SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – AFJ MOVIE REVIEW

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr.
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay)
Directed by: Jon Watts
Released by: Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios
Run Time: 2h, 13 minutes
Rated: PG-13

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

We have arrived at the third reboot and sixth film of Marvel Comics’ flagship character, Spider-Man. Take a moment for that to set in. We have had 5 other films for this character, to say nothing that he has already appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see Captain America: Civil War). With the pairing of Sony Pictures (owner to Spider-Man’s movie rights) and Marvel Studios (you know, those guys that hardly ever make a mistake), can we now forget about Marc Webb’s mismanaged franchise? Yes. A thousand times, yes.

Forgoing the typical origin story (after all, there have been two films, numerous cartoons, and 50 plus years of comics about it), Marvel and Sony have gone right to the heart of Spider-Man’s story. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) must learn what it means to be a hero all while trying to grow up with not only fantastic powers but fantastic friends, too. We are immediately taken back to the events of Captain America: Civil War and witness Spider-Man’s involvement from Peter’s perspective. This is brilliantly done with the modern twist of a teenager documenting everything on his cell phone. It is here that we get a full taste of what Tom Holland brings to the character, his desire to be the best possible hero. That alone makes his performance infectious. We like him from the start and want him (and thus, Peter) to succeed. For the confines of the story, Peter wants to live up to his own hero, Iron Man’s (Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr.), expectations.

This is a dynamic that we have never seen before in a Spider-Man film. Certainly, there have multiple plot lines that have had father figures in them (featuring Uncle Ben and Norman Osborn). However, none of those have ever featured Spider-Man’s mentoring by a full-fledged superhero. We also have Spider-Man entering a pre-established universe, where he has not only other heroes in his life but villains too. Enter the Vulture, aka Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). Prior to the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Toomes loses the contracts and business of cleaning up New York City after the aliens’ failed invasion (see Marvel’s The Avengers). Fearing that he will go bankrupt, Toomes believes that if the world has changed, then he should too. He goes into the arms business and starts developing high-tech weaponry for the small time crook to battle the gods and iron clad heroes that are falling from the sky. One night, on patrol in his own neighborhood, Spider-Man comes across clients of Toomes and realizes that this is something new.

The story goes exactly in the direction you would think as Spider-Man believes he can take these guys on himself, although he cannot. When push comes to shove, Iron Man takes away the Spider-Man suit he developed for him and grounds Peter from any and all superhero activity. Being that Spider-Man is just a teenager, he dons his old suit and sets out to prove that he can do it.
This film is amazing, spectacular, and a web of joy (you know what I just did). At this point in the superhero plethora of the MCU, Spider-Man is just what they need to shake things up. Why is that? He has more at stake than most of the heroes in the MCU. Certainly, Iron Man could lose Pepper Potts to a vile villain, probably won’t happen though. The Hulk could maybe cure himself and stop the madness, but then he would stop being the Hulk. What are Captain America’s issues again? The point is, Spider-Man is just a kid. He needs to do the regular everyday things to keep up appearances and, in essence, grow up. The crux of Spider-Man: Homecoming is how does a teenager do that when trying to stop an arms dealer of weapons of mass destruction, who knows his secret identity? How does one stop common burglars without endangering the lives of everyone one cares about? How does one just finish high school, when one is too tired to pay attention in class? Okay, the other films addressed that too, but they wall crawled Peter off to college pretty quickly. The key is, to quote one of Tony Stark’s lines to Peter, “stay grounded”, which is exactly what Marvel is going to do with the character.

The control that Marvel has is evident from the very beginning of the film. We are ushered into this new era of Spider-Man by the most familiar chords known to all comic book fans. Composer Michael Giacchino welcomes Spider-Man into the MCU with a fiery rendition of the classic Spider-Man cartoon theme. From that point on you are in, so in that, you forget all that has come before and are ready for what will happen next. Not just in Spider-Man’s case but the whole MCU. This is the brilliance of the film. You don't need to see every film in the MCU library to understand who Tony Stark is or why Toomes does what he does. Yet, this film is just one piece of a much larger story, allowing those who do wear their Marvel badges to gleam with pride. See, we don't need the Sinister Six, every love interest, and a retread of the origin. We just want one universe and have it all matter to the characters we care so much about. Thank you, Marvel Studios, for bringing Spider-Man home.

9 Total Score
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