a critiQal film review Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Plot: Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker (Holland) returns home to live with his Aunt May (Tomei). Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine - distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture (Keaton) emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

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After several reincarnations of the web-slinging superhero on the big screen (Tobey Maguire’s version in Spider-Man (2002), Andrew Garfield’s version in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)), there was something different about Spider-Man: Homecoming that had everyone excited – Marvel Studios had a hand in it.

That meant that, unlike any of the versions that had come before, this Spidey flick was going to tie in to the grand Marvel Cinematic Universe – so appearances by the Avengers, or any of a number of other heroes, could be involved in this film. Plus, after a fantastic entrance for Spidey in Captain America: Civil War (2016), fans already thought they knew what to expect from Spider-Man: Homecoming.

But, would this Sony/Marvel joint venture really be able to live up to all the hype? Or is Spider-Man: Homecoming going to be a commercial success, but a fan failure, just like all the rest?

Tom Holland leaps onto the screen as Spidey, and while he’s portraying a much young Peter Parker (he’s only 15), he has something that both Tobey and Andrew lacked: enthusiasm. While Tobey’s take was too over-dramatic and yet silly at the same time, Andrew was able to tone things down a bit (but ultimately suffered from the same thing that Batman (1989) sequels suffered from – the villains became the star of the show). With Tom, he presents the most realistic Spidey of the bunch, and manages to breathe new life into this character on-screen. It’s this fresh idealism that will keep the viewers tuned in.

Michael Keaton seems to have some sort of bird fetish, as he goes back to the sky as the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He brings what is ultimately kind of a silly villain in the comics, and fleshes him out better than anyone could have expected. He’s a villain, but he manages to get the viewer to emphasize with him. If not with his actions, they can at least see how he’s justifying them. And that makes him more of an ordinary guy pushed too far – which makes for a better realized villain than most of the bad guys on-screen these days.

The rest of the cast is spot-on as well. Whether it’s a welcome visit from Robert Downey Jr. (again reprising his Tony Stark/Iron Man role – and who can really get enough of that?), or Marisa Tomei as (a much younger) Aunt May, Bokeem Woodbine as The Shocker, or the rest, the cast is solid throughout Spider-Man: Homecoming. While there are some changes (no Uncle Ben, except for possibly a reference? Is Zendaya THE MJ? Yay, no Harry Osborne – finally!), there’s nothing that will cause comic book fans to bolt in horror (unlike, say, Tobey Maguire’s crazy dance moves in Spider-Man 3 (2007)). And that’s a good thing.

Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t another origin story. The viewer knows the origin already, they don’t need to see it again. Instead, the action picks up from Captain America: Civil War (2016), and mostly focuses on Peter trying to return to his normal life even while messing around with the high-tech suit he got from Tony Stark, and trying to “be an Avenger” rather than a normal kid. It’s a great idea, as not only does it tie in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also a great showcase to re-introduce Spidey in his own series. He hasn’t found a balance yet between being a normal teen and being a superhero, and, like any normal kid thrust into his situation, longs for the glory of being a superhero without quite realizing there are consequences to that as well. It’s a coming of age story for Spider-Man. And, after all those other versions, it’s exactly what was needed for the character.

Thankfully, with Marvel involvement, he doesn’t gain superpowers (aka Spider-Man (2002)), and fans of the comics should enjoy Spider-Man: Homecoming as well. True, some of the characters have been changed up a bit, and there are lots of surprises in store for even comic book fans (especially right before the credits), but they are sound surprises, and don’t really change the characters so much that comic book fans won’t recognize them.

And that’s exactly what Spider-Man: Homecoming has that the other films have been missing. Aside from trying to pile on villains in sequels (without much success), and reusing the same villain (the Green Goblin) over and over, Spider-Man (2002) especially changed Spidey’s superpowers (he doesn’t need web-shooters? Ugh). With Marvel at the helm, they have strayed from the formula that the previous versions have run into the ground, and created something fresh, interesting, and most of all, downright fun to watch.

Easily the best version of the famous web-slinger on the big screen, Spider-Man: Homecoming also leaves enough unanswered questions that, even if the cast suddenly all falls on their faces in the inevitable sequel (which seems highly unlikely), viewers will want to tune in anyway. And, as long as the collaboration with Marvel stays intact, there should be lots more fun to look forward to in the sequel…not to mention seeing Tom Holland play Spidey again in Avengers: Infinity War (2018).

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