Well, we have another reboot of the Spider Man franchise. I swear, at the rate Spider Man gets rebooted, our friendly neighborhood wall crawler is gonna have a seriously sore pair of nuts.
So, how does this newest version of Spider Man stand up to the previous ones?
Pretty damn well, actually.
Let’s back up a second and remember that Spider Man was actually introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the third Captain America movie, Civil War. This was only possible after Sony realized they were constantly fucking the character up, and decided to cut a deal with Marvel to get in on their money making super hero universe, instead of trying to figure out how to make Spider Man even stupider.
With the web head now firmly back home (Get it? Homecoming? Yeah.) in the MCU, it was time to kick another Spider film into the universe, in the hopes fans would be forgiving of the last few train wrecks we’ve had. Pretty much everything after Spider Man 2 has been a disaster, after all, so this was a risky film for Marvel. If Spider fatigue had set in, and Spider Man bombed, it could lead to any future attempts at including Spider Man in the MCU getting axed.
Which meant Marvel had to be really smart about how they did this. Another origin story was obviously out, since we’ve had two in the last fifteen years, as was the use of any of the villains who appeared in those films, to avoid them appearing to be too similar. We’ve also had fifteen years of Spider angst, so that had to go as well.
So, what do you have when you don’t use a super hero origin story, a well known villain, and enough angst to make Amsterdam sad?
A much better fucking movie.
This version takes Peter Parker back to high school, as a fifteen year old sophomore, who is still high on his airport battle in Civil War, and eagerly awaiting his next Avengers mission from Tony Stark. A mission that never arrives, no matter how many times Peter calls and texts Happy Hogan, Tony’s long time right hand man.
Still, he’s got the sweet high tech Spider suit Tony made him for Civil War, and a strong desire to be a super hero, so after school, Peter bounces around Queens, doing good deeds, or at least, trying to. Mostly he just stops bicycle thieves, and helps lost old ladies find their way home.
At least, until a chance encounter with a group of thieves trying to rob an ATM using high tech weapons turns him on to the Vulture, a mysterious figure who deals in weapons and equipment adapted from various past Avenger battles. The Chitauri, Ultron, and others are all revisited, with the crap from the battles being quietly stolen and used to make the most advanced weapons on the planet.
Determined to get to the bottom of this, Peter begins trying to track down the Vulture, against the advice of everyone, including Tony Stark. Despite this, Peter persists, until Stark takes his high tech suit, leaving Peter to wonder if he has what it takes to be a super hero.
Just when he is considering giving up, he discovers the Vulture’s true identity, while taking his long time crush, Liz, to the Homecoming dance. Donning his old Spider suit, Peter abandons his date, for a final confrontation with the Vulture, proving himself both as a super hero, and a good person who deserves the power he has gained.
First off, Tom Holland, who plays Peter, is a really refreshing break from past movie Spider actors. His biggest source of angst is that everybody treats him like a kid, which his best friend Ned points out, is because Peter is a kid. Learning to accept that he lacks the life experience needed to be the hero he wants to be is a big part of Peter’s arc in this film, and gives a realism to the character that defines him from his predecessors.
Also absent, lots of crying over Uncle Ben. Peter still lives with Aunt May, played by film veteran Marisa Tomei, but we are spared more repetition of the classic Spider Man ethos, with great power comes great responsibility. This Peter wants all the responsibility. His problem is that he wants more than he can handle, which means we see Spider Man struggle a lot, and often fail, because while he is still brilliant, he doesn’t have the experience to put that intellect to proper use.
This matters because while we do see Peter fail often, at no point does he let these failures keep him down, slow him down, or stop him from trying to be the hero he wants to be. It sets him back, but he never stops chasing that dream, and frankly, that’s a pretty nice message to send. Keep plugging away, and eventually, you can get there.
Maybe it just resonated with me a bit better, because as a writer, when I look back at the stuff I wrote twenty five or thirty years ago, I can clearly see how my lack of experience as both a writer, and in life, kept me from being the writer I wanted to be. Watching this movie reminded me of that, and how far I’ve come through persistence, dedication, hard work, and just not giving up.
So, yeah, Homecoming has a really good message. A really positive one.
Now, one of the frequent failings of the MCU is that their villains tend to be a bit on the shallow side. This isn’t really a bug, so much as it is a feature, since these are comic book films. In comics, the bad guys tend to be obviously bad, and the films have followed that, giving us exactly what we expect. Somewhat shallow bad guys.
Homecoming really breaks that mold with Vulture, played by the iconic Michael Keaton. Best known for his turns in the Tim Burton directed Batman films, and as the ghost with the most, Beetlejuice, Keaton knows both the world of comics, and villains. However shallow Vulture may have been on paper, you know Keaton is going to give him depth.
Fortunately, Adrian Toomes, the man behind the Vulture wings, is written supremely well. A former salvage worker, who lost everything after the Department of Damage Control ousted him from his clean up of the Chitauri invasion, Toomes has taken to stealing the useful leftovers of various super hero battles, and repurposing them as weapons in order to make a living, and provide for his family.
What’s great about this is that Toomes isn’t a bad man. He’s a villain, but he’s not evil. He’s just doing whatever he has to in order to put food on the table, and give his family the life they deserve. He wont hurt anyone if he can avoid it, but won’t hesitate to kill anyone who threatens his operation, which has been running for eight years now, without ever attracting any attention from the Avengers, or law enforcement. He’s a shrewd, smart, and resourceful blue collar work a day character.
He’s also driven by his own code of honor, which he adheres to strictly, as is shown in the movies first post credit scene. So, wait for that, to see Toomes in a better light.
Oh, yeah, that’s right. Spider Man doesn’t kill his nemesis in this one. Nor does he have to watch him die. He actually saves Toomes. Because he’s the hero, and that’s what heroes do. They even save the bad guy.
Working as Toomes right hand man is one of my favorite actors of all time, Bokeem Woodbine, playing Herman Schultz, better known to Spider Man fans as Shocker. While he is light on lines and character development, its good to see Woodbine getting such a plum role, and one he plays with as much excellence as always.
Naturally, we have Robert Downey Jr returning as Tony Stark, as well as Jon Favreau playing Happy, and a special cameo by Gweneth Paltrow as Pepper, letting us know she and Tony have smoothed over the relationship problems they were having in Civil War.
Back in the Spider world, we have Tony Revolori playing Flash, changing it up from a smug jock to a smug rich kid, and Revolori makes the change up work well. Laura Harrier plays Liz, Peter’s high school crush, with a plot altering connection to Toomes, and does a great job of being the popular girl with a brain, and human decency. Zendaya plays Michelle, or MJ, who is not Mary Jane Watson, but rather an anti social, but painfully observant, friend of Peter’s. Finally, Jacob Batalon plays Ned, a character loosely based on the Miles Morales Spider Man’s best friend, as Peter’s best friend, back up, and advisor.
Plus, we get Donald Glover playing Aaron Davis, a small time petty crook, who is the uncle of Miles Morales, who was also Spider Man in the Ultimate Universe. He even mentions his nephew, hinting that we may see Morales suit up in the future.
Naturally, there’s a ton of other ester eggs in this film, cause it’s a Marvel movie. Chris Evans reprises his role as Steve Rogers for a series of educational and promotional videos on everything from the importance of P.E., to staying out of detention, as well as the best post credit scene in Marvel history.
Seriously, stay for it. It’s freaking priceless.
The action scenes are very action packed, and pretty much what you’d expect from a Marvel film at this point. Big, flashy, but well done and serving a purpose in the story. The film doesn’t rely solely on the action scenes to carry it, though, as is proper for a Spider Man film. What really carries the film is Peter, and his own struggle to figure out what being a super hero means.
Homecoming was directed by Jon Watts, who drew heavily on the works of John Hughes in making this film. It’s intended as a coming of age tale in the same way Hughes often were, by having the characters realize that no matter how much they make think otherwise, they are not yet adults, and are still unprepared for to be.
The music is from Michael Giacchino, who did the music for movies like The Incredibles, Doctor Strange, and Rogue One, as well as a bunch of others. Here, he presents a score that is keeping with previous Marvel films, in that it has clear thought to how it affects the story, follows through on itself, and enhances every scene it is a part of. It’s a well done soundtrack, if not as memorable as some of the previous Marvel films.
There’s a crap load more I could talk about here, but seriously, you should just see this one for yourself. Jennifer Connolly plays the Spider suits AI, Karen, and is married to Paul Bettany in real life, who was the voice of Jarvis in the Iron Man films. Tons of stuff like that are peppered through the movie, as well as really well done character arcs, strong visuals, and a clear understanding of who Spider Man is, and how hard it was for him to become the hero we are familiar with today.
Give Homecoming a shot, even if you are all Spider Maned out. This is one outing with the character that’ll make you fall in love with him all over again.