A better title for Spider-Man: Homecoming is probably Spider-Man: Home Sweet Home, because this franchise reboot is everything you could want from a Spidey comic adaptation. It’s consistently cheerful, charming and, as a character solo movie, melds into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with ease.
Plot-wise, Homecoming centres on 15 year old Peter Parker (Tom Holland), a few months after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Gifted with a technologically advanced costume by Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark / Iron Man, Peter is still a “friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” in the New York neighbourhood of Queens. He spends his spare time catching bicycle thieves and helping lost old ladies. However, Peter’s role in the Avengers’ face-off has given him a taste for grander heroics, and he’s essentially put his high school life on hold while he waits to be officially recruited into the superhero squad. When he encounters crooks using weaponry enhanced with scavenged alien technology, Peter decides to impress Stark by apprehending the gang’s mastermind, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), AKA The Vulture.
Phew. That’s a pretty bulky plot synopsis. And integrating Spider-Man into the already crammed MCU could have been a clunky process. Certainly the character’s soft introduction in Civil War helped, but one of the most impressive things about Homecoming is how focused it feels despite a 133-minute running time. As sleek as Spidey’s suit, Homecoming manoeuvres elegantly between superheroics and Peter’s everyday life as an awkward teen attending the Midtown School of Science and Technology.
Given the promotional focus on Tony Stark’s presence in the movie, and the Iron Man-esque features of Spider-Man’s new costume, there were probably concerns pre-release that Homecoming would squash Spidey’s identity beneath the boot rockets of another fan-favourite Marvel character. The reality is quite different. Some tantalising titbits of information are dropped about what Tony Stark is up to post-Civil War, but Homecoming spends most of its time establishing Peter’s world “on the ground.” And refreshingly it’s not a string of high school clichés.
Out of costume – actually even in costume – Peter Parker is a normal, good-hearted teen. Looking sometimes eerily like a kid Tobey Maguire, Tom Holland is spot-on in the role. He makes Peter likeable, relevant and real. That goes for the whole, racially representative cast. There’s a helluva lot of goofy yet credible heart present in Homecoming. It’s most obvious in the exchanges between Peter and his geeky best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon); as well as between Peter and his Aunt May, who is portrayed with street-smart perceptiveness and sass by Marisa Tomei.
For the record, one of the smartest things Homecoming does is skip over Spider-Man’s origin story, and Peter’s guilt stemming from his uncle’s death. Those plot points were already hammered to bluntness in Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy, and Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man duo. By avoiding a retread, Homecoming doesn’t become clogged with angst about protecting loved ones. Nor does it get tangled up in parental mysteries. The light-hearted movie is allowed to be its own thing, moving swiftly along. Its only unnecessary nod to series formula is a personalising of the relationship between hero and villain.
Speaking of villains, Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is the perfect foe for this tale – and arguably the best on-screen Spider-Man enemy to date. The “vulture” conceit is present at every level of the character: his psychology, his position in society and in the intricate function-guided design of his costume. Morally grey, Toomes is a “little guy” feeding off scraps left in the dirt by the rich and powerful. Unusual for a villain, he demonstrates a strong sense of responsibility for those reliant on him. His ruthlessness only really comes into play when he feels he’s been denied what he deserves in life.
Keaton could have gone far over the top with Toomes, but he keeps the character mob-boss menacing instead; calculating, intelligent, risk-adverse and as grounded as the movie he operates in. Ironic for a flying bad guy. Even if Toomes’ behaviour becomes a bit more nonsensical during the third act, he is never maniacal or monologuing. (Sorry, Wonder Woman, Spidey tops you here).
Apart from a couple of already mentioned plot niggles, and a nighttime finale that’s challenging to follow in 2D (God help 3D viewers!), Spider-Man: Homecoming is difficult to fault. You don’t even need to identify every one of the many, MANY comic book and MCU references to have a good time. With witty dialogue and inventive battles that explore the full range of our hero’s web-slinging capabilities, Homecoming embraces its sense of fun. It’s comic book-y; never cartoony.
Last Updated: July 4, 2017