Sometimes to be a great hero, you need to go back to basics. And that couldn’t be truer for Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film is the second reboot that the franchise has seen in its 15-year run. But for a hero who has been considered the crown jewel of Marvel Comics, the Webslinger never really reached his full potential. Not playing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s sandbox really limited Spider-Man’s character development and world building. So after making a spectacular debut in Captain America: Civil War, the Webhead is ready to spread his web wings and prove to everyone that he is an Avenger. But what he’ll learn is that the road to being one isn’t as easy as one might think.
The film takes place just a few months after the events of Civil War, with Peter Parker still feeling the rush of battling the likes of Captain America in Berlin. Overjoyed that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) personally asked him to join, Peter is excited that he gets to keep the suit and is told that Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) will be deploying him on missions. Trouble is, these missions have him stop simple robberies, purse snatchings, and bike thefts. These are certainly not the kind of heroic acts that Avengers are known for. So Spidey wants more, and pesters Happy, much to his annoyance, on getting a real mission.
During the times Spidey isn’t webslinging, he’s simply Peter Parker, a 15-year-old high school student who has trouble talking to crush, Liz Allen (Laura Harrier), is on the academic decathlon team, and is constantly made fun of by his rival, Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori). When his best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) finds out that he is Spider-Man, he finds that he can finally confide in someone who he believes will understand why he wants to become an Avenger so badly.
At the same time, he also has to let his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) know that he is safe while also keeping his superhero identity a secret from her. But Peter can’t get enough of being a hero and sees an opportunity to become an Avenger when he tries to stop a simple ATM smash and grab job by himself. However, these criminals are using some high tech weaponry supplied by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) a bitter blue-collar worker whose clean-up crew gig he started after the attack on New York was ripped away from him by Stark.
Spider-Man: Homecoming really is a bit of a homecoming for the webslinger. As aforementioned, the Spider-Man has been spending his days alone in the universe that Sony tried to build, which never really took off as the studio hoped it would. So in an attempt to reestablish the brand, Sony made an unprecedented move and decided to share Spider-Man with Marvel Studios. It was a much-needed reset for the character the proved to benefit both parties as audiences approved of the new Webhead.
While this is the youngest version of the character we have seen, it allows the character to develop in ways we could never have imagined. Holland plays off that young and eager hero who is just itching to become something more than a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. But he still makes mistakes and his clear lack of experience proves he’s not yet up to the task. So under Stark’s guidance, he is ordered to stick his feet to the ground – so to speak. And deals with crime on the streets. But Peter also has responsibilities as a high school kid. He wants to be treated like an adult, he makes his fair share of mistakes that tells us he isn’t mature enough to be an adult and his inexperience as a hero tells us he isn’t ready to be an Avenger.
This really works well for the film and the MCU as a whole. It’s also grounded by a story and not concerned with any sort of world-ending catastrophe or weighed down by using an Infinity Stone MacGuffin as a storytelling device. That may make the stakes a lot smaller than Marvel fans are accustomed to. But it does allow the film to be full of very relatable characters, that are played by a very welcomed diverse cast. It’s actually pretty exciting diversity being represented well in this film as it is a reflection of our society today. There no exposition as to why Ned Leeds is played by a Filipino, why Flash Thompson is played by a Guatemalan, or why Liz Allen is played by an African American.
While there are a few Avengers in the film, they are merely a small tool to help the title character’s development and world building. This is Spider-Man’s film, and he won’t be outshined by the likes of Iron Man or Captain America. But the real standout in the film is Batalon, who is practically stealing very scene that he is in with his great chemistry with Holland and comedic timing. Zendaya doesn’t get enough screentime as Michelle, an introverted outcast who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. But whenever she’s on screen, her time is used effectively. Meanwhile, Harrier plays the genuinely kind Liz Allen, who is Peter’s crush. Though she may be the most popular kid in high school, she is still very approachable.
All of this makes Homecoming have John Hughes vibes with superhero thrills. Homecoming is the Spider-Man film that we have all been waiting for. Peter has always had a hard time balancing his high school life with his superhero on. His friends and classmates rely on him to be a part of the decathlon team. At the same time, he wants to find out more about who is supplying criminals with high-tech alien weapons. That balancing act is who Peter Parker and Spider-Man is. Peter assumes that Spider-Man defines him and makes him who he is. However, he has real relationships with people who depend on him and genuinely care for his safety.
This helps Peter come to the startling realization that maybe there is much more to being a hero than just saving the world. That is certainly true for our villain, Adrian Toomes. Unlike previous Marvel villains who want to destroy the world or seek revenge, Toomes is just a regular blue-collar guy trying to provide food for his family. He provides a clean-up service saving alien debris left behind the attack on New York during the events of the first Avengers. But when Stark takes over, Toomes is forced to live a life of crime using the tech he’s salvaged. He has a legitimate argument, one that is far more believable than any of the other Marvel villains that came before him.
So imagine what it would be like to see two polar opposite characters have a similar experience with Stark. Peter’s over eagerness got the better of him, and as a result, he has stripped away of his suit, because he believes he is nothing without it. Whereas Toomes had his business taken away from him. Both took their experiences very differently. Both have very unselfish goals but have different approaches to achieve them.
The pacing is also excellent. Director Jon Watts found that perfect balance of Peter struggling to juggle two of his personas. As Peter Parker, the student and kid, Holland is charming and sweet. His energy is absolutely infectious and you can’t help but fall in love with the character. As Spider-Man, he is sarcastic and cheeky. In fact, Spider-Man helps bring out Peter’s attitude. But when’s he’s just Peter, he’s the kid we can all relate to.
The action isn’t as over the top as some of the previous MCU films. Again, it’s only because the story is focused on the city. But these action sequences always play to Spider-Man’s strengths. The Webslinger seemingly leaps through the with the greatest of ease. He does run into trouble, however, when he misjudges the distance or doesn’t have any buildings around him when he fights in suburbia. But the film makes light of the situation by adding humor to it.
Spider-Man: Homecoming breathes new life into the Marvel Cinematic Universe the way the first Guardians of the Galaxy did. It blends in John Hughes vibes with superhero thrills. While the stakes may be smaller because the drama takes place in on the streets and in the city, a street-wise Spidey with a cheeky attitude is one that we’ve been waiting to see. The film runs on all cylinders and doesn’t waste any of its energy. The great performances from the diverse cast give the film a lot of heart. So who knew that going back to high school could be so much fun?
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in theaters July 7, 2017 and is rated PG-13.