It’s been a long time coming, but Marvel finally has the rights to use Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We first saw the character in Civil War, and now he’s got his first solo movie. Gone are the days of the Amazing Spider-Man garbage; this is a new, younger, inexperienced Spidey. More importantly: there seems to be a plan in place with the character, and the movies are going to be created by people who know what they’re doing.
One of the smartest decisions along the way is to eschew our expectations regarding the origin story, which has been done to death. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a 15-year-old high school student, and he has already been Spider-Man by the time our movie starts. He was recruited by Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is also known as Iron Man, although he still has to go about his normal, everyday life. He gets told that he’ll be called when another Avengers mission will take place, and until then he’s to attend school and deal with small, neighborhood crime. He has to learn the ropes, after all. It’s only then that he can become a real Avengers member.
The plot revolves around Parker’s feud with Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who runs a company that takes all of the leftover rubble from the bigger MCU movies – the attack on New York, Sokovia, and so on – and manufactures black market weapons out of it. Spider-Man interrupts one of these deals, Toomes uses a Vulture suit he’s created to fight him off, and we’ve now established our villain. Meanwhile, at school, Parker’s got a crush (Laura Harrier), a bully (Tony Revolori), a best friend (Jacob Batalon), and has to deal with typical teenage stuff.
Spider-Man: Homecoming does a fantastic job balancing these two aspects of Parker’s life. One doesn’t usually distract from the other, and sometimes they even wind up blending and intersecting. The film remains consistent both in tone and character throughout its running time, which is something with which previous Spider-Man films have struggled.
If it’s not the best Spider-Man movie out there, it’s a close second.
The action is great. The fights with Vulture are really exciting, there are a couple of great scenes with Spider-Man trying not just to stop a villain but to also avoid any collateral damage. That adds a secondary element to most of the action. In addition, most of what Parker does in the film is supposed to be a secret – he’s explicitly told not to target Vulture; that’s something for people with more experience – so you can throw that into the mix. The result is technically impressive action that has a lot of elements that make it even more thrilling. And with inexperience comes mistakes, both big and small. The minor ones mean Spider-Man gets beat up a decent amount, and the film does well to make us feel those hits and the toll they take on our hero.
We wind up caring about this character. He’s developed decently well, we know his heart’s in the right place, and he’s just a kid, after all. You wouldn’t think that would matter too much, but it does make a difference. This is the first Spider-Man movie to capture a high-school Peter Parker; in the other ones, he may have been in high school or previously was, but he never felt that young or inexperienced. It gives us a new dimension.
The acting is also solid. I wasn’t sold on Tom Holland before Civil War, but he did well there and, as it turns out, he can carry his own film, too. He’s a great younger Peter Parker. He’s likable, funny, a bit of a nerd, and finds the right balance between inexperience and confidence. He’s surrounded with top talent, too. Michael Keaton is on a career resurgence right now and makes for a very fun villain. The character is deeper than one might initially expect, too. Robert Downey, Jr. is always reliable, here acting more as a mentor/father-figure than a superhero. Jon Favreau shows up for a few scenes as Happy Hogan and is tasked with keeping an eye on Parker. Marisa Tomei gets a little to do as Parker’s aunt, May. And the younger actors are all good, too.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a thrilling, funny, well-paced, and very entertaining movie. It gives us our first solo MCU Spider-Man outing, and it more than does its job. If it’s not the best Spider-Man movie out there, it’s a close second. It’s got solid action, better-than-expected characters, a consistent tone, and strikes a strong balance between the Spider-Man scenes and the Peter Parker ones. It’s well-paced, and it is another win for the Marvel/Disney machine.
Conclusion: Spider-Man: Homecoming is a lot of fun and a terrific initial solo MCU Spider-Man movie.
Recommendation: If you like the MCU or Spider-Man, see Homecoming.