By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
Eighteen months ago you might have been hard-pressed to find many people that either a) were excited to see another Spider-Man reboot or b) felt it necessary to see a third Spider-Man reboot since well after the threat of Y2K subsided.
Then last April “Captain America: Civil War” happened. With Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thanks to a Sony/Marvel team-up) side-by-side with Iron Man, suddenly there was no shortage of people excited to see what this new, younger Peter Parker could add to the already expansive MCU. (The necessity question is still valid, but not right now.)
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” offers us the first extended look at Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and introduces us to a new villain – Adrian Toomes/Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. The movie follows the very different paths the two travel following their initial interactions with superheroes.
Toomes, a government contractor, has invested his life and his livelihood into his salvage and cleanup business following the Avengers’ “Battle of New York.” However, the government – and Tony Stark – have other ideas. Their joint venture puts Toomes’ out of business and on the brink of financial collapse. Fortunately for Toomes, one of his soon-to-be-unemployed employees pockets some left behind alien technology and a booming, black market weapons business is born.
Eight years later (in present day) Peter, fresh off his “Civil War” encounter, is struggling to return to normal life. While he spends his days attending high school and his nights thwarting petty crime in his neighborhood, he wants none of it. His lone goal is to become an Avenger and he’s willing to do virtually anything to make that happen – often to the chagrin of Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who has been assigned by Stark to be Peter’s handler.
As Peter grows more desperate to gain Stark’s favor and a spot at the Avengers’ table, he starts doing more and more (arguably too much), and – inevitably – crosses paths with Toomes, who has used the found “alien” tech to transform into supervillain Vulture.
The first thing that stands out about “Homecoming” is how much fun it is. In my mind, the thing that made Spider-Man different than the rest of the superheroes was that he was fun, young, brash, and never afraid to crack wise. We got a sample of that in 2002 with Tobey Maguire, before that trilogy got more heavy-handed. We never saw that from the “Emo Spidey” reboot featuring Andrew Garfield in the title role.
Much of that is on the shoulders of Holland. At 21, he’s much closer to the teenage Parker than his predecessors – Maguire was 27 when he started, Garfield was 29. Not only does he look the part of high school student, but he brings an energy and exuberance to Spidey that the other two didn’t. A+ for the casting decision.
I wasn’t sure how Keaton would work as a villain. I mean, how can someone that played Batman during the formative years of my life be a bad guy? Well, it turns out he’s pretty good at it. He’s intense and menacing, and commands your attention when he’s on screen. Physically and audibly, he’s the perfect foil for Holland.
In terms of supporting cast, best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), classmate Michelle (Zendaya), Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), “love interest” Liz (Laura Harrier), and Favreau, do a stellar job of keeping things light and giving it a real comic book feel. Surprisingly, it’s often Stark/Iron Man that serves (at least most of the time) as the source of seriousness.
But perhaps the thing that most impressed me with “Homecoming” is that despite its 133-minute runtime, it actually feels a whole lot shorter. There’s also not much downtime or filler – you get the impression that everything director Jon Watts and the writing team included served a purpose in driving the story.
As I said, where this movie truly succeeds is that it’s fun and entertaining. I want those things, I want escapism, I want to leave the theater happier. “Homecoming” accomplishes those things. If I want realism, sadness, and moody larger-than-life characters, I’ll watch the news.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” might not be the best Marvel movie today (although if you said it was, I wouldn’t argue vehemently), but it’s hands-down the most fun. With what I expect we’ll see in the upcoming Avengers movies, we might need a heroic source of levity.
Three reboots in less than 20 years is still excessive for any franchise, but it’s hard to argue with the results.
★★★★1/2 of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.