Another new reboot of the beloved webhead has arrived, now set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jon Watts (Cop Car) takes up the directing mantle from indie darling Marc Webb and horror legend Sam Raimi, accompanied by five screenwriters (including the creators of Horrible Bosses) and British newcomer Tom Holland as Peter Parker, to deliver a new adventure. And a mighty joyous one, at that.
Heady from his Avengers experience in Civil War, Peter aka Spider-Man fancies himself as a bonafide superhero, worthy of joining the team. Tony Stark, however, isn’t so sure and advises to Peter to stay on the street level. Things change when scavenger Adrian Toomes begins reconfiguring and selling alien weaponry. Spidey sees a chance to prove himself to Stark, but can he keep his battle with The Vulture and his high school dilemmas apart? Especially when best bud Ned finds out his secret.
Watts has made abundantly clear the influence of teen movie auteur John Hughes on this project, and it certainly feels so: akward young love, prom woes, fitting in and finding ones place in the world while still having a rebelliousness. However, it all feels current and not stock: Peter and his friends are not tired 80s stereotypes, like the slut, the geek and the jock, but believeable millenial teens, grappling with the world around them while possessing a little too much self-assurance.
Indeed, Homecoming grafts in familiar superhero ideas (hero/villain parallels, surrogate parents/mentors with Stark and Toomes, the pursuit and abuse of great power for both Peter and Toomes) into a coming of age story, while still delivering a compelling crime thriller with rising stakes, but not the tired ‘end of everything’ tropes that have dominated modern blockbusters. The world is key here: it feels lived in and it’s nice to see the MCU now dealing more with the fallout of its title characters’ adventures, which allows to have this mroe specific, smaller tales.
Holland more than ably acquiting himself as the webslinger, pulling off angsty without becoming tedious, and quippy without being obnoxious. The young cast are equally solid, and Downey Jr is Downey Jr, but let’s not beat around the bush: Michael Keaton steals the show as easily the most three dimensional villain in the Marvel canon, the Vulture. He’s menacing and ruthless, for sure, but he’s not out-and-out-evil: he has a clear world view, informed by his blue collar background and how that’s been treated in the Avengers fallouts, as well as his devotion to his family.
Bright and slick, Watts’ direction, while perhaps not as distinct or eccentric as Raimi, delivers blockbuster spectacle that still feels very comic book (this feels very Ditko-Romita era). Especially impressive are a Ferris Bueller-inspired van chase across NY suburbs, as well as the intense battle atop an invisble jet that climaxes the film. Pixar maestro Michael Giacchino’s score, likewise, mirrors the peppy, upbeat vibe of the material while also seeding in the classic 60s Spiderman cartoon theme for good measure.
In closing, Spider-Man Homecoming is an excellent summer adventure romp, and a rather charming and tighter contrast to the amount of more bloated tenpole pictures. What it may lack in some more dramatic grounding (Uncle Ben is basically a non-entity here, which does hurt Peter as a character somewhat) it makes up for in all the areas discussed above.