In an era where it’s almost impossible to avoid superhero movies and shows, Spider-Man: Homecoming finds a fresh way to portray a story of a superhero in the overly exhausting Marvel Universe. It adds a fresh take on the superhero phenomena, it brings us back to the excitement of having these superheroes exist, but it also asks us to keep our feet on the ground. And while I would not give Spider-Man: Homecoming the highest slot in my favourite Marvel movie lineup, I feel like it will always have a special place in my heart for making me appreciate the simpler things in life.
This review contains spoilers.
The movie starts off with one of the most thrilling openings to an Avenger movie yet, a vlog like footage of Peter Parker getting the chance to fight among the Avengers and to be an Avenger himself. He even takes the time to talk to the camera in the middle of the airport fight scene in Civil War, which not just serves as a great tie-in with the previous film, but gives us a great insight into Peter’s character. He is, before anything else, a total fanboy, and as a fangirl, it’s hard not to love him for it. Plus, before I dedicate a whole paragraph to Tom Holland, I need to say that when I thought he was a great casting choice for Spider-Man in Civil War, I want to add that he is the only Peter Parker in my eyes from now on.
After his Avenger moment, Peter is sent back to his normal everyday high school kid life and it’s hard not to relate to him. Like him, we as viewers feel similar after leaving a Marvel film, as if the magic is gone and reality is waiting. But Peter does not sit around and mope, he puts on his suit every day after school and does what a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man does: stops bike robberies, gives directions to old ladies, and mistakes a car owner for a car thief. Which brings me to another point I found refreshing, the movie doesn’t shy away from showcasing our superhero making mistakes. It happens a few times throughout the movie and while a few of those situations is purely because Peter is still a teenager, who rushes into situations, but some of these mistakes happen because he just doesn’t know any better. And while other superheroes have made plenty of mistakes themselves, it feels more real and relevant when Peter makes them, since he not just learns from them, but he ultimately matures by making those mistakes.
Peter’s character development actually builds up to a specific scene, which I thought was brilliant. We have our hero, in a situation he thinks to be irreversible, almost giving up because he doesn’t believe in himself. My god, I felt so bad for him in that moment but at the same time, I also thought how precious Tom Holland looked in that scene. Anyway, I believed his pain, I believed he was truly giving up… until he realised that it’s not the suit that makes him a hero. Relying on that suit, up until that moment, had been like having training wheels on a bike and when he realises this, he subsequently fights his way out of that situation. Plus, I want to add that any other Spider-Man before Holland would have not been able to deliver that scene and the meaning behind it. But Holland delivered the kind of performance I knew he had in him already back in 2013 when I reviewed The Impossible. Back then I asked myself if it was too early to call Tom Holland the next great thing and it clearly wasn’t, based on how far he has come in those four years!
But, like I promised, I’m going to dedicate a whole paragraph to Tom Holland. I know I’ve already praised him across the board but I just want to add that he not only nailed the physical and emotional aspects of his superhero persona, he also did an amazing job being Peter. He was out of his suit a lot, and his teenage version was just as great as his Spider-Man. While I feel like all the other Spider-Man portrayals have tried hard to portray him as a total geek/nerd, this movie didn’t exploit that aspect as obviously. Peter was shown as smart and intelligent, and even his bully was not your stereotypical jock but simply a rich and smug smart guy. So instead of making Peter look and act like a stereotypical nerd, he is shown as a smart teen among smart teens, who simply happens to be awkward around his crush. Tom Holland nails this sort of nerdy teen persona, and he delivers a great performance. But his strongest scene by far, despite having many good ones, is when he confronts his enemy as Peter and not as Spider-Man.
When I sat down to write this review I knew I was going to mention one huge spoiler because it’s almost impossible to not mention it. We meet Vulture, our villain early on and realise he had a job, which was taken from him by Stark Industries, so he molds himself a new career – building weapons made from alien junk and selling them to bad guys. It is vaguely hinted that the Vulture isn’t your stereotypical bad guy, he has a family, he wants to care for them, he kills his employee accidentally etc. He is given a backstory, a dad who simply had to find a new way to provide his family a stable life – so when he opened that front door, I was floored! Part of me saw it coming, like maybe 5 minutes before it happened, I knew, and 10 seconds before, I was 100% certain, but it was still shocking. It also allowed us to see the other side which makes the Vulture more human, more real and less like a villain and more like a father. And as far as villains go, I thought Spider-Man: Homecoming gave us one of the best ones to come out of the Marvel Universe (Winter Soldier still my favourite though!). Because, by giving Vulture’s character a solid and realistic back story, his actions as a villain made sense, and he seemed to have realistic and logical goals. Most importantly, his end game didn’t involve ruling the city or taking over the whole world! Plus, Michael Keaton did a brilliant job with his character being sort of menacing but still somehow managing to maintain a certain father figure composure. So when Peter met him face to face, it was both utterly terrifying and totally exhilarating at the same time.
Now, back to a few other characters. I already briefly mentioned Aunt May, who similar to Peter was portrayed younger in Homecoming as we’re used to. Again, I loved that she was a hot Italian woman, instead of being a grandmother, but it felt like the movie didn’t really allow her to be anything other than a hot mother figure. That being said, and though Tomei did have only very few scenes to shine, she did stand out and it’s mostly due to Tomei’s skill as an actress. She just demands attention, and well, she knows how to enter a scene and deliver the most memorable line for the movie. Because honestly, what are you going to remember, Iron Man’s monologue, or Aunt May’s shocking discovery? And while we are on the subject of discovering the truth, I’m a little bummed the trailer revealed how Ned (Jacob Batalon) found out his best friend was Spider-Man. It could have been such a surprise and it’s sort of the reason I wish I didn’t watch trailers (something I did for a while years ago). But it was still fun, Ned was a great friend, plus an excellent wing-man, and I liked how their friendship wasn’t overshadowed with problems. Like when Peter ditches Ned to fight bad guys, Ned doesn’t throw a fit, he is genuinely worried after finding out where Peter had been.
There are also two female characters from Peter’s school, who get a little bit of screen time, Liz (Laura Harrier) and Michelle (Zendaya). I didn’t really care for Liz though, despite Peter’s infinite crush on her, but I did enjoy Michelle in those tiny moments when she was allowed screen time. It is clear that she will have a lot more to do in the later films, but for Homecoming, she simply felt like a prop. But that can’t be said for Donald Glover’s small performance as Aaron Davis, which is an Easter Egg inside an Easter Egg. And while I was aware of this sneaky hint, I think it wasn’t made as obvious for the general audience, which will be nice if they end up not knowing until later films. Like, surprise, remember this guy from Homecoming, yeah, well he is the uncle of this guy, your new superhero. Which I hope will happen because it would be a shame not to utilize this potential link.
Before I get to my final thoughts, I want to point out that I was a little frustrated with the addition of Iron Man to the Spider-Man movie. And even though his presence didn’t overshadow the story of Peter Parker, the idea of him did. Tony Stark even got a plot development for himself in the final act of the movie, after Peter Parker decides to stay a kid for a little while longer. Now, granted, Captain America is also present in the movie via taped instruction videos but his only there for a little bit as comic relief. And even though Tony Stark sort of portrayed a father figure in the movie, there was also Happy, which added two big Iron Man characters to the movie. But I get it, even though I’m not a fan of it, I understand the reasoning behind adding Stark to this movie in particular. Yet, I hope it won’t become a reoccurring thing.
Last but not least, I want to point out that I am a fan of the very diverse cast here. It’s not just that the main love interest is mixed-race but Ned and the obnoxious Flash are not Caucasian males either. It seems realistic, especially considering how dominantly white the entire MCU cast is! Poor Zoe Saldana is literally green instead of portraying a character with her own skin colour. And even though the teachers are featured little here in the film, it was also excellent to see Hannibal Buress from Broad City as coach Wilson. I hope, since Peter will probably finish high school in the next film, that Buress gets to come back. Also while we’re at it, I just want to stress the fact that while I say that there should have been more Aunt May and more Wilson, I love the fact that the movie was so youthful. And in my opinion, Marvel Universe needs a bit of youthfulness to freshen things up a bit!
Finally, as it seems I have only gushed about Spider-Man: Homecoming, I do want to point out that I thought the movie was a tad bit too long. I would have maybe cut around 15 to 20 minutes of it out by cropping some of the scenes. The first bad guy chase scene for me was a little bit too long for instance. There was also a lot of villain-talk at times which didn’t add to the story line even though they tried to explain the reason behind it. And well, I just thought a few of the montage sequences could have been a bit more compact. I’m not saying any of it was unnecessary because I fully understand the need of them in terms of character development and background, but I just felt like, that for me personally, the movie did drag just a tiny tiny bit. That being said, I thought Spider-Man: Homecoming was one hell of a movie, entertaining and fun, with a good villain and amazing performances, especially one from Tom Holland. And while some of the Marvel Universe stuff is starting to wear me down, I feel like I will never stop rooting for Spidey!