Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Written by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley, Jon Watts & Christopher Ford, and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts
Peter Parker is riding the high from helping out Iron Man during the events of Captain America: Civil War. With his new Stark designed Spidey suit, he patrols Queens every afternoon after school and awaits the call for his next mission with the Avengers. However, he quickly learns that the primary focus of Tony Stark is for Peter to continue with his education and stay safe. Meanwhile, former salvage worker Adrian Toomes and his crew have had their livelihood taken from them by the newly formed Department of Damage Control, feds who come in and take over the recovery of tech from Avengers-related battles. Seeing that they are living in a new world, Toomes leads his men to steal and harvest this tech as weapons for ordinary criminals. Toomes himself wears a pair of vulture wings that allow him to swoop in and hijack shipments of technology. Peter and Toomes’ paths begin crossing, and our teenage hero has balance life as a high school student with the impending danger of these new weapons.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the jolt of fresh energy this character needed. After Sony’s failed reboot, starring Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, it was a relief when Spidey was announced to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was made even better when audiences finally got to see Tom Holland as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War and we were met with what is likely the closest recreation of what this hero is in the comic books. What Homecoming gets so perfectly is the balance Peter must continually maintain between traditional high school life and the rigors of being a masked superpowered crimefighter. Over the course of the film, Peter’s academics and personal life degrade as he focuses more and more of his time on pursuing Adrian Toomes’ gang.
The most surprising aspect of Homecoming is how much of comedy it is compared to other superhero films that have come before. Marvel has done an excellent job of understanding not all comic book films should feel the same or even be the same genre. Winter Soldier is the best example of this as it puts Captain America and Black Widow in a 1970s style espionage/conspiracy film. Homecoming is a high school comedy about a superhero. And it works perfectly because the movie takes the conflict between Peter and Toomes seriously to balance the comedy.
There are some issues I have with the portrayal of Toomes, while I did enjoy Michael Keaton’s very blue collar take on the character. There is a scene where Toomes kills one of his own men, by accident, and the beat after is a joke. I would have liked to have seen the joke cut and a beat that pushed the idea of Toomes not being phased and making this a warning to his men. Then a second scene where we see in private how affected Toomes was by this, he is not a killer so this moment should have had more weight. It could have actually been used to highlight his own internal struggle between providing for his family/fighting against a bureaucratic force and his humanity.
Additionally, when Peter learns his own personal connection to Toomes at the end of the second act, there is no time to actually allow the character to process this. We’re quickly rushed into the third act finale, and the film does show the aftermath in Toomes’ personal life which affects Peter. I would like to have seen Peter learn Toomes’ secret mid-second act and give him time to weigh his decisions. There should have been some thought about how pursuing the villain and stopping him would hurt someone important to Peter. This would have been an interesting take on the responsibility/power theme that runs through all these films.
Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the best Marvel movies I’ve seen since the franchise’s inception and possibly my second favorite out of Spidey’s own films. It gets so many things right about the character and his world. The stakes are kept very local, just the way Spider-Man should be. There is not blue light blasting into the sky or the sense that the world would end. The villain is just a guy trying to make money with the resources he has, albeit illegal resources. He has no interest in killing anyone, but the results of his actions will be that people get hurt and killed. Everyone’s motivations are clear, and therefore the audience can deeply invest in these characters and this story.