Spider-Man: Homecoming is the sixth Spider-Man movie in fifteen years. To say a lot of movie fans were suffering from a bit of Spider-Man fatigue (Including me) would be an understatement.
This is why the two Amazing Spider-Man films seem utterly redundant and unnecessary. Sony had to make them because they were going to lose the rights to the character otherwise. But telling the origin story of Spider-Man once again — and only five years after the first trilogy of movies starring Tobey Maguire ended — felt like nothing more than a money grab.
In fact, after seeing the wall-crawler return with a new actor portraying him (Tom Holland) in Captain America: Civil War, I was content with seeing him as a bit player in future Marvel movies.
But the character is Sony’s most prized possession in the franchise game so they were quick to get another solo movie into production. Thankfully, it was a joint effort between Sony and Marvel this time resulting in the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2 back in 2004.
Bypassing the origin story, Homecoming finds Peter Parker as a sophomore in high school. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers in Civil War, Peter returns home to Queens with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his seemingly ordinary life.
But that’s the problem. Why would Peter want to continue high school after what he just experienced? There are far bigger problems and threats to deal with than a third-period Spanish exam.
Peter is so eager to take the training wheels off, but Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) feels he isn’t ready yet. However, when Peter learns of some illegal alien weapons being sold on the black market in his city, he has no choice but to act on it.
The mastermind behind the weapons is Vulture played by Michael Keaton. Save the Birdman jokes because Keaton is easily the best villain in any Marvel movie since Loki in The Avengers.
The opening scene of Homecoming cleverly calls back to the events following The Avengers and ties in Keaton’s character brilliantly. By having this scene right out of the gate, you understand his motivations and it actually humanizes the character.
The word that comes to mind when thinking about this movie is “grounded.” Spider-Man is the most relatable superhero because he’s just a teenager balancing homework with fighting crime. He isn’t a billionaire or a God or a soldier with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Even though this a big summer movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming felt small and that’s a good thing. There are memorable and creative set pieces including one at the National Monument and another on a Staten Island ferry, but the fate of the world was never in doubt.
By sticking to his roots without rehashing what we’ve already seen, director Jon Watts does a great job of presenting Peter Parker as the kid with super powers forced to grow up just a little bit faster than he should.
Watts and the writers were going for a John Hughes-style tone and it works for the most part. Holland is by far the youngest to portray Spider-Man and you believe he’s still in high school compared to the other two actors (Maguire and Andrew Garfield) who were in their late twenties when they played the character.
The high school scenes pop with energy and humor. It certainly feels like a millennial school with everyone acting self-aware and nerdy. Even Flash who has always been portrayed as the bully in the letterman’s jacket has been altered. He’s still a bully somewhat, but he’s also a nerd who never really poses a threat to Peter.
But there’s not enough scenes in the high school. Peter is constantly leaving to save someone, which is part of the character, but there could have been a little more. Especially since homecoming is in the title. This is the first of a planned trilogy so perhaps Sony and Marvel are just pacing themselves.
Holland is arguably the best Spider-Man. The youthful earnestness of the character is portrayed a little bit better here and his one-liners are fantastic. The filmmakers even throw in nice little jokes we haven’t seen before. One particular scene addresses something I’ve always wondered in a Spider-Man movie which is, how does he travel quickly if there are no buildings to swing from?
The marketing featured a lot of Tony Stark/Iron Man. Thankfully it’s just a glorified cameo. There are a few scenes hinting at future Marvel movies, but unlike something like Iron Man 2, these scenes don’t interfere or slow down the plot.
Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like a fresh new take on the character that I didn’t think was possible. It’s well-paced, funny and the villain is terrific. There’s even a twist late in the film that I did not see coming that really gives the third act a shot of tension.
You may be sick of Spider-Man movies. I certainly was. But Spider-Man: Homecoming doesn’t feel like yet another reboot. For the first time in awhile it seems new and exciting again.