Review: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” Is a Superior Take On the Webslinger

Columbia/Marvel Studios

For all of MARVEL Studios success the past few years, there’s been one insurmountable obstacle that clouded their doorway: the characters whose rights they didn’t own. Through cosmic happenstance, they were able to broker a deal to bring home arguably their most beloved superhero, and in doing so, have made one of the best films to date: Spider-Man – Homecoming.

Things take a decidedly different approach immediately, in that bad-guy Adrian Toombs (Michael Keaton, in sneeringly brilliant form) gets an introduction before Peter Parker (Tom Holland) ever appears on-screen. This makes sense, as his origin is born from the fallout of other Marvel movies. A regular man who senses that the only way to get by in an ever-changing world, is to evolve along with it.

Holland was glimpsed previously donning the tights in Civil War, but here he cements his legacy. To call him the best Peter Parker yet may seem hyperbolic at first, but it’s well earned. He glides through each scene with relative grace, juggling humor and seriousness alike. It’s a tall task to ask from an actor, yet what helps him is an effortless charm that calls to mind a young Michael J. Fox.What makes Homecoming work is a wondrous mixture of teen comedy and superhero film, giving equal attention to both halves. Peter doesn’t just go to a regular high school, but a magnet school, surrounding him with other smart individuals. It’s a small, but brilliant move, for as much as he’s flanked by like-minded peers, he still feels very much like a loner (the treatment of Flash Thompson being a standout). However, not entirely alone as he has best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) to help him through it all. Ned accidentally learns of Peter’s secret identity early on and stays close to his pal’s side, even as things get ever more dangerous.

Another welcome surprise is that, for the most part, Homecoming is a relatively small affair. It owes more to Ant-Man than it does the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man sticks mostly to the ground and is involved in a relatively minor stakes caper. Sure, the bad guy poses a formidable threat, though the film is more so about stopping him before he can form that glimmer of wanting to totally take over the world. In that regard, the Vulture works perfectly as a natural foil to an up-and-coming hero.

Peter is young here, 15 years young to be exact and his crime fighting days are also in their infancy. He makes mistakes (a lot), bites off more than he can chew (a lot), but also knows his heart is in the right place, egged on by the desire simply to do good. A continuing theme throughout the film is “what makes a hero?” There’s never an instance where Peter truly stops and mopes about being hampered by his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). He is disappointed that he isn’t given a ton of respect, but that comes with time and experience. Instead, he instinctively acts, out of both duty and the innate desire to do what’s “right”.Because Peter jumps into battle at a moments notice, the action has a janky feeling. Don’t misunderstand, this is very much a plus. Since this is a Spider-Man trying to find his footing in the world, he’s a work in progress. Which is to say it’s very much of the “trial-and-error” variety. Whether it be traversing a city, stopping a weapons deal or keeping a plane from crashing into NYC, he’s mostly hoping for the best. The low-level heroics feel more in line with Superman The Movie than say any of the Captain America pictures.

Stark’s contribution while small, is important. He sees something of himself in Peter, helping to guide him along in a way he never received. He shows up whenever Peter manages to make a mess of things, even if his intent was good. Of course, his presence also serves to help shape the larger world of the MCU, but it’s never too obtrusive. When the intrusion of other characters should put a strain on the film, it’s often done with a sense of humor, thankfully.

Homecoming is everything anyone could want in a Marvel or Spider-Man film. While it may have taken 15 years to get to this point, the result is well worth the wait. Better yet, it centers on a Spider-Man free of origin retread. It’s sensational, spectacular, astonishing and, some may even call it amazing. At the very least it’s a welcome return for the world’s favorite web head. One that cements he’s certain to have some great adventures for many years to come. Well, as long as history doesn’t dare repeat itself, yet again.

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