By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
As the sole cinematic property of Sony, the character Spider-Man achieved tremendous successes with its first movie franchise which begin in 2002 with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. After two failed attempts at a reboot franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Sony producers had to rethink their strategy and finally considered a deal with Marvel Studios, whose films have become a gold standard of both box office and critical success. The new version of Spider-Man, a shared property between Sony and Marvel, made its debut in last year’s spectacular Captain America: Civil War and gave audiences a satisfying and entertaining glimpse at actor Tom Holland as the new and possibly improved web head.
Now that Marvel and Sony have gotten that little, albeit seemingly rushed, introduction out of the way, the time has come for Spidey to have his own film that mainly focuses on his own story arc. Directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car), Spider-Man: Homecoming remains focused on fifteen-year-old Peter Parker’s struggles to juggle high school with his ambitions to be a superhero worthy of membership to The Avengers. This Spidey’s journey remains grounded in reality with Peter sometimes succeeding, but also falling and failing when he gets overly ambitious. Watts and his writers do a great job blending this young hero’s journey with exciting action, hilarious humor and a very earnest heart. Though this film fails to reach the exhilarating highs achieved by Raimi’s first two films, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
After showing some skills as a member of Team Stark in the Berlin battle versus Captain America’s team, Peter Parker (Holland) returns to his humble home in Queens, New York. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) allows Peter to keep the upgraded Spider suit, but with strict instructions to not let his ambitions get the best of him. After getting a taste of some real action and excitement, though, Peter finds it difficult to return to the simple life of a high school teenager and longs to make an even bigger difference outside of his borough. Peter sees an opportunity to prove himself when a new threat in New York arises in the form of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), aka The Vulture.
Toomes, a former salvage contractor whose work mostly involved cleaning up after superhero collateral damage, loses his company when Tony Stark’s Department of Damage Control takes over all clean-up operations. Desperate to provide for his family, Toomes and his salvagers use the technology and equipment they’ve acquired to commit various crimes, including street-level arms dealing. After Spidey stops some of Toomes goons during an ATM theft, he takes a greater interest into Toomes’s operation. However, the young teen hero finds himself in over his head when he tries to take on the ruthless Vulture.
Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a lively and enjoyable teen superhero movie, as told by filmmakers inspired by John Hughes teen movies and Freaks and Geeks. Watts and his writers have managed to finally pull off a Spidey movie that completely remains within Peter Parker’s time in high school. Throughout the movie Peter is fifteen and the story never jumps ahead. It truly comes across as the story of a teen boy a bit overwhelmed by his powers and trying to make the right choices, but occasionally falling whenever he gets too impulsive. The character development here is definitely well written and executed and the filmmakers still manage to keep the whole experience fun.
As I stated above, the movie never achieves the exhilarating highs of the first two Raimi films. Because this Spider-Man remains mostly in Queens, New York, audiences don’t get to see the exciting, swinging scenes among the tall skyscrapers of Manhattan. I actually missed these kind of moments, and this is probably my only gripe with the film. I understand that the filmmakers want to keep the story and action somewhat realistic, but I feel that they held back a little too much. That said; the action scenes that the film does have are still exciting and thrilling with an action sequence set in Washington D.C. and a climactic battle with The Vulture being the real standouts.
The movie also can boast excellent performances by the cast especially Tom Holland who, so far, has offered the best portrayal of Spider-Man/Peter Parker on the movie screen. He perfectly captures both the personality of the sweet, nerdy and awkward Peter Parker and the facade of the slightly cocky, fast-quipping hero. Michael Keaton is also tremendously impressive as Adrian Toomes, a very realistic villain whose original intentions may be honorable, but is determined to win at all costs.
Marisa Tomei offers a sweet and lovable performance as Peter’s guardian Aunt May. Because they filmmakers decided to go with a non-traditional, younger and more attractive version of the character, this casting choice becomes a new source of humor in this film. I was also rather impressed with Jacob Batalon who plays Peter’s best friend Ned. Batalon’s character, who accidentally discovers Peter’s secret identity, becomes another source of humor and entertainment as he offers some hilarious reactions to this exciting new development. Batalon delivers a performance with much heart and great comic timing. Of course Robert Downey, Jr. is awesome as Tony Stark. It is clearly a role the actor could play in his sleep. The film also features great performances by Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Jon Favreau, Tony Revolori and much more.
Perhaps it is fitting that Spidey’s first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t a complete grand slam, but a win nevertheless. After all, the hero still has much room to grow and can start venturing off into the more exciting borough of Manhattan. I’m guessing that will have to wait until his next solo movie, though. Spider-Man’s next appearance will be in Avengers: Infinity War where he and the other MCU heroes will face off with the legendary villain Thanos. Spidey will get even more excitement and adventure whether he still craves it or not. Until then, audiences should enjoy this new movie which does a great job at portraying the misadventures of a good-hearted Queens kid who can do whatever a Spider can.