Peter Parker (Tom Holland) gets his own Marvel Cinematic Universe story in this new reboot to the Spider-Man film legacy. Peter is a shy, nerdy high schooler who just happens to be a superhero. He’s always waiting for that call from Tony Stark to come be an Avenger full-time, but it doesn’t seem to be happening quite yet. Unfortunately, a salvage crew led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is stealing, selling, and using stolen tech on the streets. It’s up to Peter to stop them while still trying to be a normal kid.
As Good As Marvel Always Is
Marvel Studios has a track record for making good films. Not great films – the only one that flirts with greatness is Guardians of the Galaxy – but consistently pleasing popcorn fare. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. Easily digestible blockbuster fun is what a lot of people want out of the moviegoing experience. I don’t begrudge them that at all. It’s likely that audiences are going to love Spider-Man: Homecoming and I can see why. It’s got plenty of quippy jokes, aggressively likable characters, lots of fun Spidey action, and cute appearances from other MCU characters. But, once you start scratching away at the surface, Spider-Man: Homecoming begins to show more than a few cracks.
Let’s stay positive for now because there is a lot to like about Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tom Holland proved he was capable of being silly and sweet in Captain America: Civil War and that’s still true in this film. He nails the boyish charm of Peter Parker and the childish power fantasy of being Spider-Man. The film’s tone backs him up as it stays consistently light without feeling too geared to little kids. And there is a lot of humor to be found in the film. Maybe too much (more on that later) but it’s great to see actors like Martin Starr, Martha Kelly, and Hannibal Buress in supporting roles. And when the jokes land, they are a hoot. You’re going to get a big kick out of Captain America‘s appearances in the movie.
And the Spidey action is clever and engaging at the script level. It’s a blast watching Peter try and figure out all the different abilities his suit has. They lead to some rousing moments – the best action sequence takes place at the Washington Monument – and give us a whole new Spider-Man that we haven’t seen before.
That Parker Luck
But, the movie does have problems. The driving plot of the film – Spidey stopping the Vulture from selling high-tech weaponry – sounds more interesting in concept than execution. While Michael Keaton is a treat as Adrian Toomes, he’s fairly restrained for most of the film’s running time. He gets one or two moments of over-the-top goodness, but he’s fairly one-note as far as his character arc is concerned. And the actual story between him and Peter is the least enthralling element of the movie. They have a single good scene together (no spoilers) but it’s a small character moment that’s a hundred times better than any of their duels.
Their rivalry is also hindered by some misguided direction during some of the big action scenes. A lot of Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s fight scenes take place at night and the frame is a little too dark during these bits. That issue is exacerbated by a lot of frantic editing and staging. The ideas behind the fight scenes are often cool but they get bogged down by some clunky filmmaking choices.
I mentioned the humor is a positive element in the film and it is, but there is also a glut of jokes in the film. Peter’s best friend Ned is burdened with so many goofy lines that it’s hard to take him seriously as a character. Many of the clever bits aren’t given time to breathe before another intended laugh is thrust at the audience. There are also a number of jokes in the film that are a little too predictable (again, no spoilers). Still, if rapid fire comedy is what you’re after, this film will test your boundaries with such an approach.
Is Spider-Man: Homecoming Good?
It’s Marvel Movie Good™. The House of Ideas always nails who their characters are at their core and Spider-Man: Homecoming certainly does that. They consistently have good actors, a firm grasp on tone, and plenty of chuckles along the way. It’s only when you step back from the warm glow of their universe that you can see some of the faults.
Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t bad. It’s safe, unsurprising, and a little choppy at times but never bad. If you’re a big fan of the Marvel Studios films or the character of Spider-Man, you’ll love it. If you’re a film fan, you’ll enjoy it despite its noticeable flaws and missteps.
But man, just wait for that post-credits stinger. It’s a doozy.