Who Says You Can’t Go Home? : Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Here we are, 15 years after the very first major motion picture to feature Spider-Man, and now we’re on our sixth. Well, six and a half, if you count his appearance in “Captain America: Civil War”. I’m not complaining though, because Spider-Man is my #1 favorite superhero of all-time. Say what you will about him, at least he’s not as overexposed or overrated as Batman currently is! Sony and Marvel can make as many of these as they like, I will see them all in theaters no matter what. Hell, I’m one of the few fans who will even defend the “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. Sure, they are flawed, but they had some good elements to them that shouldn’t be overlooked. How does this latest installment measure up to the rest of the franchise? Let’s find out.

Tom Holland returns to the role from his first appearance in CA: CW. I must say, I think he fits quite well in the dual roles of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire was great as a 60s era, nerdy Peter Parker, but wasn’t that good as Spider-Man in the original Sam Raimi movies. Andrew Garfield was a great, joking version of Spider-Man in the “Amazing Spider-Man” movies, but he was too cool to play Peter Parker. Holland found the perfect balance between the two roles, and considering he’s going to make at least six appearances within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s a good thing. It’s also refreshing to have an actual teenager playing the role for once (Holland was 19 when he first donned the Spidey tights).

I talked about British actors doing American roles in my “Baby Driver” review, and Holland was thankfully convincing as a person from New York, complete with a faint New York accent every now and then. Although, I could have sworn his English accent slipped at least once. Otherwise, Holland is a living embodiment of Spider-Man’s troubles. He’s torn between being a good student, maintaining a social life, and being a crime fighter in secret. In other words, he’s everything we love about our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

Directed by Jon Watts (yeah, I never heard of him either), Homecoming is what would happen if John Hughes ever wrote and directed a superhero movie. This is like a love letter to movies such as “Pretty In Pink”, “The Breakfast Club”, and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, complete with a blatant reference to Ferris Bueller in one scene. Many a comic book fan fell in love with the Spider-Man character based on how he was a normal kid in high school, who then became something more. This movie is for them.

Taking place several years after the events of the first “Avengers” movie, New York is littered with Chitauri weaponry and technology. In comes Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, a leader of a salvage company, who are devoted to cleaning all the mess up. However, Tony Stark (played, of course, by Robert Downey Jr), has invested in his own clean-up team, The Damage Control, who steal work right out from under Toomes and his team. Bitter for losing what would have been his biggest payday yet, Toomes decides to use what few pieces of Chitauri tech that he does have to steal from Damage Control, and become rich off of selling the tech as weapons on the black market. Wanting to prove himself worthy of being an Avenger, Peter Parker makes it his mission to stop Toomes, who has literally become a Vulture-like scavenger.

Keaton is the greatest villain in the MCU since Loki. His character is actually developed, rather than just being another evil doppelganger version of the hero, and he’s not evil just for the sake of being evil. He has his motivates for what he does. And there’s even a big twist in the relationship between Peter and Toomes that turns the movie on its head, and would do M. Night Shyamalan proud. This is all a welcomed departure from the comic book version of Vulture, who has the outlandish gimmick of creating a machine that sucks the youthful energy out of his victims, so his aging is reversed, and he can be young again. See, just having to read that makes you glad it wasn’t put onto film!

Homecoming is also the most culturally diverse movie that Marvel has made so far. You’re about to see the words “race bender” come up a lot. The best case scenario being the newly discovered Jacob Batalon, playing Peter’s best friend, Ned Leeds. Yes, there’s (mercifully) no Harry Osborn this time around. However, the Ned character is more like Ganke Lee, who is the nerdy best friend of an alternate reality version of Spider-Man named Miles Morales (Wikipedia him, it takes too long to explain). Regardless of who the Ned character is based on, Batalon’s performance is the best in the movie, second only to Keaton’s. I certainly hope Batalon gets plenty of success in budding career, because he oozes with charisma, at least in this role.

However, the diversity and creative liberties aren’t all great. Peter’s mortal enemy, Eugene “Flash” Thomas was best represented in the first “Amazing Spider-Man” movie, in my humble opinion. However, this movie has a race bender, know-it-all version (played by Tony Revolori), who bullies Peter because he’s apparently jealous of his nerd cred. That’s right, Flash Thomas doesn’t bully Peter because of the classic jock vs geek trope, he bullies him because Peter is an even bigger bookworm than him! And while I won’t go into detailed, there’s one or two scenes with Flash where his attention towards Peter could come across as homoerotic in nature. Yeah, some fans will probably be put off by this.

Another annoyance is Zendaya Coleman as Michelle. Every fanboy lost his mind when it was rumored that she was going to be playing a race bender version of Mary Jane Watson. While I won’t confirm or deny this rumor, Zendaya’s character is just a strange loner who appears now and then, says a backhanded comment, and then goes back to whatever it was she was doing. Michelle was obviously modeled after Ally Sheedy’s “basketcase” caricature from “The Breakfast Club”. Frankly, it’s a homage that I wish they didn’t use. And the movie hints multiple times that she might be crushing on Peter. Take from that what you will.

Then there’s Marisa Tomei as Aunt May Parker. While a good actress, Tomei just doesn’t work as Aunt May. Sorry, but Aunt May is supposed to an elderly woman in her 70s or 80s, not a sexy MILF in her 40s. It’s also weird that many supporting characters have the hots for Aunt May, again, considering she’s supposed to be an elderly woman. In my opinion, she was the movie’s second weakest link, after Zendaya’s Michelle.

Lastly, there’s Laura Harrier as (you guessed it) a race bender version of Liz Allen, Peter’s newest love interest. Frankly, we’ve had three movies featuring Mary Jane, and three movies featuring Gwen Stacy, so I’m perfectly fine with Marvel going with a completely different girl for Peter to hopelessly swoon over. In typical Marvel movie fashion, the romance factor is nothing to write home about. Peter’s love for Liz never really goes beyond having a schoolboy crush for her. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are still the reigning champions when it comes to believable, romantic chemistry between actors in a Spider-Man series. Don’t get me wrong, Harrier is stunning to look at, especially during a swimming pool scene (unfortunately, she doesn’t wear a bikini), and she’s a decent enough actress with a bright future ahead of her, but this wasn’t a step-up from Garfield and Stone.

Then there’s the Iron Man aspect of the movie, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing side, it gives us such infamous Spidey gadgets like a mask with expressive eyes that narrow and widen, the spider signal, the spider tracer, glider wings on the costume, various forms of webs for Spidey to shoot, and even on-screen changing of the web fluid cartridges. While we do finally get to see Peter creating his web fluid, the curse is that since all these gadgets are designed into the suit that Tony Stark provided, this further chips away how smart and what a scientific genius Peter is supposed to be. That being said, we are given a new A.I. voice built into the Spidey suit, who Peter names “Karen”, and said voice is provided by the always lovely Jennifer Connelly. This is a fun meta joke on two levels, the first being that Connelly starred as the original Betty Ross in Ang Lee’s version of “The Hulk”, and the second being that she’s the real life wife of Paul Bettany, the voice of Jarvis, and now The Vision. And “Karen” results in the funniest scene in the whole movie. You’ll know it when you see it.

For those of you who were worried that Tony Stark appearing his this movie would end up turning it into Iron Man 5 (if you count CA: CW as also being Iron Man 4), Stark only appears in four scenes. Granted, some might consider that four scenes too many (and I’m not far behind them), but it works as a means of linking Peter/Spidey to the Avengers. And it does provide a cool, little appearance by a returning MCU character that should please long-time fans, so there’s that benefit.

Speaking of cool, little appearances, Chris Evans makes several cameos as Captain America, in the form of old timey public service announcements that are shown during classes at Peter’s school. I believe this makes Evans and Downey Jr. tied for most movies appearances within the MCU. And while I won’t totally ruin the post credit scene for you, it provides the ultimate trolling joke against fans who stay after the credits, and is also a meta joke about the recent news of Evans renewing his contract to star in even more MCU movies.

Overall, Homecoming is an entertaining movie. Granted, if you’re a diehard Spidey fan like I am, there will be a few aspects of this movie that you will be either delighted or frustrated about. If you’re more a casual fan who only knows of Spider-Man from previous movies, then you’ll probably love this movie. I give “Spider-Man: Homecoming” four out of five stars. If you need more convincing, the movie is currently at 92% at Rotten Tomatoes (same as “Wonder Woman”).

It’s good to see Spidey back where he belongs. Although, it would be even better if Disney would just pay Sony their ransom money and buy the movie rights altogether, but even though Disney is worth billions, they would rather play the long game, and wait to pay chump change for Spidey, once Sony has no legs left to stand on any more. And as for the movie’s place in the franchise, here’s my ranking of every (solo) flick, from worst to best:

6. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
5. Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
4. Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
3. Spider-Man (2002)
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Yes, I also find it amusing that the three most recent movies all come out exactly ten years apart from each of the original Raimi movies! All that being said, I’ll see you for the next review. And don’t forget, there’s a special place in Hell for people who talk and/or text during the movies!

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