I remember fondly the first theatrical Spider-Man movie. I must have seen it at least a dozen times on the big screen, having gone to it four times just on opening day alone; it was one of my favorite movies for years to come. Spider-Man 2 had come along and Alfred Molina’s brilliant portrayal of Otto Octavius was fantastic, and while Spider-Man 3 wasn’t terribly impressive, It did allow me to see ol’ webhead fight a few villains that visually looked fantastic. Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel did a lot of things right and despite my issues with Jamie Foxx as Electro, they were really enjoyable flicks, that again, allowed me to see things I always wanted in a Spider-Man movie.
My favorite era of Spider-Man, in the comics, is Ultimate Spider-Man. This was a separate universe that told modern retellings of classic Marvel characters. Even though the Ultimate universe is no longer around, bits and pieces of it currently still exist, namely, Miles Morales, another of the superheroes to use the Spider-Man name. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a combination of what Captain America: Civil War gave us for the Marvel films version of Spider-Man and that of not only the Peter Parker version of Ultimate Spider-Man (and no, I’m not talking about the recent cartoon) but that of Miles Morales as well, who coincidentally is getting his own animated movie at some point in the near future. In fact, there are several components of this movie that are directly lifted from the Miles Morales arc, but I’ll get into those later.
Spider-Man: Homecoming came about when Kevin Feige, the man in charge of the Marvel films, put together a deal with Sony to reboot the character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a deal where Marvel would produce the films and Sony would sit back and collect all the profits from them. While that deal may sound somewhat bizarre, remember that Marvel will still rake in hundreds of millions from any and all toys and merchandise surrounding the film, and be able to use Spider-Man in their other MCU films. It’s really a win-win situation for everyone involved. These deals are good for Marvel because frankly, have you seen many X-Men or Fantastic Four figures around? Nope.
Director John Watts, who is really only known for the 2015 Kevin Bacon movie, Cop Car, campaigned hard to direct the movie. Watts had been wanting to create a ‘coming of age’ movie for several years before hearing that Marvel had intended to go quite young for the Peter Parker role, casting 21-year-old Tom Holland, who would be playing a 15-year-old High School Sophomore. With Watts being a fan of filmmaker John Hughes, it felt like the perfect mix of what Marvel had intended to do and his desire to make that style of a film.
Despite the inexperience that Watts has when compared to several other filmmakers that were possibly up for the job, Kevin Feige, and the team behind creating this Spider-Man MCU reboot, saw his desire to create something that was exactly what Marvel and Sony had in mind, and something that felt faithful to the character of not only Spider-Man, but of Peter Parker as well. In short, Spider-Man: Homecoming was brilliantly crafted.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a coming of age story about Peter Parker, a 15-year-old kid that recently just fought alongside Iron Man and several members of the Avengers. He’s sent back to his normal boring life, well as normal as being a super powered teenager is anyway, and wondering when his next big Avengers-sized mission will be. While stopping various small crimes around his neighborhood, or at least attempting to, Peter is constantly is looking to prove himself, to show Tony Stark that he is ready for the big time, except he very clearly is not. It’s during one of these attempts to prove himself that he stumbles across something a bit more sinister than a simple bike theft; a string of crimes that will put him face to face with the Vulture.
Michael Keaton might be the best Marvel villain since Loki, as he brings such a depth to a character that is normally not known for it. The Vulture hasn’t really been a big villain for Spider-Man for years, if not decades. Adrian Toomes, the name behind the bird costume, is written as a man who will do anything he can for his family. Keaton’s performance outside the costume is just as intimidating as the Vulture is when swooping in, or lashing out with its large metallic wings at Spider-Man. This is a villain that is not looking to take over the city or the world, he just simply wants to make a living to take care of his family, even if he does go about it a bit extreme.
Tom Holland as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man is the real highpoint of the film. Holland brings a believability to the role as a young kid wanting to do the right thing but constantly screwing up. The majority of the movie is Peter getting in way over his head, and fighting for what he believes is right. Tom has great chemistry with everyone in the film, whether it’s his best friend Ned, his Aunt May, his fellow classmates, or even Tony Stark himself. The quips he has during the bank robbery scene are fun, and the way he enters that scene trying to be all cool and confident is really enjoyable and rather hilarious.
What differs from previous movie versions of the character, is that this Peter is very inexperienced and is still getting used to being Spider-Man. While the previous versions tried tapping into that, they still had him far more successful in his attempts than not, and Holland’s Spider-Man is constantly getting batted around and losing almost every single encounter. The film also does not have Spider-Man using his Spider-Sense, and while it’s not used throughout the film, it has been said that he will eventually come to rely on it, just not in the way we’ve seen before. The film is also a lot more grounded, and this is to be taken quite literal, as there isn’t one single city-based web swinging scene like in the previous films. Much of the action takes place in small neighborhoods, far away from sky-reaching buildings, so when Spider-Man needs to get around, he’s either hoofing it, jumping from house to house or riding on the backs of other vehicles.
As I mentioned above, there are several things lifted directly from the Miles Morales version of Ultimate Spider-Man. The Ned character is essentially Miles’ best friend Ganke, in both attitude and overall look. There is also a mention that Miles exists in the movie during a scene where Spider-Man is talking with another character, that while is part of the regular Spider-Man world, this version is based upon the Ultimate Comics version of the character. And while I didn’t catch it on my first viewing of the movie, the license plate of that character’s car is UCS-M01, which translates to Ultimate Comics Spider-Man Issue #1, which is the first appearance of Miles Morales. There are several other easter eggs in the movie to watch out for, and a few names that pop up during the film that while they may not necessarily mean anything right now, they could pave the way for certain characters to make an appearance in future films.
There also isn’t the Uncle Ben origin here, which is a good thing as we’ve already seen it on screen twice before, in fact, he isn’t even referenced by name here. I like the fact that he loses his clothes and backpack almost everytime he goes out to fight crime or investigate something that may be a bit suspicious. Having Aunt May say something like that he’s lost 5 backpacks already, really shows that Peter isn’t as good as this as he could be, and another character in the movie also points out that he really isn’t nailing certain parts of being Spider-Man as well. I also like the fact of seeing Peter having to miss out on much of his social game due to being Spider-Man, and this means letting down those that he cares about, for the greater good.
John Watts does a great job at framing the action and while the movie plays very much like if John Hughes had made the movie, there still is some strong action moments throughout the film. The Ferry scene alone has some really fast paced web swinging and acrobatics on the part of Spider-Man and really showcases the filmmaker’s ability to show that he really understands the fast paced nature of the character. Long time readers of the comics know of the test of strength moment from Amazing Spider-Man #33 in 1966, where Spider-Man must free himself from being trapped under tons of metal and rock debris, a collective weight that seemed beyond his capacity to lift. The movie does a great job at not only how this scene is played out, but the fact that Peter is really out of his element with how inexperienced he really is.
The suit itself is really nice and while I wish the black lines were a bit more pronounced, it’s my favorite of the Spider-Man movie costumes so far, even if it has a few changes made to it visually. I like the web cartridge slots on his hips as it looks really impressive when he pops them in and out of the web shooters, which are more like bracelets than anything built into the suit. The suit also has a voice of its own, much like Jarvis for Iron Man, Spider-Man has Karen, voiced by Jennifer Connelly, who is actually married to real life Jarvis, and Vision, Paul Bettany. The suit has some nice tricks, and provides much of the humor in the movie, with moments where Peter is trying to understand exactly what this suit can do. The eyes are what really set this costume apart as they move and squint with retractable lenses when the expression calls for it and this is directly lifted from the comics, at least visually.
I’ll also mention a part of the movie that many people thought was going to be an issue; Tony Stark. Many assumed that there was going to be too much of him and that he might take away from the movie. He doesn’t, in fact, he only has a small handful of moments in the film and he is here mostly as a guide and mentor for Peter and not the co-star than many assumed he would be. There were several jokes about how this was Iron Man: Homecoming, featuring Spider-Man, and that is easily not the case here.
When the supporting cast was first shown, many of the characters they were playing, who exist in the comics, were of a different race, and this lead to much-unwarranted hostility towards the cast. Tony Revolori, who plays Flash Thompson, actually received death threats. There was also wild speculation regarding Zendaya, a character simply named Michele. And while I won’t spoil if those concerns were warranted, don’t take what happens at face value as the truth behind her role has already been talked about in length by Marvel Film’s Kevin Feige.
I could see some people having issues with how much of the film is via Peter Parker and not Spider-Man, but the fact of the matter is that both of these persona’s need to exist as it is very much what Spider-Man has always been, a delicate balance of being Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Holland excels in the role and his eagerness to impress Stark is through a very believable energy that can be rather contagious. The movie is playful, energetic, and can be a bit dark when it needs to be. Spider-Man: Homecoming really nails all the fun elements of various Spider-Man iterations throughout the character’s rich history, and the fact they chose to adapt so much from Ultimate Spider-Man is just, to me, the icing on the cake.
Tom Holland is the Superior Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Homecoming was seen in ULTRA AVX 3D, where the 3D effects were ok, but not drastically impressive.