After five financially successful films, Sony decided to reboot the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise for the second time, giving us our third cinematic web-slinger in the new standalone film, ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’. Having enjoyed each of the previous movies (despite their faults) and currently suffering a maddening bout of Marvel fatigue, ‘Homecoming’ was an excellent surprise. It’s the Spider-Man movie I didn’t know I needed.
When Marvel first kicked off its cinematic universe, I bought right into it and was on board through Phase One. With the exception of the first ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, I’ve since become frustrated with the formula found in each new picture. The movies are still fun, but the overall filmmaking quality has dipped – until now. I don’t know how the creative power works between this Sony/Marvel partnership, but whatever they’ve done here, they need to keep it up.
‘Homecoming’ kicks off with a great introductory scene that quickly and playfully ties it into the MCU. The heavily-written screenplay (which features no less than six writers) brings us all the way back to end of Phase One. We meet our villain-to-be, Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton), a contractor assigned to clean up the alien scrap and rubble following the Battle of New York. After investing heavily in this major clean-up effort, he loses everything when a new Stark-led department comes in, takes over the project and seizes all of the valuable alien technology that’s scattered about. Sneaking out with enough alien tech to be dangerous, our villain finds his feud with the government and Stark, as well as an opportunity for a new business.
It’s refreshing to find a new bad guy in a Marvel movie who’s not only well fleshed-out, but delivers a menacing threat. With alien power supplies, he creates a winged supersuit of his own and an arsenal of wildly powerful weapons that he sells on the black market. Running his business off the grid, no one even knows that this threat exists… until now.
Having seen two different Spider-Man beginnings on-screen, ‘Homecoming’ doesn’t even pretend to give him another origin story. Peter Parker already has his powers. We already know what he can do. ‘Captain America: Civil War’ gave him all the introduction he needed.
As we saw in ‘Civil War’, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) gave Parker (Tom Holland) his first big-boy outfit. If you thought the suit’s eyes were the only technologically-enhanced part of the suit, then you’ve underestimated Stark’s style. After the Vulture intro to ‘Homecoming’, we learn that Stark gave an upgraded suit to Peter following ‘Civil War’. While awaiting his next Avengers mission, Peter takes his overqualified new suit and uses it to become a neighborhood Spider-Man. When he stumbles into one of Vulture’s black market weapons deals, he finds a nemesis worth foiling, but also falls into the sights of the merciless and ruthless villain.
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ does a great job of establishing characters that you can relate to – even the bad guy. This hasn’t happened in a Marvel movie since the first ‘Thor’ introduced us to Loki. With this foundation, the ante is upped. Thus far, there hasn’t been much of a threat to our MCU heroes. One character has died, only to resurrect for a television role (Agent Coulson). One side character was killed off (Quicksilver), but we didn’t care about him since Fox’s ‘X-Men’ version was a hundred times better. And one may have lost the use of his legs (Rhodie), but thanks to magic technology, he’ll be just fine. ‘Homecoming’ brings some real danger to the game. Mid-scene, one particular moment is so heavy and intense that I found myself thinking there’s no way anything this dark and terrifying would have made it into a Disney-distributed Marvel movie.
Don’t mistake this as me saying that ‘Spider-Man’ is a dark film. I’m just saying that it kicks everything up a notch from the Disney/Marvel norm – and it’s fantastic.
Sony’s marketing campaign has two major problems: First, there’s too much of it. It’s as if the studio isn’t aware of the critic-proof and fan-driven brand that Disney and Marvel have created with the MCU. Not only is the bloated campaign everywhere, but it’s showing too much. Second, the misleading spots have made it appear as if Tony Stark is major player in the story. He’s not. Not even close. The ads make the movie out to be an unofficial ‘Iron Man 4’ buddy picture. I went into the screening leery because of that, only to be surprised by how little screen time Stark receives.
I loved both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. They each brought something unique and likeable to the role. I didn’t want to see a feature-length reboot starring the rambling and obnoxious Spider-Man from ‘Civil War’. However, after seeing ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, I’ve changed my tune. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is excellent. Like Maguire and Garfield, he brings his own uniqueness to the role. His quippy and charming character just might be the only Disney/Marvel element found within ‘Homecoming’. The story and filmmaking is a nice improvement from the redundant formula of the other MCU titles. Featuring a balance of everything needed in an entertaining movie, it’s one of the MCU’s very best entries so far.
I didn’t want another iteration of ‘Spider-Man’, but now that we have one, I’m happy we do.