Review - Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), PG-13, 133 minutes - Spider-Man: Homecoming has been a highly anticipated film ever since Tom Holland's Spider-Man made his Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debut in last year's Captain America: Civil War when he burst onto the scene lending a hand to Iron Man's cause.  With this film we're not only getting the first solo Spider-Man film since 2014, but also the second reboot of the character on the big screen (following the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield incarnations).  It also also marks the first co-produced film between Sony and Marvel Studios after their deal to share the character's film rights (take note Fox...cough, cough...Fantastic Four...cough, cough).

Peter Parker (Holland) is a sophomore in high school, and actually looks age appropriate this time around.  He and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) are your typical smart kids and social outcasts who participate in things like band and the debate team.  Peter doesn't have much time to hang out like he used to because of his running around as Spider-Man, which he covers for by saying he's working his Stark Internship (the cover Tony Stark came up with to explain Peter's leaving town to Aunt May in Civil War).  In reality though, he is out attempting to thwart petty crimes as he awaits an assignment from Tony's head of security Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) that never comes.  Peter stumbles upon the activities of a local weapons runner, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who deals re-appropriated alien tech scavenged from the destruction of the events of 2012's The Avengers.  In his attempts to track down and stop Toomes, he gets in over his head and inadvertently puts others in danger, causing Tony (Robert Downey, Jr.) to take back the Stark Tech-laced Spidey suit that was given to Peter in Civil War.  From there, Peter returns to his civilian teenage life until a chance encounter causes him to break out his old, homemade Spidey gear in attempt to finally bring down Toomes' operation.    

Homecoming provides a more fleshed out introduction to the MCU's version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (expanding upon what little we saw in Civil War), the brilliant thing about this film is that it succeeds in doing so without re-hashing an origin story that we've already seen time and time again in previous films and television shows.  We get the gist of the age old Spider-Man adage "With great power comes great responsibility" without it actually being said.  We're also given the best big screen MCU villain this side of Loki in Keaton's Toomes/Vulture.  He's grounded.  He may do some awful things, but at his core he's not a terrible person.  He's looking out for his family and those that he employs.  I love they way they worked him into the MCU, tying into The Avengers fallout.

The film's strengths are definitely Holland (who gives us the best live action Peter/Spidey yet), Keaton, and Batalon's turn as Ned, who fills the best friend/wannabe sidekick role wonderfully.  I was a little afraid that Downey, Jr's Tony Stark would be too heavily leaned upon and would overshadow the film, but he is used fairly sparingly and really works as a father figure of sorts for Peter in lieu of the character of Uncle Ben.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a bit of a wonky title, but it fits perfectly on a number of levels (the school dance, the return of the character to Marvel's stable).  Homecoming is a really fun, heartfelt, coming of age story (both personally and heroically) that is the most all around comic-faithful Spider-Man of any of the character's solo films to date.  If you're a fan of the character, the MCU in general, or even just big summer-time blockbusters, then this is a must see.  If you haven't seen the plethora of MCU films that have come before, don't worry.  The information you need to follow this story is provided right at the beginning of the film.


- The Spider-Man theme song from the old tv show plays over the Marvel Studios banner at the beginning of the film.  A nice little nostalgic touch.

- Obligatory Stan Lee cameo:  Spidey's co-creator plays an old neighbor hollering from his window when Spider-Man attempts to stop a car thief who turns out to not actually be a thief.

- As with all Marvel Studios films to date, be sure to sit through at least part of the credits.  There is a mid-credits scene between Adrian Toomes and Mac Gargan (Michael Mando) in prison.

- There is also a scene at the very end of the credits, but it isn't plot related at all.  It is Chris Evans' Captain America recording another 'educational video', this one about the virtues of patience and possible disappointment.  You know, like sitting through all of the credits only to see something that has nothing to do with anything...haha

- So both of the credits sequences involve characters who had nice, quick cameos earlier in the film.  I loved the Captain America educational videos shown during Peter's gym class and detention.  The other was that of Mac Gargan (also known as the Scorpion in the comics).  He was one of the potential buyer's on the ferry when Peter got in the way of the FBI sting.

- The first couple acts play as a sort of 'Iron Man lite', which is tough to avoid considering that Peter is running around in a suit full of Stark Tech.  While those acts are entertaining, the film really took off for me when Peter arrives at Liz's (Laura Harrier) house to pick her up for the Homecoming dance and it is revealed that her dad is Adrian Toomes.  That's when the "great responsibility" really kicks in for Peter.  That sequence of meeting Peter and then driving he and Liz to the dance is played brilliantly by Keaton.

- Jennifer Connelly provides the voice for 'Karen' the AI in the Stark Tech Spidey suit.

- Donald Glover, who long campaigned to play a live action incarnation of the Miles Morales Spider-Man (formerly of the Ultimate Universe, now in Marvel's classic 616 universe after the events of Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars) has a cameo as a character named Aaron Davis.  He mentions having a nephew who lives in the area and he doesn't want Toomes' weapons around making the area unsafe.  In the comics, Aaron Davis' nephew is Miles Morales.

- When Zendaya was originally cast, the rumor was that she was going to play Mary Jane Watson.  This rumor was dispelled when it was revealed that she was playing a character named Michelle, who like Peter, was a bit of a social outcast.  At the end of the film, she is appointed captain of the debate team and says "my friend's call me MJ", which was Mary Jane's nickname in the comics.  I have no problem with Zendaya being MJ, but if she is going to play that role in Peter's life, let her actually be Mary Jane, not just someone else with the same nickname.  This is my one real gripe with the film, and it is nit-picky I know.  But it is the sort of shoe-horned Easter Egg that Sony throws into their films and I'm honestly surprised that Marvel let it happen.

- There are two incarnations of the Shocker (another classic Spidey villain from the comics) in this film.  Both are members of Toomes' crew.  The first (Logan Marshall-Green) sees an untimely demise after making a scene with the weaponry.  The second (Bokeem Woodbine) takes up the mantel after Toomes' inadvertently eliminates the first.

- Another of Toomes' crew is also pulled from the comics: The Tinkerer (Michael Chernus).  He's the engineer who creates the weapons/tools based on the salvaged alien tech.

- As Spider-Man is chasing Toomes' crew on foot after the botched weapons deal under the bridge, he runs through a neighborhood, mimicking Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), which happens to be playing on a television that can be seen as Spidey runs by.

- Uncle Ben does not appear, but is vaguely referenced when Peter says that he can't tell Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) about his being Spider-Man because he couldn't put her through that after "everything she has been through".

- At the end of the film, we get one last cameo: Gwyneth Paltrow reprising her long-standing roll as Pepper Potts.


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