Spider-Man fans have been waiting for something, anything that would bring Spider-Man into the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Captain America: Civil War we got our first look at a Marvel cast and written Spider-Man. Now with Spider-Man Homecoming, we are getting an expanded look at the world that Peter Parker lives in and helps save as Spider-Man, all while introducing probably one of the most unlikely villains to ever actually come off as a full blown legitimate threat to Peter Parker: The Vulture.
Title: Spider-Man Homecoming
Production Company: Columbia Pictures, Marvel Studios & Pascal Pictures
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by: Jon Watts
Produced by: Kevin Feige & Amy Pascal
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Release dates: July 7, 2017 (Worldwide)
Running time: 133 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (United States) / M (Australia)
Things begin after the end of the final battle of The Avengers and the Chitauri in Avengers. Adrian Toomes is the owner and head operator of a scrap metal salvage and disposal company that suddenly loses the contract to collect all the Chitauri scraps due to the creation of an S.H.I.E.L.D./Stark Enterprises group called Damage Control. This leaves Toomes with nothing and his, along with his co-worker’s families, on the verge of going broke and homeless. Due to not delivering one load of the scraps to Damage Control, Toomes along with some of his crewmates begin creating and selling illegal weapons created with stolen Chitauri scraps.
Fast forward 8 years to the events of Civil War with Peter Parker making his debut as Spider-Man, all told through a self-made video journal. After the events of Civil War, Peter is pretty much left on his own and is growing bored. He has done the “friendly neighborhood” Spider-Man thing long enough and is craving higher levels of challenge. He’s doing the usual stopping of local street crime thing while letting a lot of his school duties slip, leaving him with the school debate team as the only activity left that connects him to his crush: Liz. Most of Spider-Man Homecoming is spent following Peter through a few different moments, like accidentally outing himself to his only friend Ned, trying to balance school with superhero duties, and the fact that Tony Stark who is meant to be his mentor has been pretty much out of things since Civil War leaving him with Happy Hogan as his only contact.
When attending a party held by Liz on a dare that Peter can bring Spider-Man to the party (Ned accidentally says that Peter knows Spider-Man after overhearing Liz has a crush on Spider-Man), Peter notices a strange explosion from one of Toomes dealers, a guy calling himself The Shocker, shows off the weapons to a street thug. So this leads Spider-Man to be on the path to stopping Toomes and his crew from selling the illegal weapons through most of the movie; mostly behind Tony Stark’s back as it could lead to trouble. Through a mistake involving the Staten Island Ferry being cut in half, Stark takes Peter’s suit hoping it will stop him from chasing Toomes any further… Which doesn’t help that since Peter asking Liz to the Homecoming dance leads him to find out that Liz is Toomes daughter, provoking Peter to choose between the girl he has a crush on and stopping her criminal father.
- Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man:
The Peter Parker we get in Spider-Man Homecoming isn’t exactly the same as the one we have had in the past. This Peter is more confident in himself and while he is the school loser, he only brings on the isolation of having to be Spider-Man. He is a brain at school, rarely getting questions wrong and working on his own web fluid formulas during science class, and also being one of the heads of the school debate team. But with his newfound abilities, Peter is bored and wants to do more now, as any other high intelligence child does. He looks up to Tony Stark as almost a father figure but gets angry whenever Tony won’t let him do things bigger than stopping local street crimes on his own, this is exacerbated by finding that his new suit that Stark made is limited to almost child-like settings. The fight with The Vulture is Peter’s proving ground to both Stark and himself. They do play the “it’s not the suit, it’s you” cliche in Spider-Man Homecoming but it works as you are learning alongside Peter and feel the happiness after the big battle is over and done with and the good guy has won.
Tom’s performance here is very well done. He plays the very grounded and down to Earth Peter Parker in front of the people around him, but he amps up the jokingness and joy that comes with being Spider-Man. This helps him become more relate-able to the audience and helps push the viewer into the world that the character inhabits. Personally, though, I did find his performance to almost lack emotion at times and almost had me wanting to see Andrew Garfield return to the role.
- Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes / Vulture:
Talk about a complete turnaround. As a villain, it’s amazing to see The Vulture turned into a very viable and serious threat as a character. Too often we’ve gotten the broken down old man version of Adrian Toomes and as The Vulture, he’s almost laughable as a villain. However, Spider-Man Homecoming was able to craft a perfect new origin to the character and make him look like a threat every step of the way through having him be one step ahead of the game at all times.
A lot of what makes him work is the combination of Michael Keaton as an actor and also the writing used for the character. Too often you would see a Super Villain have some sort of tragic backstory so that you’ll feel sad for him once he is captured or killed at the end of the movie, but not here. In Spider-Man Homecoming you see that Adrian Toomes is always out for revenge and his family has almost become secondary in his mind except as an excuse. Keaton’s acting here is sly and sinister, combining Beetlejuice and Batman into one really weird mess of a villain. I know people say Birdman is Keaton’s finest hour over the past few years, but this performance outshines that in every single way. Easily the best performance in Spider-Man Homecoming.
- Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan:
Happy Hogan is probably one of the lowest points in Spider-Man Homecoming. He’s just there to be a grumpy wall to any of Peter’s progress as Spider-Man since he hates being in the role of babysitter. While this does go along with the hopelessness that has been around the Happy Hogan character since he was made obsolete as head of security in the first Iron Man movie, it just comes off as dick-ish here. I would have been better spent having Happy being the guy who actually tries to keep Peter hanging on that thread of hope instead of wanting to cut the thread off at the first sign of trouble.
Favreau does what he can with such a limited role, and even gets one of the biggest laughs in Spider-Man Homecoming through using a reference that goes back to Iron Man in 2008. However, he just doesn’t seem to be given any real time to shine or anything in the role of Happy Hogan. I don’t really blame Favreau here, but more so the writers as they didn’t seem to be given much direction on what the character could or should do here.
- Zendaya as Michelle “MJ” Jones:
I remember when this was first cast that I questioned the idea behind this new version of MJ as nothing more than political correctness having a heavy hand in Spider-Man Homecoming (After all, this is the company and producers behind the terrible Ghostbusters remake). Well, what I didn’t realize until the end of the film that this is outright character assassination since this version of MJ wasn’t even revealed to actually be MJ till the second last scene of the film! By then we had this character by the name of Michelle who was anti-everything yet hung around Peter Parker like a bad smell so she wouldn’t be seen as the female loser of the school. She gets a hero moment when she gives the winning answer to the national championships that the group attends so that it sets her up for the future movies.
I’m not going to put the blame for this on Zendaya as she is only doing the best with the character she is given. However since that character is so one dimensional on purpose, I can understand how there isn’t much to work with. I’m sure this is going to be explored more with the sequels, but I hope that this anti-everything millennial stereotype is given a lot more personality in movies to come.
- Marisa Tomei as May Parker:
I was tempted to add May Parker into the cameo section as she really doesn’t have anything to do in Spider-Man Homecoming. There’s no focus at all on the character other than “She’s young and hot”… Seriously, that’s the extent of her character in Spider-Man Homecoming. She’s probably one of the biggest losses to the god of editing in the film. I’m not even going to bother saying anything about the acting at all since the character is used to little. However, she does make the ending of the film with a good laugh moment.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man:
For the first time outside of his solo films, Tony Stark is actually a good and deep character. While he is still the same guy we’re used to in Iron Man and Avengers, being aloof and not really caring about his duties as Peter’s new mentor, he’s also very hands on and in control of everything. He designed the suit Peter wears for the majority of the movie and the tech involved in it, showing in a few scenes that he is the one in control of the suit rather than Parker himself, which is also his biggest flaw. When Peter fails, Tony sees it as himself failing. This is eventually changed as Tony realizes that he is treating Peter in the same style that his own Father treated him as a child, not allowing Peter to truly live up to his potential. Once the lesson for Tony is learned, he is quick to give Peter everything he wanted from a new upgraded suit to a spot in The Avengers but is happier to see Peter turn down those gifts till he is truly ready in the future.
There is nothing to be said here about Downey Jr as Tony Stark that hasn’t been said a million times before. Downey Jr is for all intent and purposes Tony Stark in every way. However, it’s the writing for him that makes the character shine. The personal growth of Tony Stark really makes the performance stand out above the rest by being a smaller story that if you weren’t paying attention, you would miss till you saw the film again.
- Laura Harrier as Liz Toomes:
Liz Toomes is the school perfect, she’s the organizer of the homecoming dance, the head of the quiz team or whatever that thing is that they put so much pride in, she seems to have a perfect life and could achieve anything. She has a crush on Spider-Man and knows that she has the affections of Peter Parker long before he gets up the nerve to ask her out. Of course, she is unaware of her Father’s position as an arms dealing villain.
Laura does a good job as Liz in all aspects of the character. She looks and acts like the perfect student as you can feel some genuine emotion between her and Tom when the time comes. It’s a shame that she ends up having to be an altered character in order to serve the stories plot, but she did extremely well with the changes. It’s a shame that due to the villainous nature of her Father that we lose the character and this talented actress this early into the new series of movies.
- Jacob Batalon as Ned:
Man, I hated this character. Ned is that annoying kid at school that you just want to punch in the face from the first moment he opens his mouth. I swear his only characteristic was to be annoying. He contributes nothing but misery for Peter at every turn, more so than Peter does for himself. His obsession with being more than just the fat loser kid causes more problems for Peter as Ned constantly tries to use Spider-Man to make himself and by extension Peter more popular with the people around them. Eventually, they try to place Ned in the “Guy in the chair” cliche but that just doesn’t work with a high schooler.
I have no idea what to think about Batalon as an actor in this role. Since the role was so annoying that it really pissed me off, I’m not sure if this means he did very well in the role or botched it so hard that it’ll pop up in Botchamania one day. So I’ll once again put this down to bad writing for sub-characters than the actor themselves.
- Tony Revolori as Eugene “Flash” Thompson:
Once again there isn’t too much to this version of Flash except the changes that they made to the character. I think the popular high school football quarterback is gone in favor of this spoiled rich kid that is also Peter academic rival. He’s also a DJ and one of the more popular kids around. Yet for some reason, he is a part of the quiz or debate or whatever that group is that they all seem to be in. While the people in the group prefer Peter over Flash, you do see that the rivalry is there.
Revolori is one of those who seems like he is enjoying the limited amount of freedom he is given with this new Flash character, but he is also the victim of either the God of Editing or the writers just not having enough for him to do. Like some of the other lower tier characters in Spider-Man Homecoming, Revolori is let down by a character that barely rates over a cameo or in-name-only appearance.
- Cameo Roles: Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Cameo: Donald Glover as Aaron Davis / Prowler, Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz / Shocker & Logan Marshall-Green as Jackson Brice / Shocker, Michael Chernus as Tinkerer, Michael Mando as Mac Gargan, & Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag (Head of Damage Control)
Yep, lots of references in Spider-Man Homecoming, with Pepper Potts return being welcome if only for the less than 2 minutes she is on screen. Outside of Pepper, the stand outs here are Mac Gargan and the two Shockers. These characters are only used as low tier thugs but leave a lasting impression, especially Gargan who might just be the next villain to land that lead role. Other then that, these people are barely worth mentioning.
Spider-Man Homecoming is nothing more than a thrill ride from start to finish. The writing in this movie is probably some of the best that we’ve seen out of the writers down there at Marvel Studios since the original Iron Man. Everything Spider-Man is known for is here in Spider-Man Homecoming: His quips, his acrobatics, his weird reactionary style of fighting, his trademark “Parker bad luck”; all of it is here. You actually gasp when Peter screws up and reveals himself to be Spider-Man in a moment with his best friend Ned, you cheer for him to succeed as he is saving the High School debate team from falling to their death in an elevator, you hate it when Adrian Toomes figures out very quickly that Peter is Spider-Man and holds it against him. Everything here is near-perfection.
Speaking of Toomes, I know I’ve already said it but man Michael Keaton deserves some sort of award for his performance as Adrian Toomes. He has the intimidation down to a T here in Spider-Man Homecoming. The writing here keeps him as the guy who is one step ahead of everyone around him at all times and doesn’t get too bogged down in making him seem like a sympathetic character once you realize just who is family is. Spider-Man Homecoming has done something that decades of Spider-Man comic books, video games, and cartoons have failed to do: Make The Vulture a legitimate threat to Spider-Man. I just can’t get over how good that is.
Another thing that needs to be pointed out is how good Robert Downey Jr is here as Tony Stark. I know it’s a bit redundant these days since he’s been playing the character for something like 10 years now, but to see Tony Stark open up a bit about his own father issues and seeing the same mistakes and challenges in his relationship with Peter is just running the gamete from heartbreaking to heartwarming.
There’s also a lot of good comedy moments here from everyone in the film, especially right near the end with Aunt May. I also recommend highly to wait around through all of the credits as not only is there the usual sequel baiting done, but a really nice jab at the whole post-credits sequences themselves.
If there is anything that I found lacking in Spider-Man Homecoming is that this really didn’t feel like a Peter Parker story. As a long term Spider-Man fan to the point of obsession, I walked away from Spider-Man Homecoming thinking that this was nothing more than a Miles Morales Spider-Man story where they placed Peter in there instead of Miles because the studio was afraid of having huge audience backlash from the general fanbase and also the more hardcore comic book readers. For those of you who do not know who Miles Morales is, he is the second Spider-Man from the former Marvel Ultimate Universe comic book line who is the only surviving creation from that book line to be merged into the now singular Marvel comic book universe.
The reason why I get this feeling is because of the changes to the world around Peter Parker. In this version, he has a best friend who is often by his side at school all day in Ned. There’s also the fact that Liz, who would normally be Liz Allen (A blonde party girl) is now Liz Toomes. Flash Thompson is not just the dumb high school quarterback, but he is the alternate on the high school debate team and Peter’s academic rival (though a spoiled rich kid). MJ… Well, look at the picture above. Does that look like the amazingly stunning socialite redhead that would rock up on Peter’s doorstep saying “Face it Tiger, you’ve hit the jackpot?”… NOPE! This version of MJ… Sorry, Michelle… Is a dry-witted anti-Governmental, anti-social, anti-everything girl, who spends more time in books while pretending to be around the high school debate group. It’s this, combined with just about everyone around Peter being anything but a person of Caucasian skin color, makes the whole thing feel like it was written for the Mile Morales character instead of Peter Parker. Hell, outside of most of the villains being white, it was hard to see any other white people in this movie. Welcome to current year I guess.
The more I look at the characters that are not Spider-Man, Tony Stark or The Vulture, the more I noticed that Spider-Man Homecoming had a major flaw in regards to how the sub-characters are written and used in the movie. Ned is a complete waste of space, and Happy could have been that stern “Guy in the chair” instead of Ned at the end of the film. Michelle is only there as a middle finger to Spider-Man fans who want to see a traditional MJ in future films. Aunt May is used so little that she might as well be a cameo instead. I’m not too sure if there was just no plan for anyone but the main characters or if there were just too many characters around to use. Either way, it seems like things have been lost to the God of Editing or the writers jut had no real idea of what they were doing. This has resulted in characters and the actors that play them looking way worse than they really had any right to be.
Overall Spider-Man Homecoming is a damn good film. It’s a major step up from everything Sony has done on their own over the past 15 years & 5 movies. I’m glad to see when a movie is made that doesn’t treat every reboot or recasting as needing to go back to the start of everything and do the origin story all over again. Spider-Man Homecoming treats the previous canon that just about everyone from the casual film-goer to the most hardcore fans know off by heart by now as something that has already happened and just keeps going with what we already know. The relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark is played up a lot as a mix of Mentor/Mentored to almost that of Father and Son, which is really good to see since there is no chemistry between Peter and the Benjamin Button style aging Mary Parker (She is used very little in the film thankfully). Using The Vulture as the villain here just worked really well, something that was helped a lot by casting Michael Keaton in the role. However as a hardcore fan I feel like this was a Miles Morales story instead of a Peter Parker story, and I hope they can fix that with either making things more traditionally Spider-Man (No, not making them all white you pack of pricks) and even bring in Miles so that Marvel has one way to go while Sony can go a different way if they want.
At the end of it all, Spider-Man Homecoming is the movie that Spider-Man deserves after so many beatings at the hands of Sony writers. Marvel Studios has shown that it can and has created a smash hit with the property it licensed out so many years ago now that they have partly had the license return to the fold. Now only if FOX would give back X-Men & Fantastic Four then we might actually see some good movies out of those brands… FOX can keep Deadpool for the moment, as long as they keep listening to people like Ryan Renolds and the fans when it comes to Deadpool, then it’s ok… But if they fuck it up… Marvel Studios better get those licenses back!
A Refreshing Advancement in a Different Story
Spider-Man Homecoming does well in continuing the story of Peter Parker and Spider-Man without needing to go through yet another origin story. The addition of Tony Stark into things keeps Spider-Man grounded and serves the overall narrative well. Though hardcore Spider-Man fans will see this as nothing more than a Miles Morales story with Peter and Miles swapping places, it’s still a lot better than anything Sony has put out in 5 movies.