“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the latest movie about everyone’s favorite arachnid-based superhero, is aptly named in that it marks the return of sorts of Spider-Man to the hands of Marvel Studios. When Marvel hit a low point in 1996 and filed for bankruptcy (yes, hard as it is to believe now, that it actually happened) part of their plan to stay afloat was to sell off certain licenses of their heroes. This is why the X-Men movies have been made and released by Fox and all the Spider-Man movies up to this point have been from Sony Pictures.
But now that Marvel has its own film division, a deal was struck with Sony for Peter Parker to appear officially in Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). “Homecoming” is Spidey’s first movie as part of the MCU, after a short but well-received appearance in “Captain America: Civil War.”
And what a homecoming it is. Tom Holland is the most relatable Peter Parker, and although he’s in his early 20’s, he physically looks the part of a geeky teenager. In the movie Peter is, of course, living with his Aunt May played by Marisa Tomei. Like Holland, the Academy Award winner looks younger than she is, possibly due to the missing iconic bun of white hair.
After a few opening flashbacks, which thankfully do not contain a replay of the death of good old Uncle Ben, we enter the movie a few months after the events of Civil War. After the fight against Cap and friends he returns to life as a geeky oddball in high school, balancing his studies, crushing on a senior and fighting crime as best he can while waiting to be called into action again.
There’s an endearing quality to Holland’s portrayal of the web crawler, a certain child-like wonder and naivete that’s different from Tobey Maguire’s turn as the character. There’s a relatable sense of wanting to be part of something greater than yourself, of wanting to prove yourself good enough to be in the big league.
All of this sans the weight of responsibility. And that is what truly is noteworthy about this Spider-Man. No tragedy spurs him on. We assume the death of Uncle Ben, and we assume that like the original story, he had somehow been involved in it, and this may give him reason to feel guilt or desire to help other people. But because it is never mentioned, this Spider-Man is unburdened by it. It’s a reason to do what he’s doing but it doesn’t feel like a ball and chain. Yes, his actions in the film still clearly show that having great power comes with great responsibility, but the audience isn’t hammered over the head with it. And this allows the character to breathe and go in other directions.
Michael Keaton gives a strong performance as Adrian tools, also known as the Vulture. No stranger to superheroes having played Batman, Keaton turns his acting chops to being the antagonist this time around, making Adrian something more than a cookie-cutter bad guy.
There’s a motivation to his actions, a reasoning that makes it difficult to peg him as evil, and that makes for an enjoyable watch.
This Spider-Man, fans will love to know, is firmly entrenched in the MCU. The script is smart, flowing, with nary a dull moment in the whole two and a half hour run time. It is also full of callbacks and references to events in the MCU.
Of all the films so far, this is the most diverse in terms of cast. Peter’s best friend, Ned, is of ethnic descent. While not stated specifically as being from the Philippines, he is played by Hawaii-born Filipino, Jacob Batalon. Peter’s love interest is black, Flash is Indian, and every other student in his school is anything but white. This will please those who are all about diversity but maybe irk those who see it as a change for other reason but a commercial one. It is a small thing however.
Tony Stark also makes an appearance, of course played by Robert Downey Jr. who finds himself as mentor to young Peter. This is an interesting dynamic as clearly, Peter is looking for a father figure, and desperately wants to please Tony. And yet on the other hand you have Tony who he himself has major father issues. This interplay of characters is what elevates “Homecoming” to a higher emotional place. It’s fun, it’s got big tech and things blowing up but at the end of the day, it’s about the people behind it. There’s a whole lot of fun in this one, and a whole lot of heart, too.
Watching the film, one unmistakably gets the vibe that those behind it were so happy to have Spider-Man back into the fold, and couldn’t wait to share that excitement with all of us. Thank you, Marvel for fighting to get him back, and thank you Sony for agreeing to strike that deal.
Welcome back, Spidey. As Stan Lee says, “Excelsior!”
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