Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr., Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon
Review by Mike DeAngelo:
As a big Spider-Man fan, I have mixed feelings about his films up to this point. The beloved Sam Raimi trilogy starring Tobey Maguire & Kirsten Dunst jumpstarted the cinematic superhero revolution that we now live in back in 2002. While they are historic for many reasons and have their diehard fans, the trilogy overall was a bit too campy and was woefully miscast, in my opinion. Tobey Maguire is a decent actor, but he’s a pretty awful Spider-Man and Peter Parker. The same goes for a misunderstood and underused Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, who does little else than wait around for Peter to get his head straight or scream/get saved repeatedly. Regardless, if you can look beyond the camp and poor lead casting, the first two films are decent enough; however, the third and final movie in Raimi’s trilogy is an absolute indefensible mess that’s clogged with too many villains and terrible writing & acting choices.
After the hot, sandy, venomous mess that was Spider-Man 3, Sony decided to reboot their franchise that skewed a bit more young, dark, and hip – thus, The Amazing Spider-Man films were born. The fanboy community really despises the Amazing Spider-Man films, and I get it, to a point. For my money, they nailed the casting this time around with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who carry the films on their chemistry and charisma alone, but are sadly given so little to work with beyond that. The first Amazing Spider-Man movie was a poor, dark rehash of the first Raimi Spider-Man film. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, while an improvement in some ways, was too muddled with poor plot choices and too many villains. Yet, while I think Andrew is a bit too good looking and cool (not to mention old) to play Peter Parker, his Spider-Man looked and quipped a lot more like the one I grew up with in comics and cartoons vs. Raimi’s Spider-Man.
Still, I was forced to compromise – did I want to see a good Spider-Man in a bad movie or a bad Spider-Man in a good movie? Thankfully, at their lowest point creatively and financially, Sony allowed Marvel to step in creatively and answered fanboys prayers with Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Spider-Man movie that offers both an AMAZING Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) and an excellent film overall.
To say I liked Spider-Man: Homecoming is an understatement - I LOVED Spider-Man: Homecoming. Like all great Marvel films (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Captain America Trilogy, Etc.), it’s a bit of a game-changer. It perfectly takes the beloved format of an 80’s teen movie and makes Spider-Man/Peter Parker the main character. On top of that, they finally get to put Spidey in the mix of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and it feels oh, so right!
One of the best choices beyond inserting Spidey in the MCU is the casting – first of all, they finally cast someone who isn’t nearly (or actually) 30 to play a teenager. Tom Holland not only nails the awkward, nerdy 15 year old Peter Parker, he also injects him with some genuine childlike wonder and innocence. For all of Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s talents, they just couldn’t play convincing teenagers to save their lives. Tom was only a few years older than 15 when he was cast, so he just naturally exudes the charming ignorance of an excited fifteen year old, puppy-like Peter Parker. It’s a giant breath of fresh air for the character that was previously portrayed far more self-serious and sad. The teenage perspective overall also gives a view of the MCU that makes it feel new again. If you're like me, you be slapping yourself and asking why the hell no one has done this with Spider-Man before.
The supporting cast is also top-notch. Robert Downey, Jr., thankfully, is used in moderation and doesn’t take over the movie like the trailers will have you believe. Another big stand-out is newcomer Jacob Batalon, who plays Peters trusted friend/guy in the chair, Ned, to hilarious results. Jon Favreau also returns as Happy Hogan from the Iron Man films, and, as usual, is both lovable and laughable all at once. To my surprise, Disney Channel alum, Zendaya also shows her acting chops by playing completely against type and stealing scenes right out from under the main characters at times with her flat and funny Michelle Jones.
Finally, there’s Michael Keaton and his portrayal of Adrian Toomes AKA: The Vulture. I’ve haven’t been shy about my thoughts on the weakness of Marvel’s villains overall. This time around, Keaton's Adrian Toomes is able to be a far more relatable and three-dimensional villain with just as little set-up time as the others. How is this possible?! The main reasons are simple: Keaton’s outstanding and menacing performance, and also his blue collar motivations are simultaneously quite basic and unshakable – to the extent that you might root for the guy if they hadn’t cast such a likable lead. I hope Keaton is brought back in the future in some/any capacity. If not, it would be a waste of a great ground-level villain.
As far as negatives, Spider-Man: Homecoming is fairly sound on all fronts. If I had to nitpick, I’d say that I connected very little to the love story between Peter and his high school crush, Liz, but it wasn’t a massive failure overall. They were still pretty adorable at points thanks to their awkwardness.
Also, my biggest thing to pick apart is that there aren’t a lot of big action scenes that are un-spoiled by the trailers. If you’ve seen them, you’ve seen all of the big spectacle scenes. Thankfully, they’re all thrilling and well-executed – just nothing that stands out as a BIG, “calling card” type scene. Luckily, the filmmakers knowingly inserted a few humorous, small scale scenes that subvert some of the big-action/superhero tropes and make you smile despite the lack of action-tastic eye-candy.
Overall, those complaints are fairly minor for a film as well-written, performed, and as irresistibly charming as Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not only is it the best Spider-Man movie we’ve seen, by far, it stands shoulder to shoulder with the other great first, stand-alone Marvel films like Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Guardians of the Galaxy. In time, it may prove to be the biggest, best, and most valuable franchise & character in the MCU. As long as Marvel keeps creative control, I cant wait to see what comes next!