Written by Shawn Eastridge
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the sixth Spider-Man film released in the past 15 years and the second attempt to reboot the franchise with an all new cast and creative team. You’d think at this point the character would have lost his appeal, but it speaks to the brilliance of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original creation that he hasn’t. And it’s to the credit of Marvel Studios, director Jon Watts and the film’s SIX screenwriters (including Watts) that Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like a breath of fresh air.
But most of all, it’s thanks to Tom Holland, the youngest actor to portray the character in the franchise’s history. In Holland we have, for the first time, a Peter Parker/Spider-Man who actually feels like a teenager, complete with all the angst and turmoil that would entail. Beyond just wanting to see Spidey succeed and save the day, you actually fear for his well being because at the end of the day he’s just a kid. Holland is a delight, endearing and sweet as Peter Parker and hilarious and enthusiastic as his web-swinging alter-ego.
Spider-Man: Homecoming’s greatest strength is the way it scales things down. The comparisons to John Hughes’ films are fitting. This time around the name of the game is fun, and it’s in the high school scenes that Spider-Man: Homecoming really shines. The young supporting cast is just wonderful, with newcomer Jacob Batalon being the standout as Peter’s best bud Ned. Zendaya is another wonderful addition as the snarky Michelle. Holland’s scenes with them provide some of the film’s biggest highlights and I sincerely hope when the inevitable sequel comes around, we get to spend more time with the kids.
Honestly, the weakest elements of the movie are the main villain and the need to connect it to the Cinematic Universe. Not that the Vulture isn’t a good villain. Michael Keaton is excellent in the role and genuinely terrifying. There are some great scenes between him and Holland that evoke genuine shivers. It would have been nice, however, to get a bit more development and genuine understanding of his motivations - he always talks about how he’s doing what he does for his family, but in this case, a little bit more ‘show’ and less ‘tell’ would have gone a long way.
I also understand the need to showcase Tony Stark to prove to general moviegoing audiences that this new Spidey franchise is part of the overarching Cinematic Universe, and Peter’s relationship with Tony provides a solid arc for Peter’s character. It’s just that because of this franchise building mentality it feels like this Spider-Man doesn’t have as much room to stand on his own and carve out his own niche.
If there’s one realm in which Spider-Man: Homecoming left me feeling truly dissatisfied it’s in the lack of an emotional arc for Peter’s character.
I’m going to get a bit spoilery here, so just a heads up:
I know Uncle Ben was mentioned ad nauseum in previous films, and I understand wanting to move away from that direction, but Uncle Ben is THE reason Peter does what he does. I found it more than a little odd that Uncle Ben is never mentioned once, other than vague allusions. I don’t need this iteration of Spider-Man to get as angsty as the Tobey/Raimi version, but the character needs more of an emotional core.
Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t strong enough to dethrone Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1 and 2, but it is undeniably fun and loaded with lovable characters and great action. It’s a promising start for this new franchise within a franchise and as long as Marvel keeps the character grounded and focuses more on his emotional struggles it could be something really special.
And just to follow up on my series ranking article, here’s my revised ranking of the Spidey films:
FINAL RATING: 4/5