The web slinger comes home to Marvel Studios
Let me disclaimer this review by stating that Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel superhero (maybe second favorite superhero overall to a certain man with a bat logo on his chest). Having grown up reading the comics, I have a sentimental attachment not only to the hero himself but also to his everyday alter ego, Peter Parker. So with that said, I am likely more critical of a movie adaptation of Spider-Man than the “average Joe,” and my issues are likely minor and petty (but issues nonetheless). So I’ll just get it out of the way: Spider-Man: Homecoming is a good movie and you should see it.
The movie itself isn’t necessarily groundbreaking; it follows the same cookie cutter script as many Marvel Cinematic Universe films do: start light-hearted, inject some timely humor, maybe a little product placement, love interest appearance, superhero cameo/tie-in, CGI battle, roll credits, commence multiple post-credits scenes. Where the movie hits a clear home run, however, is with its lead, Tom Holland. Playing the role of a young, novice hero eager to find his place amongst the Avengers, Holland perfectly captures the earnest and moral-driven nature of Peter Parker that we’ve all come to know and love.
Michael Keaton is also a standout as Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture), the movie’s main villain. What was unique (and refreshing) about this “big baddie” was that his motives weren’t necessarily grand. While many MCU movies tend to revolve around saving the world, Spider-Man: Homecoming pegged our web-slinging hero against a man who was merely profiting from selling alien weapons on the streets. Nevertheless, Vulture looked menacing when in action, and there were a few great moments of dialogue between Keaton and Holland (my favorite involving a car ride to the school’s homecoming dance).
Stark Industries had its fingerprints all over this movie as well, though I found that to be a positive. Robert Downey Jr., reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man, was in the movie actually a lot less than the early trailers let on, and some of the technological upgrades to Spider-Man’s suit were really fun to see in action. The return of Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) to the big screen was also a welcomed addition to the movie.
However, I did have a few issues with this new Spider-Man universe. Although I can praise Holland’s on-screen performance until the cows come home, this take on Peter Parker lacked certain nuanced elements that one would never expect to be left out of a Spider-Man film. While I understand that Spider-Man: Homecoming was not meant to be an origin film (and it by no means was one), how can we have a Peter Parker that isn’t driven by the death of his Uncle Ben (never mentioned in dialogue)? Or a Peter Parker that didn’t have a single scene with a camera in his hand? While the writers threw us a bone by having Peter mention a radioactive spider to his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), would it really have hurt them to show us a quick flashback? While I understood entering the movie that this was Peter Parker, there were still moments where it didn’t really feel like Peter Parker.
Then, of course, there was the big reveal that Michelle (Zendaya), Peter’s triathlon teammate, actually goes by the name “MJ,” which would lead the casual viewer to believe that this is the MCU’s take on Mary Jane Watson. Or maybe she isn’t? We really don’t know. But assuming that this is our new MJ, the writers couldn’t have missed the target any more blatantly. While Michelle was humorous as the movie’s sarcastic millennial social justice warrior, there were literally no references (zero, nada) to the Mary Jane Watson of the comics or animated series. This MJ was less thespian, more social outcast — and thus, the “reveal” was ultimately just a big turnoff for me. And no, I don’t care about the fact that a redhead wasn’t cast as the new MJ, but at least give us a dog whistle to the damn source material. The way Michelle was written for this movie, I simply cannot imagine her in a sequel dropping the infamous “Face it, Tiger… You just hit the jackpot” line often associated with Mary Jane Watson.
But as I said before, don’t let my petty qualms deter you from celebrating this new, modern take on the character. While Spider-Man: Homecoming ultimately falls short of ousting the 2002 adaptation as the best web slinger to grace the big screen, Holland’s performance injects some much-needed life into the MCU and adds plenty of promise moving forward.
It wasn’t the best superhero movie of the year thus far, but after three straight bad-to-mediocre Spider-Man movies, Spidey fanboys can finally breathe a sigh of relief.