In looking at the credits of Jon Watts, the director of Spiderman: Homecoming and he has mostly been involved in comedies. His only serious features have been Clown, a low-budget horror film from 2014 and Cop Car with Kevin Bacon in 2015. So when he landed the directing gig for Spiderman: Homecoming I was a bit incredulous. This is a big-budget extravaganza compared to the small scale of Clown and Cop Car. This is the third incarnation of the web-slinger. The first being Toby Maguire picked up then by Andrew Garfield and now Tom Holland is Jon Watts’ ace in the hole.
Spiderman: Homecoming starts with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) having already been bit by the radioactive spider and having mastered the basics of his new powers. Thank God we did not have to sit through another montage of Peter discovering his powers for comic relief. In order for Spiderman to save the world, he first must navigate high school. Smitten with his first love, Liz (Laura Harrier) who happens to be on the debate team with him, Peter tries to find someplace to fit in as a young man. He still trying to figure what his place is, in this world. He has powers that he cannot reveal to anyone, except his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Peter’s only real desire is to get that much-anticipated phone call from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) welcoming Spiderman into the Avengers.
What I really enjoyed about Spiderman: Homecoming is that it keeps almost everything low-key. Spiderman is not out saving the world, levitating entire cities while battling deranged megalomaniacs and their robotic goons. When they say, “Your neighborhood friendly Spiderman”, they mean it. He almost entirely stays in New York City. It is only when he stumbles onto Adrian Toomes (Vulture) does Spiderman’s mission take him to Washington D.C. and to Staten Island. This was a wise choice by the filmmakers. Keep it simple, develop the characters and build your franchise on good writing and storytelling. This is something the Marvel Universe has done exceedingly well for the most part, and something that the DC Universe is still hashing out (with the exceptions being Wonder Woman and yes, Suicide Squad, in my opinion).
This Spiderman is a smart and thrilling film that relies on characters and what they are dealing with in life. The ideas might not be as original as they were years ago in the John Hughes arena of teen films, but in Spiderman: Homecoming they are handled with a bit of tenderness and grace, which makes these characters and what they are going through all the more real to the viewers. Tom Holland is simply terrific as Peter Parker and Spiderman. He is brave but insecure and still just a kid. He has a kind heart, truly wants to do good and although his intentions may be noble, his experience is still lacking. This is why Happy (Jon Favreau) and Tony Stark are constantly rebuffing Peter Parker. “You are not ready, yet. Don’t call us, we will call you.”
Spiderman: Homecoming has a ton of humor and most of it works quite well. It seems to fit the story credibly and the casting of Michael Keaton as the villain was a home run. Keaton knows to keep his villain simple. Adrian Toomes could have been any one of us. He is simply a smart, good man who was screwed over, pissed off and just wants revenge. It does not make him right, but we understand his rage. But, Keaton never overdoes his character and never plays it too far over the top. In doing this, he makes his villain all the more diabolical. There is a special reveal towards the last act of the film which I did not see coming and there are some great scenes of dialogue between Toomes and Parker.
The action of Spiderman: Homecoming is great and visually this film is gorgeous to look at. The script and story all from the minds of Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Summers are compellingly fun and there are some great lines of dialogue my favorite being in a confrontation between Stark and Parker. “Please don’t take the (Spiderman) suit away from me. It’s all I have,” Peter begs at one point in the film. “If that suit is all you have, then you don’t need it,” Stark angrily responds.
Spiderman: Homecoming is immensely fun with lots of good cheer. It also has a brain and a lot heart. Where does it stand with the other Spiderman films, you may be asking? It is better than any of the Andrew Garfield films, which is not to say those are bad. They are not. They are good films, in their own right. This Spiderman film is better than Spiderman 3 of the Maguire era, not as good as number 2, but better than the first film. In fact, you won’t go wrong with any of the Spiderman films, no matter who your favorite is. Some better than others and we can nitpick our way through any of these films, to be honest, but Spiderman: Homecoming is one of the better films they have done. Kudos to director Jon Watts whose vision and scope fit this newest creation remarkably well. One last note. As with other Marvel films, there are TWO post credit scenes and the last one is hysterical so stay in your seats to the very end.
Spiderman: Homecoming – ****1/2 out of 5
Spiderman: Homecoming – Rated PG-13 for comic book violence, language and scenes of peril
Spiderman: Homecoming – Run Time is 133 minutes
Spiderman: Homecoming is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.