At long last, we have the Peter Parker we deserve.
Once the most troubled superhero franchise around, Spider-man has been given the Marvel Studios treatment, resulting in the most authentic, well-written, and enjoyable Spider-man experience at the movies of all time.
The key to the film is the brilliance of Tom Holland as Peter Parker. His awkward, juvenile nature is more fitting for the character than the previous performances of Andrew Garfield, yet Holland comes across as likable, avoiding the skeevy sensation that tainted Tobey Maguire’s iteration of Peter Parker. Overall, Tom Holland is the strongest and most true-to-the-comics version of the character to grace the silver screen (no matter what my Editor-in-Chief says).
While Spider-man: Homecoming should be applauded for its authentic lead, the film also had great success with the creative liberties it took with the supporting cast, especially the primary villain, the Vulture (Michael Keaton). The Vulture’s unremarkable origin story from the comics was scrapped, replaced instead with one that fits seamlessly into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Originally hired to lead cleanup efforts after the events of The Avengers (2012), the Vulture’s alter ego, Adrian Toomes, was tossed out when Tony Stark’s new “Department of Damage Control” took over the project. Driven by the newly found chip on his shoulder, Toomes became the Vulture and began stealing from Damage Control, using the alien artifacts to create powerful weapons, such as his suit. In a way, the Vulture’s origin plays out like the origin story of an underdog hero, deriving motivation from being trampled upon by the powerful; unfortunately, Toomes chooses a criminal path, believing that his actions are justified by the needs of his family and crew.
Keaton’s villain is superb. While Marvel has been hit-or-miss with its villains in recent years, the Vulture has it all: a strong (even relatable) motive, threatening power, and intimidating personality. The Vulture’s powerful presence juxtaposes well with Spidey’s youthful inexperience, resulting in a rare Marvel movie where the villain seems to be demonstrably stronger than the hero.
Thankfully for Spidey, he is not alone in this film; rather, Homecoming features other characters from the MCU heavily, especially Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). As Peter Parker’s mentor (or, more fittingly, his patron), Stark takes on a very different role than he has in other Marvel films. His need to be responsible clashes with Peter’s desire to become all that he can be, adding wonderful depth to both characters.
Spider-man: Homecoming succeeds by taking the best attributes of MCU films and utilizing them, while also making concerted efforts towards originality. The trademark humor and dialogue that has made Marvel films so universally popular features heavily into the film, and the action sequences are not lazily done. However, the story is very unique for Marvel; neither an origin story or a sequel, it is truly a coming-of-age tale. The film’s energy and focus are directed at Peter Parker, and the film’s world is built outwardly from him. Peter’s struggles with typical high school problems feel just as important as his superhero antics, despite his own insistence to the contrary.
Homecoming is a film that clearly builds for the future. From here, Marvel has positioned itself to create a series of strong, independent Spidey films in a way that has never been done before. In a universe of interconnectedness where a film feels almost empty without multiple heroes being onscreen at once, Marvel has given itself a chance at making a series that simultaneously stands on its own yet prospers through its relationship to the wider universe.
Wagner’s Watchworthiness: 9/10