Directed by: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Jon Favreau, Zendaya
Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments
In the last 15 years, we’ve gotten five Spider-Man movies. Do we really need more? Having seen the newest one, I can tell you the answer is yes. Yes we do. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the Spidey movie we’ve been wanting and not quite getting: it’s funny and exciting, it’s visually stunning, and Peter is actually a teenager. More importantly, Peter as a character is captured far, far better than in the previous films. This is a fun ride even if you’re not a Spider-Man fan, but if you were the kind of fan enraged by “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” this new film will almost certainly delight you.
The movie opens with a quick origin story for our villain, Adrian Toomes (known in the comics as the Vulture). It ties in well with the first Avengers movie, and the next sequence gives us Peter’s point of view during his appearance in “Captain America: Civil War.” There’s a very, very quick reference to how Peter got his spider-powers, but this is not an origin story for him. This is a coming-of-age story. As the movie proper begins, Peter is doing his best to stop crimes in his neighborhood and trying to keep on the Avengers’ radar for future missions. When he stumbles across Toomes’ illegal alien-tech weapons ring, it seems like his chance to impress Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), his unofficial Avengers mentor (which, yes, is hilarious. Tony is not exactly great mentor material).
In the middle of all this, though, Peter has his own problems. He goes to a math and science magnet school, where he’s pretty much a nerd-loser among his fellow nerds. He’s very close with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), but can’t tell him about being Spider-Man. He’s smitten with academic decathalon team captain Liz (Laura Harrier), but afraid to tell her. Holland is an amazing casting choice, and brings all of this to life. He is believable as a high school sophomore, and also brings in his extensive dance experience to make Spidey’s movements and body language very expressive. We understand why Peter makes the choices he does, even when things don’t go according to plan (which, given how inexperienced he is, is unsurprisingly often).
Of course, a superhero movie is only as good as its villain, and Michael Keaton is a treasure. Toomes is a working-class guy who’s been screwed over by the rich and the powerful a few times too many. He’s not your typical supervillain trying to conquer the world – he just wants to provide for his family and keep his (now-illegal) business going. His willingness to kill if necessary and his disregard for the law tip him over into villainy, but we can understand where he’s coming from. This is no cardboard cutout baddie.
There are a ton of little references to watch for, from things Marvel movie fans will love to nods to Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko’s work with the webslinger. The film functions just fine if you don’t pick up on them – but it’s heartwarming to see how much effort and thought went into every aspect of this film, from character names to cinematography.
There are a million more things to love about this movie, but only so much review space. Marvel Studios knows what they’re doing. Every time I’ve been skeptical about one of their decisions, they’ve won me back over. I am thrilled Spider-Man is a part of the MCU now, and excited to see where they go with him. If you love Marvel movies, you’ll love “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”