When Marvel first announced that they had acquired the rights to make a Spider-Man movie, the entire fan community collectively sighed. “Why would they make another Spider-Man movie, though?” we all said. “We don’t need another Spider-Man movie. They’re just going to do another origin. We don’t need that. We’ve seen Uncle Ben die enough times!”
Well, I’ll say it. We were wrong.
First of all: Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t an origin story, and that’s for the best. It plays off of the fact that everyone already knows who Spider-Man is and where he got his powers, and just runs with the story afterward. Secondly, it’s a fresh story, different from every other Spider-Man movie, with a different villain and a new look at things. The result is almost my ideal Spider-Man movie–a small yet compelling story about a teenage hero trying to protect the little guy in a big city.
Part of the appeal of a Spider-Man movie is that it’s about the underdog–a teenager going up against superpowered villains on the regular. And Tom Holland, the latest in a long line of actors to play Spider-Man, embodies that character perfectly. This version of Peter Parker balances too many extracurricular activities, is never really sure of himself and yet has a drive to do the right thing no matter what. Tom Holland’s acting really brings the character to life, embodying the witty and sarcastic side of Spider-Man, as well as a shy, quiet side of Peter Parker.
The rest of the cast is equally talented, especially Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. the Vulture. For the first time in a while, the villain of this Marvel movie is interesting and understandable, and has a complex relationship with the hero. Michael Keaton’s acting is great, and the CGI backing up his character as the Vulture is beautiful. The rest of the cast is equally talented, and I appreciated how the classic Spider-Man story has been updated for a different audience. Peter Parker is still the shy, nerdy kid bullied by his more popular classmates, but the school he goes to looks and feels like a modern-day high school in New York, and his classmates are no longer a bunch of white kids from the 1960’s. Laura Harrier, Jacob Batalon, and Zendaya all perform excellently as Liz Allen, Ned, and MJ respectively.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is fun and enjoyable take on the Spider-Man mythos, one that easily competes with the earlier trilogy and two-movie reboot. It’s well-written and well paced; maybe the only thing marring it is Marvel’s incessant need to tie every movie they make into their extended shared universe. Tony Stark appears several times as Peter Parker’s new superhero mentor, which is fine, except that his involvement–and, indirectly, the Avengers’ involvement–adds a new layer to the already confusing timeline Marvel has established ever since The Avengers came out in 2012. Between the assertion that eight years have passed between The Avengers and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the scene that implied Tony Stark and Pepper Potts are back together despite breaking up in Captain America: Civil War (which occurred immediately prior to this movie)… well, the Marvel movie timeline is a little bit rough. I greatly enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming, but I think the narrative themes it brought up could have been explored better if Tony Stark hadn’t been so involved in the story. And someday, we’re all going to sit down and have a long talk about how Marvel keeps screwing up their own continuity with every movie they release.
Despite some timeline flaws and the obligatory tie-ins to the rest of the Marvel universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming manages to be a genuinely entertaining movie that’s true both to the character and the mythology of Spider-Man. Tom Holland continues to impress with his acting, and Michael Keaton is in my opinion one of Marvel’s most interesting villains. I wasn’t sure Marvel could accomplish a fresh take on Spider-Man, after all of Sony’s various attempts. But they did it, and they pulled it off without ever feeling like a rehash of earlier films. That’s what I call proving the fans wrong.