Review: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Is The Best Marvel Film In Years – Forbes
Like many people, Spider-Man is by far my favorite superhero. Rather than the typical statuesque demigod, he’s a nerd whose weird side-hobby isolates him from the crowd. Everyone who’s ever felt like an outsider relates to Spider-Man, which is to say, everyone.
Spider-Man helped start the superhero trend, and it’s been frustrating to watch the character decline after hitting the spectacular heights of Spider-Man 2. And knowing that he’d be integrated into the Marvel machine, that Homecoming was hobbled together by no less than six different screenwriters, I assumed this was going to be a polished piece of marketing rather than a great story.
But I’m delighted to say I was wrong; this might just be my favorite Marvel movie ever, even eclipsing the original Iron Man. While I always found Marvel’s cinematic universe interesting, I didn’t find The Avengers to be a particularly great movie; it was a fun blockbuster, no more and no less. It was Civil War that really took advantage of the shared universe by setting all these characters against each other in a conflict that felt genuine, a clash of perspective rather than another vague world-ending threat.
But in Homecoming, the Marvel universe finally feels alive. I like to criticize Marvel for being overly formulaic, but their recent efforts prove that they’re putting real thought into the wider implications of their interconnected mega-franchise. Homecoming begins during the cleanup of the invasion of New York that took place in during The Avengers, asking the question; what happened to all those broken pieces of alien tech lying around the city? As Civil War proved, considering the consequences of these apocalyptic battles is so much more interesting than just moving on to the next city-destroying set piece.
Peter Parker grew up during the aftermath of the New York attack, and naturally, he’s an Avengers fanboy, a gifted high-schooler desperate to join the legendary superhero team, like a young musician who yearns to become a celebrity. His fellow classmates are busy debating which Avenger is hotter, Captain America stars in embarrassing educational videos; after years of careful world-building, this universe feels real.
Thankfully, at no point do we witness a radioactive spider bite. This, and Uncle Ben’s death, have become as tiresome as the death of the Waynes. I never want to see a string of pearls fall on the floor of a dark alleyway again, and likewise, we all know Spider-Man’s origin off by heart.
But Homecoming finds a way to remix the “great power, great responsibility” theme by casting Tony Stark as the authority figure infuriated at Peter’s misuse of his expensive new Spidey-suit, which comes equipped with enough bells and whistles to take down an army.
Iron Man plays a vital role, but he is used with admirable restraint. His presence is really felt offscreen; this is Spider-Man’s story, not Avengers-lite. That being said, the awkward father/son dynamic between the two heroes is hilarious, and persistent rumors that Downey Jr. is going to walk away soon make me sad. This crazy world of magic and weird science is going to feel pretty empty without him.
But Homecoming has enough colorful personalities to stand on its own. Peter’s best friend is a superhero fanboy who practically speaks for the audience. Aunt May has evolved from a helpless old lady into the sexy, sassy Marisa Tomei, a character who Peter can actually relate to rather than spending his life hiding from.
There’s far more of an emphasis on comedy, and on character, than the majority of the superhero fare out there. Peter’s high school struggles feel more weighty than his crime-fighting, and that’s exactly the way it should be.
Much of what always made Spider-Man’s action sequences interesting comes from the fact that he’s comparatively underpowered, constantly struggling against foes that are clearly much tougher than him. In this incarnation, he’s downright clumsy. He hasn’t gotten the hang of this hero thing yet, and he spends much of the film doing what a teenager does best; making huge mistakes and damaging property.
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is excitable and starry-eyed, not quite the loser Maguire was, not the witty, confident Garfield, but a boy on the cusp of manhood. Refreshingly, his nighttime patrol is depicted as dull, his role as superhero a dream rather than concrete reality. It’s really hard to just walk down the street and see a felony occur before your very eyes, and Spider-Man has trouble tracking serious crime down. Until him and Michael Keaton’s Vulture cross paths, Spider-Man isn’t really needed in this city of heroes.
And who would have thought that The Vulture would make such a threatening opponent? Keaton provides Marvel with one of their best villains; a blue-collar guy sick of being pushed around by the powers that be, determined to provide for his family, however he can. In a sense, he’s really what Raimi was trying to do with Sandman. The role doesn’t actually give Keaton a whole lot to work with, but in the more intimate scenes between him and Holland, Keaton shines. He’s sinister, and yet, deeply human, even sympathetic.
Simply put, Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film in years, on par with the sacred Spider-Man 2, in my opinion. Marvel has certainly proved that Spider-Man is safe in their hands. A couple of interesting twists at the end of the film indicate that Marvel is planning to take their Spider-Man down an unfamiliar path, the only direction to take a character so wildly overused. The idea that he may eventually crawl back into Sony’s arms is nothing short of a travesty. Please, Marvel, keep Spider-Man, and never let him ago.
But whatever you do, don’t reboot him again.
Follow me on Facebook