My only wish was that Peter got the more classic design post-Vulture showdown. It didn’t happen. Perhaps the decision was done to visually distinguish Holland’s Spider-Man from Raimi’s & Webb’s.
In terms of sound design, the ignition of Vulture’s jet harness sounds a LOT like (or probably shares) the Green Goblin’s glider from 2002. I can’t decide if that was just laziness or a fun easter egg.
Considering Raimi’s & Web’s eventual butchering of the Spider-Man franchise, Marvel did the best with what they had. The title is not only a reference to the main character’s life stage, but his return to Marvel after so many years. Here’s hoping Sony sells the Spider-Man rights back to Marvel so they can finally make a proper adaptation, once the entire MCU is rebooted after Infinity War.
That being said, however, the best Spider-Man movies for me will always be Raimi’s first and second. In my book, Homecoming ranks right beneath them.
Fun and surprising. Watch in cinemas.