Director: Jon Watts
Writer: Jonathan Goldstein
Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya
Summary: After his encounter with the Avengers in Civil War young high school student Peter Parker now struggles to balance his grades, his commitments and his ever growing need to fight crime as Spider-Man.
“Nothing without the suit”
So the red and blue spider-themed hero has returned, this time with only a three year break in-between films, but is this comeback the triumphant spectacle that many were hoping, or is it simply another retread that didn’t need to happen? According to the majority, this is exactly what people were waiting for, but as for me, this return to school just barely makes the grade.
From the get-go Spider-Man Homecoming managed to elicit several different emotions from me that I would then go on to consistently feel over and over ad nauseam while watching the rest of the films 133 minute run time. The cold open to this new adventure, which showcases the origins of Michael Keaton’s Adrien Toomes and the reasoning behind his downfall into super villainy, first piqued my curiosity with surprise. Then it elicited sorrow and regret as I felt bad for the man, which then quickly changed to confusion as a date flashed across the screen which manages to alter the entire timeline of the MCU and uncharacteristically retcons an otherwise, up to this point, fairly well laid out and understandable universe. This was just a small hint of problems to come.
After this small moment of confusion I then shifted to joy as a Peter Parker video diary began playing documenting the kids brief adventure with the Avengers during the events of Civil War. This feeling quickly evaporated however as the film then turned to joke after repetitive joke which grew tired after only a few minutes…little did I know I had many more attempts at humor waiting for me.
Repeat this series of up and down emotions and opinions throughout the rest of the film, like an out of control rollercoaster, and you now have my viewing experience with the latest release from Marvel Studios. A series of smiles, frowns and exasperated eye rolls topped off with genuine furrows of frustration at the decisions being made, both from Peter the character and the very real people responsible for the writing and directing of this haphazard film. Watching Homecoming was definitely an experience, just not the one I was expecting.
But lets start with the good of Homecoming.
As viewers and fans we have already been introduced to Tom Hollands Peter Parker in Civil War, and just as he did in that film, the young actor proves he has the talents necessary to bring this Marvel stalwart to life. Holland manages to both look the part and deliver the sparks of youthful energy that have been sorely missing from the character in Hollywood up until this point. It isn’t until the final act however that Holland is able to truly show us what he is capable of, with one standout moment easily being not only the films greatest scene but also one of the best within the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Holland is able to show true fear and tears and make you genuinely concerned for the safety of a kid that is in over his head and it is too bad there aren’t more moments with this kind of raw unfiltered emotion throughout the rest of the film.
The films second greatest asset is that of Michael Keaton and his depiction of Toomes. With this role Keaton has easily established himself as one of the best villains thus far in the Marvel universe of films, albeit that isn’t hard to do, but he earns it. Keaton brings a disquieting level of intensity to Homecoming with his portrayal of the Vulture. Yes, the man has understandable and sympathetic reasons for doing what he does, but undermining the honest rationale is an electric energy within his eyes that makes the viewer very much aware that he also deeply enjoys what it is he is doing. He may at times show sympathy to our hero, drawing a line in the sand that he wishes not to cross, but when push comes to shove, similar to Walter White from Breaking Bad, he will use his family as a crutch for moving forward with his malicious actions, actions that ultimately provide him with an adrenaline rush as well as a “secure” future for his family.
Props must also be given to the creative team that designed the Vultures overall look. While initially skeptical on the design of this incarnation of one of Spider-Mans oldest adversaries, the Vultures metallic and somewhat more military design serves to only up the fear factor of Keatons performance. This interpretation of the Vulture is more brutal and relentless than any seen before, quick to call upon his razor sharp wings to slice and dice as he is to pick up a gun and simply obliterate an obstacle within his path. Nowhere is this more evident than in the final confrontation. Although a little too dark and shaky for my liking, the viewer can still bare witness to the mobility and deadly tools that this futuristic hardware provides our villain while the two fight over New York. Couple the unsettling performance and the simple but functional suit with loud and unpleasant mechanical sounds and the entirety of the Vulture is delivered with perfect results.
And, save for a couple scenes I’ll bring up later, unfortunately that completes the good that this film delivers. Now lets get to the bad, which is almost everything else.
Lets start with the attempts at comedy which begin with the absolutely unfunny and dreadfully annoying performance of Ned Leeds from young actor Jacob Batalon. Ned is a cancer on this films plot that seemingly went unchecked and then grew to infect the rest of the script, birthing more and more “comedy” that all falls flat and only serves to make one ask themselves, why? Why does Marvel insist on terrible jokes and gags that only get in the way of the actual characters and heart of their movies? Since Iron Man 2 Marvel has veered more and more into godawful comedy and slapstick gags that just doesn’t work! The only films that skirt this pratfall are the Captain America trilogy, which offer a much better balance which then in turn makes sure the comedy lands more often than not.
The majority of scenes with Parker outside the suit are groan inducing. I couldn’t latch onto any of the High School drama on offer here, not only because its content we’ve seen a thousand times before in film (or lived) but because its all trying so hard and failing so miserably. When Ned finds out about Peters secret (something that happens far too often in Spider-Man films) and incessantly nags his best friend to flaunt his talents and shout to the world his secret, I wanted to just strangle the kid. For the majority of this film Ned is just a selfish teen that would rather use Peter to “become cool” himself than help his friend.
But Ned isn’t the only loathsome character on offer here. Peter himself is arrogant, selfish and foolhardy, much like the man he idolizes. Unlike Tony Stark however, Peter doesn’t have the charm necessary to pull this triple threat off. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Chuck, I thought you said Tom Holland has what it takes to pull off Peter Parker successfully?” Yes, I did and yes, he does. He has the talents and the look to make a great Peter Parker. Unfortunately however, the Parker on offer here, until the end of the film at least, just isn’t one I can root for.
Throughout Homecoming, whether its running through various peoples backyards, failing miserably at interrogations or face planting onto peoples roofs; this version of Spider-Man is more often than not more a bumbling idiot than an up and coming superhero. This is the kid that managed to, even if momentarily, get the better of Falcon, Winter Soldier and Captain America in Civil War! This is the same hero that managed to stop a rampaging Giant Man! Where did the Spider-Man we saw in Civil War go? I understand this is supposed to be a coming of age tale and show the small beginnings of this hero, but then it should have been a prequel, not a sequel.
Thankfully the suit Spider-Man dons in this iteration looks fantastic. This is easily the best looking and moving Spider-Man we have received yet on the big screen. Unfortunately the suit, much like this film, is riddled with Iron Man DNA to an alarming degree. Karen, the AI of the suit, is an unnecessary element of this film and one that serves to only distract our hero and showcase how little he is prepared for the world he now inhabits. It also undermines many of Parkers core abilities, one of which is that of his Spider-Sense, which is never once shown as being active.
Homecoming, which many are touting as the “best Spider-Man film yet” shockingly gets a lot wrong about the core character of Spider-Man. Yes, it is a positive that this film foregoes the “origin” story by beginning after the events of Uncle Bens demise, but that doesn’t mean it had to ignore it completely. Not once is Ben mentioned nor is there much time spent with Aunt May accept one sweet scene more than halfway through the film. Now I understand there is an intent of earnestness from Parker, that he genuinely does want to help people and nowhere is this more clear then when he chooses to stop Toomes over that of spending time with the girl of his dreams, but the majority of this movie leans on the fact that Parker wants to be an Avenger. It leans on this fact so hard that it overshadows his desire to do good for the right reasons and makes you focus on the wrong ones.
Peters goals and desires rest heavily upon the shoulders of Tony Stark in this film. The nonexistent “Stark Internship” and the crippling dependency on the name, including the addition of Happy Hogan in the film, all work to make this an Iron Man film even if the man himself sparingly shows up. Instead of wanting to do good because of his failure with Uncle Ben and the guilt he has over that death, Parker instead comes across as only wanting to do good so that he can get that promotion he craves and finally get to swing with the big boys. As mentioned earlier, there is an uncharacteristic level of selfishness in this film from Peter that just isn’t true to who the character is supposed to be. A level of arrogance that, while it can be said he has an “arc” by films end, isn’t quite made clear is actually gone by the films conslusion.
Now I understand that it feels as if I am coming down overly harsh on this film and of course it was fun seeing Spider-Man inhabit the world of the Avengers. Its awesome that Marvel and Sony were able to ink a deal that allowed this to finally come to fruition! But as fun as it is to see and have, this version of Peter just doesn’t come across as genuine and true to the character as much as I would have liked. At least until the end of the film that is…
The final act, much like the final act of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, helps to save this film. There is a scene about a third of the way through when the tone notably shifts. The music changes and the characters are on edge and this is when the film begins to truly deliver on its promise. This moment is when the movie stops trying to be a comedy and instead tries, and succeeds, on being a thrilling adventure. When Keaton and Holland finally meet, truly meet, and the tension is palpable and the delivery is excellent.
The lead up confrontations between these two adversaries, before their final battle in the skies, are fantastic and easily the best scenes within the film. One, within a car, can be seen in the films trailer but the second, which is more heart wrenching than intense, is Hollands high water-mark and serves to remind you that this is only a kid and his screams here instill in you a sense of fear and panic that is otherwise absent throughout the rest of the film. That is absent from most superhero films.
These scenes alone are worth watching this film for and when coupled with the final thirty minutes help to almost alleviate the rest of the movies many shortcomings. If only the team behind Homecoming had been able to better balance these tones instead of having such a sharp turn so late in the game. Homecoming truly feels like two movies spliced together rather than one cohesive whole.
— Conclusion —
Spider-Man Homecoming isn’t as groan inducing or aimless as this years earlier release, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but it is certainly nowhere near the top of Marvels film catalogue and it continues the trend of comedy and gags over real story and emotion. A trend that seemingly only the Russo brothers can defy with their Captain America films. If the rest of the movie could have captured the energy and excitement of its latter half, this could have been something truly special, but instead Homecoming shows signs of greatness that, much like its titular hero, it can never quite balance and get a hold of.
- + Holland and Keatons performance
- + Final third of the film
- + Steve Rogers
- – Ned
- – Too much attempts at comedy
- – Hard to root for Peter