The third onscreen iteration of Spiderman in the last two decades rolled into cinemas this Friday with Spider-Man Homecoming. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movie follows the adventures of high-schooler Peter Parker as he grapples with the everyday life of a teenager alongside learning to deal with his recently gained spider-abilities and the desire to become a superhero. Let’s see what the movie has to offer:
The Performances (5 Stars)
Tom Holland is spectacular as both a regular teen and a superhero. This is the youngest Spider-Man in film history, and Holland manages to really sell the struggle faced by Peter Parker in his dual life, as the student who day-dreams in school about fighting alongside the Avengers and the superhero who finally learns to own up to his mistakes and their ugly consequences.
The rest of the cast of Spider-Man Homecoming is equally able, and help turn the movie into a living, breathing world of lofty superheroic ideas competing with the banality of everyday high-school life. Ironman makes a glorified cameo as the super-mentor for Peter but doesn’t gobble up too much screentime while offering sage advice and cool new toys to the young superhero.
A Solid Villain (4 Stars)
Michael Keaton (playing the Vulture) makes for a very able and fully-fleshed out villain. He does an even better job at being a compelling villain than Loki since he’s being motivated by relatably harsh circumstances and the resulting anger and resentment. The Vulture is smart, menacing and you can’t help but feel a certain amount of sympathy for his actions, considering what led him to adopt a villainous persona. The fact that he displays feelings of honor and affection for his family serve further to make him a rounded and well-defined character to watch.
The Narrative Structure (4 Stars)
A lot of the film’s enjoyment hinges on how smoothly the two wildly different parts of Peter’s life intersect and diverge from each other. The story sets up a series of plot points that allow us to follow Peter’s journey from having just returned from an Avenger’s mission, to longing to return to that world while being forced to deal with regular high school drama, and how ultimately all these conflicting desires within him lead to mistakes being made, losing the support of his mentor, and resolving to strike out on his own to atone for his sins. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and the movie manages to do so fairly ably.
The World Building (4 Stars)
This is the first Spider-Man movie set within the larger Marvelverse, which means Peter isn’t the only superpowered hero in this world. Throughout the movie, we are given hints as to how the presence of the Avengers has had a profound effect on ordinary citizens. The movie does a good job of showing how Spider-Man is influenced by other more famous, more experienced heroes, and offers a fresh perspective on what it means to live in the MCU.
What Doesn’t Work
The Action Set Pieces (2 Stars)
Out of all the superhero movies I’ve watched, the Spider-Man films always took the cake in terms of action, because of how well they managed to combine the grounded fisticuffs of a Batman movie with the airborne stunts and gymnastics of an Iron Man or Superman. Unfortunately, the action scenes of Homecoming leave a lot to be desired. Most of the fighting that takes place in the air has a ‘been there, done that’ quality, and even the more creatively handled fights that take place on the ground use too many quick cuts and editing shots for you to follow the movements clearly.
The Run Time (2 Stars)
This is a long film, and much like Logan, makes you wish it wasn’t. Oftentimes, it seems as though Spider-Man Homecoming started out as two different movies, a high school comedy, and a superhero caper, and the result of jamming the two together is that you get a lot of stuff that feels like unnecessary extra. A more focused approach to the film would have resulted in a movie that does not drag as much as Homecoming occasionally does.
Average Rating: 3.5 Stars
Spider-Man Homecoming doesn’t break any new ground, but it does manage to be entertaining and carve out its own unique place in the MCU. It eschews the heavy tone of Civil War to give us a young, chirpy superhero who hasn’t yet been soured by experience. Tom Holland and Michael Keaton give us a hero and a villain that we can relate to and care for, making their ultimate face-off that much more meaningful.
I almost wish this could have been two movies instead of one, to allow all the talented actors involved to better explore their characters and really open up the world of Spider-Man. As it is, I’m looking forward to the inevitable Spiderman Sequel to find out where this generation’s Peter Parker goes from this point forward.