Spider-Man: Homecoming (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Homecoming’s an interesting time… for a nerdy kid who grew up during the days of Jnco jeans and Dawson’s Creek, my experiences with homecoming usually involve not going because I was sort of the geeky outcast in school… and also getting rejected by the hot girl who hung around with the popular kids while I hid away in the library to play Magic the Gathering with my cloak wearing buddies. But the idea of a homecoming always did appeal to me, outside of the youth driven dance parties from my younger days, the notion of putting your bags down and saying “I’m home” resonated with me.
With this particular homecoming, we finally get a lost member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe returning back to the fold with the rest of the heroes that shaped this cinematic epic spanning 15 films over the last nine years. Welcome home Spider-Man, finally Sony decided to play nice with Marvel Studios. Sony still retains the rights to Spidey films, but with Marvel Studios guiding their hand I am confident we won’t get another blunder like the previous reboot and especially the horrendous Spider-Man 3.
Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland, reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, with MCU staples like Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. Starring opposite Holland; Michael Keaton is this film’s villain Adrian “the Vulture” Toomes, a man pushed to the edge who is forced to do some not very good things to provide for his family… primarily his wife and daughter. Rounding out the cast is Zendaya as Michelle, Jacob Batalon as Peter’s BFF Ned, Laura Harrier as Pete’s love interest Liz, Tony Revolori as Peter’s school-yard rival Flash Thompson, and of course Marisa Tomei as a much younger than usually portrayed Aunt May Parker.
Notably absent from the cast is an actor playing Ben Parker… before I jump too far into this, I am so glad they didn’t have to YET AGAIN go through the “with great strength comes great responsibility” deal with Ben Parker. Uncle Ben’s death acting as the catalyst for Peter’s inevitable turn to crime-fighting is as ingrained in pop culture’s collective conscience as Bruce Wayne becomes the Batman because of his parent’s deaths. We didn’t need to see it and I am glad that the film handled this in more subtle ways, the way Aunt May constantly worries about Peter or when Ned discovers that Peter is Spidey… Peter asks Ned to keep it a secret because May has “been through enough” Ned just gets it. It’s more subtle yet still conveys the point across without force feeding the viewers year ANOTHER Uncle Ben death scene.
The film’s pacing felt incredibly balanced, more balanced than most summer blockbusters I’ve seen and should be an example for future MCU entries. When Peter takes it upon himself to stop Adrian Toomes and his lackeys, the flow of events felt so organic that the inevitable final confrontation between Spidey and the Vulture felt incredibly satisfying. The decision to start Spidey fairly young and keep him there through the entire film was a good decision and should lead to more interesting Spider-Man films going forward. When both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield wore the suit, Peter was much older and by the end of the first film had shed his High School days. To keep this new Spidey in High School feels like the perfect route for this third (and hopefully final?) reboot.
The writing felt fresh and I loved how they modernized many of the characters, while the film retains much of the same core themes as the original source material… it never shackles itself with it. Casting May Parker much younger is just the tip of the iceberg, my personal favorite characterization was how Homecoming modernized the Flash Thompson character. Traditionally, Flash was always portrayed as a paint-by-numbers popular jock with a penchant for bullying poor Peter. While Revolori’s Flash still torments Pete, it’s less wedgies and locker stuffing and more psychological. Flash Thompson never gets physical with Peter but he does go out of his way to be a class-A jerk to him. His portrayal felt modern and far more realistic than the way Joe Manganiello or Chris Zylka approached the character.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is rife with little nods… especially to Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, a collection of villains in my opinion that rival Batman’s in a game of Who Has the Best Bad Guys. Beyond just the Vulture; the film also featured two incarnations of the Shocker in Herman Schultz and Jackson Brice, the Tinkerer Phineas Mason, Mac “the Scorpion” Gargan, and Aaron Davis… the man who’d become the Prowler as well as the uncle of future Spidey Miles Morales.
As an entry to the still expanding MCU, Spider-Man: Homecoming delivers on every note. From the first scene to the very last, it’s the Spidey film we’ve deserved this whole time and as long as Sony continues to play nice with Marvel Studios, we can expect Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to stick around much longer than his predecessor. A+ web-slinging fun!