It has been a rather turbulent journey for Spider-Man ever since he jumped onto the big screen in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film. Fans have had to endure the gambit of titles that ran from enjoyable, Spider-Man 2, to disappointing, everything after Spider-Man 2. Prior to Marvel striking a deal with Sony to bring everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood webslinger to its rightful place within Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it looked like fans would be destined for more subpar films that were made simply to ensure that Sony retained the cinematic rights over the character.
Fortunately, the MCU continues to be the Hollywood Golden Goose that keeps on giving. So who better to take the reigns of yet another reboot in the franchise then the company who originally brought the teenage wall crawler to life.
The most noticeable difference to this incarnation, aside from it being a lot of fun, is the sense of teenage awkwardness that has been sorely missing since 2002. Gone is the brooding emo teen, and in his place is the insecure and witty high school student that has made the character so enduring over the years. He is the guy who enjoys building Star Wars Lego with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon); pines after the prettiest girl in school, Liz (Laura Harrier); and frequently gets embarrassed by Flash (Tony Revolori), the school bully. Even when he is cloaked in the iconic red Spider-Man costume, he is still the same awkward young man who, like most teens his age, is trying to figure out his place in the world.
Still running off the adrenaline fumes that came with his part in the epic superhero fight in Captain America: Civil War, Parker spends most of his time after school waiting for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to call him into the next heroic battle. Unfortunately, Stark has pawned him off on his assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) who has no interest in babysitting the young man. Telling those close to him, including his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), that he is participating in Stark Industries Intern Program, Parker combs the city, often unsuccessfully, looking for crimes to thwart.
His luck changes when he stumbles on a crew of robbers, led by Adrian Toomes a.k.a Vulture (Michael Keaton), using weapons that are clearly made from alien technology. Taking it upon it upon himself to try and bring the team to justice, and hopefully impress Stark in the process, Parker quickly realizes that being a superhero is more complex and dangerous than he ever anticipated.
By returning Spider-Man to its family audience appealing roots, and bringing in a healthy amount of humour, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the type of superhero film the MCU needs more of. It is a standalone tale where the characters are far more interesting out of costume than they are within them. Holland is note perfect as Peter Parker, and a large portion of director Jon Watts’ film plays like a smart high school comedy. Watching our hero try to balance his double life, and seemingly failimg in both departments, is just as entertaining as seeing him attempt to stop Vulture’s crew.
Speaking of the films’ big bad, Keaton gives a wonderful turn as Vulture. While the final set piece is not as thrilling as it could be – can we stop with the nighttime climatic fight scenes? – he proves to be one of the more interesting villains in the MCU. Vulture is not interested in world domination. He is merely a blue-collar worker who is fed up with the problems that the 1%, like Stark, have caused, only to have their own companies cash in on the clean up. The nods to our current political landscape are subtle, but effective.
Spider-Man: Homecoming should also be commended for at least taking strides to incorporate diversity in a natural way. While the MCU still is sorely lacking when it comes to proper representation, both gender and ethnicity, in its superhero leads, it was refreshing to see that Peter Parker functions in a realm that better reflects the multicultural nature of New York.
A welcome return to the big screen, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the type of entertaining film that reminds us that superhero films do not always need to be dark and brooding.