Spider-Man: Homecoming – Review
The reason why Spider-Man: Homecoming will be a cross-generational hit is because it brings the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) down to a more humanly accessible level. Our hero, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) isn’t some genius with enough money to finance his every technological whim; he isn’t a genetically-modified super-soldier from the 1940s; he’s not an Asgardian god with powers beyond belief. He’s just a high-school kid who found out the hard way that being bitten by a radioactive spider has some astounding side effects.
“High-school kid.” Those words should be enough to make everyone who lived to tell about their teenage years look back and shudder. Now, imagine if – on top of your already-changing body and social strata – you had to deal with one of the biggest secrets you’ve ever had which has changed your life physically, emotionally, spiritually, and all-else-otherly. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy from the early 2000s dipped its toes in this highly-charged arena, but it didn’t immerse itself into this living nightmare the way Spider-Man: Homecoming does.
Math quizzes, academic decathlon tournaments, and the fumblings of early romance all plague Parker throughout the movie, along with being the nerd everyone seems to pick on mercilessly. Of course, this is all on top of having to hide his secret identity and his association with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) from his closest friends, not to mention the homecoming dance looming in the near future, to which he hopes to ask beautiful upperclassman Liz Allan (Laura Harrier). We’re thrown right back into the joys and pains (heavy on the “pains”) of high school life and how a budding superhero has to slow down and handle it.
The film’s opening doesn’t show any of this, though; we open on Parker’s cell phone footage of his sudden involvement in the events of Captain America: Civil War (most notably the airport battle royale), and we’re dropped off just as quickly after it’s over, with Stark promising to call Parker if he’s ever needed. But it’s a call that’s a long time coming, as Parker querulously badgers Stark’s valet Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) for a mission of any kind to save him from the torpor of high school.
If you were unexpectedly dragged into the world of The Avengers at Parker’s age, knowing the dangers and excitement it promises, wouldn’t you be loath to suffer the burden of having to be in a place where no one understands you, much less wants to? The film’s script examines this very notion, and Holland carries its weight hardily, playing Parker with a surprisingly nuanced depth balanced with a charming naiveté. His shows his life being pulled in multiple directions at once, and it’s a more complex, engaging fight than the one promised by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a.k.a. Vulture.
With his city-contracted cleanup crew unceremoniously shut down by the U.S. Department of Damage Control after the Battle of New York (from the first Avengers film), Toomes goes into business for himself, scavenging and stealing bits of Chitauri technology and turning them into high-powered weaponry. Likewise, he turns his crew into weapons developers and dealers, letting them do the dirty work and leaving them to take the brunt of Parker’s investigations.
Compared to Parker’s high school and secret lives, Toomes seems rather secondary to Parker’s growth as not just a superhero, but as a normal kid. Even Stark knows he shouldn’t be enlisting a high-schooler’s help on these dangerous missions. But when Parker stumbles onto Toomes’ plans and his calls to Happy go unanswered, what else can he do besides throw himself into the mystery and the peril awaiting him?
It’s a wonderful cacophony of the Avengers world mixing with a generation taught to care more about their stature on their social media platforms than the humans standing right in front of them. Throughout the film’s running time, it seems Spider-Man/Peter Parker has to fight more battles than a lot of his cinematic predecessors – most of them being with kids he has to spend time with at school or at parties. Every time he steps out his door, he’s given the choice of fighting either Vulture and his gang, or he has to put up with people calling him “Penis Parker.” He doesn’t get a lot of respite from any of this; even his well-intentioned friend Ned Leeds (an incredibly endearing Jacob Batalon) gets a little too clingy for his taste.
But all of this is a means to an end, which is what Spider-Man: Homecoming tends to feel like. It’s a great foundation for later endeavors, showcasing Holland’s addictive presence and rumblings of adventures to come. Even the film’s final line before the credits is cut off – not just because the next word uttered would have pushed the boundaries of its PG-13 rating, but because it sets up yet another obstacle Parker has to overcome. (And it’s also good for a laugh, as well.)
Spider-Man: Homecoming is aptly named, and it’s not just because of the pivotal high school dance. It’s also because with this film, Spider-Man – on loan to Marvel Studios from Sony Pictures Entertainment – can finally make his own entry into the MCU. After five theatrical films (of which the first two defined Spider-Man for hordes of moviegoers), Holland has made Peter Parker his own, sliding into perfect position beside his senior peers. The film doesn’t alienate or hold you at arm’s length; instead, it grabs you and pulls you into its proceedings by taking you into the familiar territory of an age where you were just as confused about life as Peter Parker seems to be.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Mid-credits and post-credits scenes: Yes.
Running time: 133 minutes.
Released by: Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios.
In theaters: Friday, July 7, 2017.