One of my earliest memories in life is reading Web of Spider-Man #3, a dog-eared copy missing a cover, but a book filled with art of a hero with an unforgettable costume. I recall so vividly my mom bringing me home a copy of the Todd McFarlane-drawn Spider-Man #1 from the newsstand. Even though I was 5, maybe 6, I poured over every page, loving the insane webs and crazy body physics.
As I grew older, Spider-Man became my personal hero – someone trying to do the right thing, someone overcoming their own internal struggles and anxiety, and under the right guise, laughing it all away and achieving greatness.
It’s fair to say then, that I was absolutely blown away in 2002, as I graduated high school, my life long inspiration “graduated” to the big-screen, as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man brought my hero to cinematic life and redefined movie going as we know it.
I write now as a 32 year old man. My heroes are on the screen every few months. The impossible became possible – the universes I read in 4-color panels are broadcast around the world on giant screens, rewatched on televisions and mobile devices. The nerds won.
With all of that, it would be completely understood were I underwhelmed by Spider-Man: Homecoming.
It’s the third version of the character in ten years. The sixth Spider-Man film overall. The sixteenth Marvel Cinematic Universe title.
Yet, here I am to tell you that director Jon Watts (Cop Car) has delivered not only the greatest Spider-Man movie to date, but also possibly the greatest superhero movie, period.
Introduced in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming continues the tale of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, a high-school sophomore with brilliant intellect, an aunt who worries about him (and raises him on her own), and his version of Spider-Man is a YouTube sensation for his acts of heroism in the Queens, NY region. The classic origin story is eschewed, picking up – literally – where we last saw him, with a video diary describing his involvement in the Steve/Tony war of last year. He’s now outfitted with a really cool suit (via Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark), a handler who mostly ignores him (Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan), and balances local heroics (cover story: “Stark Internship”) with a stacked school schedule including the Academic Decathlon.
What makes the movie so clever is that the film delivers big by keeping the focus small. It’s been said that the Marvel Studios creative team wanted to make a movie which was as much The Breakfast Club as it was the latest superhero romp, and they delivered. The joy of the film isn’t always in the flashy super heroics (of which there is many), but in the full Peter Parker experience. His crush on senior class member Liz (Laura Harrier), his nerdy best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon), the sarcastic and surreal Michelle (Zendaya) – even the new school version of bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) stands out here. We get a feel of what is life is, day to day – we even see him visit his bodega. For the first time on screen, the movie has as much a realized version of the kid behind the mask as it does the hero who shows up to save the day.
Thankfully, this is met with arguably the best on-screen villain for Spider-Man yet, Michael Keaton as the Vulture. Save your Birdman or Batman vs. Spider-Man jokes for another day, as Keaton puts in great work justifying why exactly his character becomes the force of crime which he does – which also has a convenient and smart tie to the MCU as a whole. There’s an incredible scene with his character and Tom Holland which I won’t dare spoil, but it’s one of the smartest, most clever versions of a hero/villain clash I’ve seen, and it ties perfectly into the greater whole of the film.
Some may have been concerned about the ties of Tony Stark to the film, along with any other MCU inclusions, but I’m glad to say that they are if anything, minor, and serve to help the plot moving forward. This is a Spider-Man movie, not the Iron Man and his Spider Pal movie which the marketing has driven home, and it’s all the better for it.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a full-on crowd pleaser. The jokes are real and earned (not the standard MCU quips for days feel, as it’s more character moments than witty repartee), the action is brilliantly laid out and shot, and the set pieces grow in scope as the vision of the movie widens. Special props to the CG team here as well, for adding little “struggles” to the Spider-Man swinging and landing animations, as they help grow the vision of a newer, wet-behind-the-ears hero.
If you loved Tom Holland’s appearance in Civil War last year, good news – he lives and breathes the role. The best Peter, the best Spider-Man yet, hands down, coming after actors who seemed to excel as one or the other, but never both. I can’t wait to see him continue to play off of the rest of the universe, but more importantly, after this movie, I want him to have his own solo adventures for as long as he can.
Wrapped by a wonderful Michael Giacchino score, and some solid needle drops (whoever picked Spoon’s “The Underdog” is my new hero), there is not an inch of this movie which doesn’t deliver. I could not be more overjoyed about what Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios, along with Jon Watts, the writing team of Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley, and the brilliant cast have given us.
This one is for the little dude inside me who still is in awe in superheroes, and the grown man who loves great blockbuster filmmaking. Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the greats. Period. Am I biased? Absolutely. But was I overjoyed? Hell yes.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in theaters now.