The king of reboots is undoubtedly this web-head, with Tom Holland being the third new actor to sport the red and blue Spidey suit in the last 15 years. After making an appearance in Captain America: Civil War, many left theaters anticipating what an entire Tom Holland lead Spider-Man movie could look like. Marvel Studios and Sony, working together to bring the friendly neighborhood hero into the MCU, hit the ground running with this fresh installment for the character with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Could Tom Holland indeed be the best Spider-Man we’ve had thus far?
While that question will surely be debated among fanboys for years to come; no one can deny that in 2017, Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie since Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 2 back in 2004. While for some that may not be saying much, especially those who didn’t prefer Andrew Garfield’s run as the character, it is important to remember that that would mean its the best Spider-Man movie we’ve gotten in 13 years. Making a good superhero movie is hard, even when Marvel has been making it look effortless in the last ten years. So when we get good outings for some of the headline characters for the genre, we need not forget how blessed we are with cinematic brilliance behind the scenes.
Behind the scenes on this one is director Jon Watts, coming off his indie hit Cop Car with Kevin Bacon. Watts managed to make this universe his own, while also keeping in touch with the Marvel cinematic tone that’s been established and also respecting Peter Parker/Spider-Man as a character. As for the world around Parker, I’m sure some comic book loyalists will be let down by certain decisions; even so, what’s of cardinal importance is that the central character is done right. And in this case, Watts nails the heart of Peter Parker, getting a pitch perfect performance out of the brilliant Tom Holland.
It has been the talk that Homecoming would more closely resemble the style of a John Hughes 80s high school movie than any of the other previous Spider-Man movies. That talk is true, and such a take on the character and his world do provide a sense of freshness; which is key if this movie is going to work, seeing as this is the third iteration of the character within the last 15 years. Rami’s Spider-Man felt like a grand cinematic epic of good and evil, with grand score and sweeping landscapes; classical, almost, in that it often felt like a superhero movie with charm only found in golden-era cinema. Webb’s Spider-Man, with its darker and grittier tone on its first outing, felt more like an attempt to replicate the gritty Dark Knight franchise, until the second one where everything went south with that idea. With Homecoming, Watts uses tack-sharp humor and a solid soundtrack to convey a feeling that really is reminiscent of a John Hughes high school movie, or perhaps Juno or last year’s Edge Of Seventeen. While MaGuire and Garfield wrestled with heavy, adult, life-and-death life lessons, Holland is faced with more juvenile stakes. I heard one critic that I respect note that his only gripe with Homecoming was its lack of true stakes; and I agree, and disagree. While yes the stakes are undeniably lower this time around, I would also note that they are more personal for Peter Parker’s character. To him, these issues that might seem like “lower stakes” to us as an audience actually are life-or-death. They’re growing pains, and we all go through them during these formative years, and its no different for this 15 year old Peter Parker. Ditching his friends, or looking cool in front of classmates, or having a crush on a senior are all things that real high schoolers deal with. I feel like I can say this as someone coming fresh off graduation from high school-the filmmakers nailed it in terms of what Parker’s struggles should be as a 15 year old. He’s not yet mature enough, as the movie points out, to be coping with those truly life-and-death stakes that MaGuire and Garfield handled. Coming out of the theatre, I really did respect the filmmakers for letting him be a true teenager in that sense; it never felt like they had the need to “adultize” him, because it wouldn’t have fit this character.
Not only that, but Tom Holland is always on point with these types of issues, and the humor that comes along with them. The movie really is about Parker growing from a boy into a man, and Holland’s performance conveys that perfectly. He lacks understanding, and does approach situations with a naive cockiness that is, while charming, dangerous for him. But when its time to face the music and endure those growing pains, Holland brings out the struggle in Parker to grow up. He wants to grow up, but he’s not sure how; and Holland portrays this confusion perfectly. He is perhaps the most relatable Spider-Man we’ve had onscreen thus far, even more relatable than the lovable Tobey MaGuire.
Robert Downey Jr. is featured heavily as Tony Stark, and continues to show how he can keep growing this character even after playing him for almost ten years. This movie sees Stark adopt a more fatherly persona, being at once a mentor to Parker and also a kind of “cool uncle with all the cool toys”. One scene in particular floored me, in terms of Downey’s performance, in which he has to bring on the hard dadvice. And beyond these things, we also see a desire in Stark to create in Peter a protege that truly is a better version of himself. Having made so many mistakes in previous MCU movies, Stark comes to the table as a damaged man who’s trying to make things easier for this up-and-comer. It really is a touching performance, in that regard.
Michael Keaton is very good as the antagonist of the film, a scavenger searching to make a better life for his family. Marisa Tomei is also really good as Aunt May, or “hot Aunt May” as she is now commonly known; good use of humor is made to capitalize upon this fresh attribute for the character of Aunt May onscreen. Jacob Batalon was perhaps the biggest stand-out for me of all the supporting characters, bringing the most humor and levity to the story. Being the comedic relief is a tough role to be assigned, but Batalon plays it with heart and makes it lovable. Zendaya is in the movie and good as well, although she’s not given much to do. Laura Harrier, who plays Peter’s love interest in Homecoming (no, she’s not Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacey), was particularly good in that she had a truly kind heart, while managing to stay mysterious as the “cute older girl” when she needed to.
Overall, Homecoming is a completely satisfying superhero movie. I would even say its the second best superhero movie of the year, second only to Logan; and one of the best movies of the year period. Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is indeed back in one of his best movies yet.