While technically this isn’t an origin story, Peter Parker has been established as a formidable contender in battle in Civil War. His innate powers are relatively established and honed. However, the fresh perspective crafted by Watts and the films eight writers (if you don’t count Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) make it feel that way. Homecoming offers audiences Peter’s emotional origin story. He isn’t really Spider-Man when the movie starts, he’s Spider-Boy. His personal story arc is what gives the film richness and depth, allowing the audience to relate to Peter and see his character, as more than an amusing teen with cool powers.
Speaking of character development, Tom Holland is a smashing good Peter Parker! His performance is nuanced and genuine, emoting all the exuberance and insecurities of a 15 year-old-boy. This is a tricky role to play, as upon consideration, Peter is juggling a lot of difficult problems. He’s an orphan, cared for by his widowed aunt May, (Marisa Tomei) after losing his second father figure and uncle. His need for secrecy forces him to live on the outskirts of his nerdy group of friends. His idol and new father figure, Tony Stark, is too busy for consistent parenting, and only offers his support when things get out of hand. He is left with one other male figure, his Stark-appointed handler, Happy (Jon Favreau) who refuses to answer the boy’s tirade of texts/calls. Peter is hungry to use his powers for bigger purposes, having had a mind-blowing taste of battling with heroes in Civil War. He wants to be an Avenger and he’s dying for Stark’s approval. His powers are a work in progress and he is still learning the boundaries of his abilities, including the hilarious discoveries hidden in his Stark-engineered super-suit. When he discovers a gang of criminals selling alien-tech weaponry, and decides to take them on, he embarks on an adventure that will change him forever. Holland nails every aspect of Peter’s arc as well as the physical demands of this athletic role.
Opening the film and contending to steal every shared scene with Holland, is the brilliant Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. Vulture. He’s terrifying and intense, playing a blue-collar worker turned weapons dealer. Armed with experience-honed smarts and a frightening set of metal wings, Toomes is a nasty villain, one who fights to provide a good life for his family. He was once a hard-working man, pushed to the brink of financial ruin after the government unfairly snatches a work contract from under him. He knows that financial security is a fickle thing, and he is willing to kill to defend his claim. Like Peter, Toomes is also relatable and heralds a powerful message about federal power. His character is evil, sure, but can you blame the guy for wanting to put food on the table? I liked that Toomes is a villain crafted through the need to survive in a world that doesn’t play fair. He’s a relevant and appropriate cautionary figure for this day and age.
The fantastic performances and characters don’t stop with Vulture and Peter. Everyone is wonderful. Jacob Batalon is brilliant as Ned, Peter’s endearing best friend and sidekick. Robert Downy Jr. lends his dependable charisma as Tony Stark and Chris Evans makes a few cameos that will leave you chuckling. Peter’s high-school decathlon team balance out the weight of Peter’s superhero acquaintances, and offer up their own quality of charm. There’s an interesting reveal about M.J. that folks might miss if they aren’t paying attention, and I’ll leave that for you to discover on viewing.
The wonderful cinematography and action sequences add beauty and power to the film. If you are afraid of heights, there are some moments in this film that will make you squirm in your seat. As much as you will appreciate the thrills of the combat and action scenes, you’ll also love the beautiful imagery the film offers in calmer moments. I particularly loved a scene where Peter is just sitting on a balcony, experiencing a deep moment. The city glows golden behind him and the shot is achingly beautiful. This type of pageantry in films calls out to the nostalgia of comic books, of the gorgeous images captured between pages. The esthetics are lovely in this film, and I look forward to another viewing.
Another viewing will also reveal all the jokes I missed while I was busy laughing. Apart from the more serious moments, the film is a laugh-a-minute experience that will require multiple viewings to catch all the humor. It’s clean humor and most of it plays off the little ironies in life. The jovial energy that carries throughout the film reflects the innocent resilience in Peter’s heart. It strengthens the movie’s youthful vibe, making it appropriate for all ages without being overly silly or distracting.
I only have one real gripe with this film, and it concerns the revelation of this one character in Peters class named Michelle. The whole time watching this movie I enjoyed her anti social behavior, her no bull shit attitude, and easily had some of best lines in the movie. But in her very last scene there is a reveal to her character where all I can is this. If that was just a throwaway line to make light of the situation then I'm fine with it, but if the producers are being honest on who Michelle is being alluded to. Then all I have t say is fuck you movie. Cause you basically ruined my love for this what I thought was an original character like the actor who plays Peter's best (fedora wearing) friend, by adding in that one line for her at the end. (You'll understand when you see it)
With that one bit aside, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an excellent fit to the Marvel/Avenger’s Universe. It carries on its own autonomy, setting itself apart from the other Spider-Man films of the past, while fitting in nicely with the established over-arching plot of the related Marvel films. It’s an amalgam of awesome talent, honoring a beloved hero that deserves this caliber of film.