After a failed attempt at a franchise with “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies, Sony Pictures decided to give the webslinging super hero another chance on the big screen. This time around, though, the film takes place in the Marvel universe already familiar to audiences thanks to “The Avengers.”
The film picks up shortly after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” where Spider-Man (Tom Holland) helped Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in trying to apprehend Steve Rogers. Following that venture, Spider-Man returns to his life as the teenager Peter Parker and attempts to balance his life as New York City’s newer super hero while also attending high school.
While this is taking place, another character, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is knee-deep in an underground weapons business where he sells arms that have been recovered from previous battle sites. Because this is also taking place in New York, Spider-Man soon finds out about the business. However, as the situation includes high-class weaponry, Stark advises Parker to not investigate the matter further.
“Spider-Man Homecoming” pulls off a nice balancing act with its story. The film manages to both present an honest high school comedy while also giving everything that a person would expect from a Marvel action flick. These two elements complement each other very well, too, much better than 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
This is partially thanks to the writing, which captures the teen spirit quite well. The dialogue feels real and natural, allowing an audience to get pulled much more into the story of Parker’s day-to-day life.
Also, while Tony Stark/Iron Man has been featured quite prominently in the film’s advertising, such as its previews, Downey Jr.’s character is thankfully used sparingly here. Instead of being too much of a major figure in the movie, Stark instead just shows up now and then to deliver some advice to Parker.
Additionally, the references to past Marvel films are used less like a way to wink at the audience and more to just better create the setting, allowing Spider-Man to feel at home in this universe.
While its story and plot are executed well and the writing is strong, though, the film’s biggest strength is the cast. First and foremost, Holland is great as the film’s star character. As Spider-Man, he finds a good middle ground between the character’s more humorous parts, such as his smack talk to criminals that the hero is well known for, and the serious moments where he has to really prove himself as a courageous person who is driven to do the right thing.
Out of the costume, Holland is just as good, playing Peter Parker very realistically. Of all the adaptations made so far, Holland presented the most believable portrayal of the character in high school. From his interactions with his classmates to his conversations with those with more authority such as Stark, Holland’s Parker is presented as a relatable person, making the overall character more endearing.
Nearly stealing some of the show, though, is Jacob Batalon who played Parker’s best friend Ned. At first glance, it might seem like Ned will just be the comic relief with little else to offer. But the movie soon makes it apparent that he is a solid character with a bit more depth.
The movie does give the character some humorous moments, but those funny sequences are more built on interactions with Parker and feel like something you’d see in a buddy cop movie, rather than just being a side character with some slapstick. On top of being a friend, Batalon’s character also proves himself as a relatively effective ally to Parker’s alter ego.
As for the villain, Keaton fit in quite well here. The character has a bit of a menacing, threatening side for sure, but Keaton keeps it somewhat reserved, making the villain more down-to-Earth in comparison with some of the other Marvel villains. He has some especially good scenes in the movie’s third act.
With that said, Keaton’s character does go in a direction that wasn’t quite well developed. While the picture picks up with Spidey just after “Civil War,” the film opens with the aftermath of the Battle of New York which was featured in “The Avengers.” At that time, Keaton was a construction contractor who was working to remove debris and reconstruct city buildings that had been smashed in the events.
He’s forced out of his work, though, by a government agency that took over the scene because of the alien tech. As a result, Keaton immediately went into the underground weapons business. It was a rather quick shift for this character and it all happens in the span of a few minutes.
While on the tangent of flaws, another is the fact that nothing is really done about Keaton when he starts doing criminal activity as his character’s alter ego, the Vulture. The issue here is that Parker repeatedly tells Stark about this threat, and yet very little is done about it.
Also, while much of the supporting cast such as Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei as May Parker works, some others don’t. The biggest example is Jon Favreau, who seemed to phone it in a bit as Happy Hogan.
These flaws are overshadowed, though, by what the rest of the film has to offer, including the action. Sequences where Spider-Man has to rescue people in the Washington Monument or hold a ferry that’s falling apart together are quite thrilling and entertaining. There’s also a really fun chase scene where Spider-Man has to use makeshift ways to catch up to a van since he’s in the suburbs and can’t swing from skyscrapers. The final battle does have some moments that are hard to see, yet it too has some good tension.
Overall, “Spider-Man Homecoming” is a solid entry in both Marvel’s decade old universe as well as a fresh new take on the character. It’s not perfect, but for a summer blockbuster, it hits a lot of good marks. 4.4 out of 5.