Finally, a Spider-Man who can juggle power, responsibility, and oh yeah — fun
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ brings a fresh perspective to both the character and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Things happen for a reason. Sony and Marvel Studios (finally) striking a leasing agreement to include Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe apparently couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time, because the result is director Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, a movie that stays close to the ground and seizes the opportunity to introduce a new perspective to the MCU. There’s no alien invasion, no mystical otherworldly threats, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is not falling — but Homecoming just makes sense within the MCU because it’s born out of these major events and the impact they’ve had beyond the Avengers. Sure, Homecoming was faced with the stigma of now being the second Spider-Man reboot in 15 years, but it overcomes this obstacle with surprising ease, stripping away the need for a detailed onscreen origin story and focusing on where Spider-Man and his story fit in to the established MCU.
Tom Holland plays the same Peter Parker we’ve seen before — awkward, funny, brilliant, seemingly unreliable, and often down on his luck — but rather than portray him as guilt-ridden over the death of his Uncle Ben, Holland plays a far more aspirational and upbeat version of the character than what we’ve seen from Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. Holland’s Spider-Man gets to just be a kid, hungry for approval and prone to screwing up. Although the burden of Uncle Ben’s death is not hovering explicitly over the character, and the words “With great power, comes great responsibility” are never spoken, they always feel present. Peter’s reckless for all the right reasons because he recognizes he has the power to do some good and just wants to help.
Homecoming has fun with Spider-Man and how he fits into this post-Avengers world. There’s not much for a kid from Queens who can climb up walls to do with guys like Iron Man and Captain America around. As such, most of his time is spent swinging around the city looking for ways to help — returning stolen bikes, giving people directions — until he eventually stumbles upon some thugs using alien weapons (from The Avengers) to rob a bank. As he starts investigating who is putting this kind of technology out on the streets, he tracks it back to the film’s primary antagonist — The Vulture, aka Adrian Toomes, played devilishly well by Michael Keaton.
In the comics, The Vulture is a notoriously lame villain; here though, he’s reinvented not just to add layers to an otherwise two-dimensional character, but to develop what is actually a very logical villain to emerge out of this world that’s seen alien invasions, rogue artificial intelligence, and various science experiments gone awry. Keaton’s take on Toomes is a blue collar salvage worker forced out of his city contract to clean up New York in the wake of the first Avengers film. Similar to Captain America: Civil War’s antagonist Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), Toomes is very much a product of the events that have occurred in the MCU up to this point, somewhat indirectly affected by the actions of the Avengers. Screwed out of a lucrative job, Toomes and his crew (which includes two versions of the Shocker played by Bokeem Woodbine and Logan Marshall-Green, respectively, and Michael Chernus as the Tinkerer) turn to salvaging weapons and equipment from major Avengers-related events to become high tech arms dealers.
Keaton is excellent in the villain role and manages to convey a level of depth and character motivation in just a few scenes. He does so much with limited screen time to provide a voice for the everyman adapting to a new world order, that you kind of can’t help but see his point. Just as Peter Parker brings a new, more grounded perspective to the MCU, as Toomes, Keaton also brought to life a character living in a somewhat unexplored part of the MCU, flying (obvious pun) well under the radar of many of the near catastrophic events we’ve seen so far. As such, the scope of Homecoming never got too big and always stayed focused on Spider-Man’s small corner of the MCU.
Robert Downey Jr. is amazing as always as Tony Stark, stepping into the mentor role for Peter, but fortunately he never steals the show and never makes the scope of the film feel too big. He’s not here to take the spotlight, but rather serves as a fairly organic part of the story while also bridging Spider-Man into the greater MCU, similar to Nick Fury’s role in Iron Man 2.
With Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jon Watts has delivered a film that gets to be fun and fresh while exploring a part of the MCU a bit closer to the ground than we’ve seen before (sure, the Netflix series provide a street-level perspective, but outside of a few passing references, they still more or less exist in their own space). Homecoming is very much a product spinning out of the events of the MCU, but still stands on its own. The scope of the film is small enough for it to exist in its own corner of the MCU, where Spider-Man can, as he puts it, “look out for the little guy.”
That said, there’s plenty of room for this franchise to grow. Already, Donald Glover and Michael Mando played brief roles in this film as a couple of notable characters from the Spider-Man mythos that are ripe for follow-up, and we’ll next see Spider-Man in Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled fourth Avengers film which will no doubt impact 2019’s Homecoming sequel and where that picks up. With Spider-Man’s cinematic future at least partially back in the hands of Marvel, the future looks bright. But more than that, if Spider-Man: Homecoming is any indication, the future of the character looks fun.