There ain’t no doubt about it: Tom Holland is here to stay, and the future of Spider-Man films is arguably brighter than it has ever been.
This is the sixth Spider-Man film to-date. Before Spider-Man: Homecoming began, my friend posed a question: “What will make this Spider-Man film standout from the rest of the crowd?”
Luckily for fans and critics, alike, this is a breath of fresh air. There isn’t the Peter Parker origin story that we’ve heard time and time again.
The film opens with Adrian Toomes/Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, working with his construction crew on cleaning up the mess made by the Avengers. There are Chitauri weapons and beasts galore, but their clean-up job is interrupted by classified government personnel taking over the site.
Toomes is devastated, explaining he dumped his entire life into this project. The government doesn’t care, and just like that we witness the transition from blue-collar worker to Vulture.
Coming off Civil War, Peter Parker is riding on an all-time high after fighting alongside the Avengers. However, it’s back to reality for the sophomore web-slinger. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) are taking Parker back to Queens and, throughout the entirety of the car ride back to Queens, Parker is recording and documenting his time in the car, jittery camera phone footage and all. Immediately, the audience is placed into the moment — it’s an atmosphere full of youthful spirit. But Parker wants to continue fighting with the Avengers. To that, Stark says nay and to continue fighting crime in Queens, which begins Parker’s frustration with wanting to be a superhero and trying to enjoy his teenage life.
There’s a lot to like about the way director Jon Watts handled this Spider-Man story. We did not get any flashbacks to Parker’s origin story, and the only mention of his past was through a small bit of dialogue with his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon): “I can’t do that to Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), especially with all she’s been through.” The emphasis on Parker’s life now rather than in the past was everything many fans and critics were hoping would be portrayed.
Homecoming thrives when we’re taken into the halls of Parker’s high school. We see Holland wonderfully portray the nerdy, shy and awkward Parker, who’s battling with his real and crime-fighting life. The strain on him as a teen resonated with me.
I found myself able to relate during the little moments, like the TV production class’ morning broadcasts. The bad anchor intros, graphics overtaking faces and green screen flicker in the background helped give this film a certain charm.
Holland was aces as Peter Parker, but not as solid during his time in the suit. Funnily enough, I figured it would be the opposite, but I was proved wrong. Holland’s quick-witted responses, charming personality and ability to convey a frustrated tone during his growing-up phase tied Homecoming together. The colorful personality never rests, even in moments where he spitballs with the owner of a Queens store that “makes the best sandwiches in town.” Once Holland dons the upgraded Spider-Man suit, thanks to Stark, the funny banter doesn’t cease, but there’s a feeling that this isn’t authentic Spidey. Too much gadgetry, too little barebones Spidey. I want the Spider-Man that uses his gifted mind rather than a recon drone and in-suit A.I.
That being said, we still get enough of Parker’s time without the upgraded suit that forces him to use more of his mind rather than a computer’s. I just wish the Stark influence was toned down.
On the technical front, there were a few awe-inspiring moments by cinematographer Salvatore Totino, including Spider-Man perched on a ledge, eating a sandwich with his mask pulled up to expose his mouth. That coupled with the Queens sunset really made for a fun, innocent scene that showed, yes, he’s a superhero with strength and a gifted mind, but he’s still a kid. This was a scene stripped straight from the comics.
The special effects were well-done, as are many of the Marvel films, but Homecoming didn’t use them as a crutch. Not everything was green screen — you had tracking shots that took you along with Parker from getting onto the train, getting off and walking down the stairs. Simple, yet effective in imersing you into each scene.
The score, however, was not very distinct. During major action sequences, there weren’t moments that the score really aided scenes. It was just … there. It’s a what-could-have-been situation with Michael Giacchino’s composition.
While I couldn’t find anything to absolutely hate about this iteration of Spider-Man, I recognize its issues. Our main antagonist, The Vulture, has a motivation to kill those in his way and gaining power through stealing classified weaponry. Although, the opening sequence and first few moments of Vulture and his gang of baddies never sold me on their motivation to take down “The Man.” We go from a five-minute opening scene of him being told to leave the construction site to him almost instantly becoming The Vulture, gear and all. It was rushed and never had time to settle in my mind.
Another gripe with Homecoming was its Tony Stark influence, as I alluded to earlier. We don’t need Iron Man to constantly save the day and act as a crutch for Parker. We see so much of Iron Man that, by the end of the film, we expect Iron Man to show up and ruin Spidey’s moment. Less is more, and that’s true for Stark and Happy.
One more thing: I told myself I have to remember this isn’t an origin story, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t want Tomei to be used more effectively as Aunt May. The time at dinner with Peter, for example, wasn’t natural, and the script was curved away from Tomei (and women in general, I’d say).
Although, these negatives aren’t enough to detract from the rest of this film’s qualities. This is the most diverse Spider-Man film to-date, especially with the interracial relationships showcased throughout the film. Man, I caught myself thinking, “This feels much more forward-thinking than any other Spidey film.”
The supporting cast of Zendaya, Laura Harrier and Jacob Batalon, to name a few, were fantastic. Parker’s love interest, Harrier, was believable and cute. Zendaya as the girl who simply can’t care less about the opinions of others and rebels against the norm — all of this is believable. I don’t need to speak on Batalon’s performance as Ned — you need to see his genius for yourself.
Sony Pictures has screwed up Spider-Man films in the past (cough Spider-Man 3 cough). With Homecoming, they have a solid Spidey film under their belt. Of course, Marvel Studios’ influence helped quite a bit, but this is a fun, charming and relatable film that will make you smile. The future is bright for Holland’s Spider-Man.