It’s been 13 long years since a worthwhile “Spider-Man” movie was made, a shockingly long time considering there’s been three released (not including Homecoming) between then and now. Spider-Man 3 was a disastrous follow-up to Spider-Man 2 (which I’d argue, short of The Incredibles, is the greatest superhero movie ever made), and the Amazing Spider-Man reboots offered very little of value to anyone besides the Sony executives hell-bent on exploiting the “Spider-Man” brand for fear of losing it to the evil Marvel empire. And lost it, they did – sort of – rendering the ASM movies even more worthless than previously thought. It’s with the gentle stroke of Marvel Magic that I’m happy to report the streak has ended at three: Spider-Man: Homecoming returns the character back to his rightful place within the world of The Avengers and along with him, the franchise’s turn at some long-overdue relevancy.
Shortly following his grand introduction in Captain America: Civil War, we pick back up with Peter Parker and his very average everyday life as a high school student in Queens. In the previous film iterations of the character, we see Peter predominantly as the web-slinging superhero first and the awkward, dorky high schooler second, whereas in Homecoming the dynamic has been more closely evened out. We are very much in this kid’s life as we see him struggle to navigate his social/familial obligations to his friends, math team, and awesome Aunt May with that of his desire to become a full-blown Avenger under the stewardship of Tony Stark. It all mostly works on the shoulders of the young Tom Holland – an excellent casting choice – who here embodies Peter Parker/Spider-Man at his most anxious, manic, eager, occasionally annoying and altogether relatable.
Speaking of casting choices, Michael Keaton as Vulture is an interesting one considering his history as both Batman and the fictitious version of himself in Birdman, a washed-up former franchise star beaten down by the very system his real-life self was once/is now presently a part of. And he’s fine in the role, even if his character is a bit of a mess. Such is the standard for Marvel movie villains since… ever? Other typical Marvel problems are still present, such as the movie very consciously feeling like a stop-gap between the next Avengers movie and the inevitable string of sequels we’ll likely be treated to over the next ten years. The actual story it tells isn’t particularly memorable or inventive, and many of the plot mechanics feel as though they were generated in a factory (look no further than the army of writers credited to its screenplay) as opposed to any one singular vision. The same can be said for how the film looks: it’s exceptionally, competently well made, but lacking in any sort of artistic point-of-view or creative sensibility akin to Sam Raimi’s work on his Spider-Man trilogy or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. But again, more of a Marvel problem, less of a Spider-Man: Homecoming problem.
As with the case with most mid-to-upper tier Marvel movies, the issues are often easy to gloss over because the lead character, hilarious, pithy dialogue, and fun action set pieces are inherently likable enough to overcome them, and I’d say Spider-Man: Homecoming fits that bill. “Spider-Man” as a profitable entity has been one at odds with the rest of the superhero world for some time mainly thanks to some messy behind-the-scenes dealings that have robbed the property and the character of respectability. But now that he’s been unshackled by the clutches of corporate greed and returned to the place he’s belonged to for some time, he’s as free as any other superhero film to suck, or be good or even really good. What matters most is that it’ll now be on his own terms. Welcome home.
Rating: *** 1/2 out of five
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, and Marisa Tomei,
Runtime: 133 minutes
by Michael Lang
This post first appeared on http://screeningclub.com/2017/07/08/review-spider-man-homecoming/ on ScreeningClub.com.