Sometimes after watching a movie, a single word emerges as the perfect one to encapsulate the film. The word can be positive, it can be negative, or it can be neutral, but somehow it just fits. Leaving the screening of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a single world stuck out in my head and while synonyms flew around it, I kept coming back to this one word which perfectly epitomizes Tom Holland’s first lead outing as Peter Parker: enthusiastic.
“Homecoming,” directed and co-written by Jon Watts, is Spidey’s sixth big screen solo adventure in 21st Century, but, as noted, the first for this iteration of Spidey whom we’ve already seen as part of an ensemble in “Captain America: Civil War.” And yet, with three different versions of the character in the past 17 years and a half-dozen solo adventures over that time, this movie still feels enthusiastic. It is full of pep and excitement and the sense that all is new and wondrous. Without a doubt the film has flaws (and we’ll get to those), but those flaws are quickly and easily forgotten in light of how much fun one has watching the wall-crawler do his thing.
Holland plays a young Parker – still in high school, still unsure of himself around girls, still unsure of his skills as Spidey, and still amazed that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has taken Peter under his wing. He is new to the whole superhero gig despite his brief encounter with the Avengers.
In fact, after an introduction to our lead baddie in the film, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), we are treated to one of the highlights of the entire movie – Peter’s home video version of his part in the “Civil War” affair. The phone camera footage we get is brilliantly amateurish and sets the tone for everything else that is to happen to Peter in the film. This is clearly a kid, even if it’s a kid with talent, and he reacts with the same enthusiasm we all would if Iron Man were real and tapped us to help him out.
Although some of the trailers for “Homecoming” make it feel as though Downey’s presence as Tony Stark places Spidey as second-fiddle in his own movie, this is decidedly not the case. When Tony is present, it is as mentor and wholly logical – the up-and-coming Spider-Man works out of the same city as Iron Man, of course there’s going to be some sort of connection between the two. If there wasn’t an overlap, if Peter simply talked about superheroes but didn’t interact with any, it would be a very awkward MCU entry. Even Toomes’ evil plan in the film revolves around the fallout from the first “Avengers” film and this, too, makes a lot of sense as constructed in the movie.
In short, the folding in of Spidey into the MCU feels seamless. It will be interesting to see how the relationship with Spidey and Tony (and the rest of the Avengers) evolves as the MCU moves forward. “Homecoming” makes the possibilities feel endless.
Wonderful on his own, Holland is even better surrounded, as he has been, by a good cast for the movie (even if they aren’t always well used). On the adult side of things, outside of Keaton and Downey, Marisa Tomei returns as Aunt May (the film leans in to her being younger than previous iterations of the character in funny fashion), Jon Favreau is back as Happy Hogan, and both Donald Glover and Tyne Daly make appearances. These last two have incredibly brief roles, which leads one to wonder if Watts and company are just laying groundwork for Spidey’s next outing or if the appearances are simply meant as cameos. Either way, they wind up pulling the audience momentarily out of the movie. On the teenage end of things, Holland is surrounded by Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon. This group helps ground Holland’s Peter in the real world and provide believable teenage stakes for the character.
Outside of a terrible twist I won’t spoil here, the biggest issue in the film is an overdone climactic battle. The quick cuts and shaky camera may offer up a sort of in vogue filmmaking style but don’t fit the rest of the film as a whole and make some of the action indecipherable. It is a disappointing climax to an otherwise wonderful endeavor.
Setting that aside, because fortunately the film does not devolve into an overly elongated battle sequence, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is brilliant. I don’t know that I would say that it’s the best Spidey film we’ve gotten (that’s probably the second Raimi/Maguire), but it is so incredibly enjoyable. The enthusiasm Peter and his friends feel about Spidey is infectious. It permeates the entirety of the movie and propels everything forward.
This is Spider-Man done right and, with luck, Sony and Marvel will be able to keep it going for years to come.
photo credit: Sony Pictures