Review: Spider-Man Homecoming (spoiler free)

I just got back from seeing Spider-Man Homecoming. The theater was almost full, and I saw the regular digital version (no 3D, no IMAX). Short version; this is one of the best MCU films to date. It’s perfect.

The new MCU version of Spider-Man was introduced in last year’s Captain America Civil War, and this film takes place almost immediately thereafter, with Peter Parker (played perfectly by Tom Holland) trying to process the events that happened to him, a mere 15 year old, in Germany fighting against Captain America and crew.

To be suddenly brought back to Queens and have to deal with ordinary, “street level” criminals is an adjustment that’s painful for him to make, and that forms the basis of the first third of the film, very effectively. The juxtaposition of the everyday trials and tribulations of being a high school sophomore against those of being a “friendly neighborhood spider-man” is very well done.

One of the things that stood out to me in this film was the villain. Michael Keaton’s Vulture (aka Adrian Toomes) is a rarity in the MCU; he’s a well-rounded villain with a real motivation, rather than just villainy for its own sake. You can relate to his motives, and it adds a layer of realism and pathos to the character that most MCU villains frankly lack. (Honestly, other than Loki and the Red Skull, can you even name three MCU villains? What was Doctor Strange villain Kaecilius’ motive for doing what he did?) This alone makes Spider-Man Homecoming stand out.

The decision to cast a really young actor as Peter Parker is another wise choice, and Tom Holland is up to the task. It marks a distinct change from the last five Spider-Man movies, which showed first a college-age Peter, and then a high-school Peter who looked like he should have been in college. Or grad school.

The choice to give Spider-Man a mentor in Tony Stark, while seemingly odd on its face, really works here. The dichotomy between Tony Stark and Adrian Toomes is very well handled; they are in many ways complete mirror images of one another on more than one level (I won’t go into details, but once you’ve seen the film, at least some of them will be readily apparent). But if you’re one of those who is concerned that Iron Man overwhelms the film (a perfectly legitimate concern given some of the marketing) worry not; his presence is felt more in the breach than on the screen, and there’s another character in the mix that honestly works better in the role than an equal amount of Tony Stark on-screen would have.

The call-outs to previous MCU films are many, some subtle and some not-so-subtle. There are also a number of call-backs to the comic-books, and they set up (or at least hint at) at least three traditional Spidey villains for future films. Although honestly I think this would be a terrific opportunity to finally make a solid tie-in between the Netflix MCU properties and the films, and put in Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin from the Daredevil series as the main villain. He could certainly pull off a movie, and it would be a perfect move. The contrast between his dark and violent Kingpin would play off beautifully against the light, breezy, wise-cracking Spider-Man, in much the way Keaton’s Vulture did.

It’s also quite hilarious, as befits Spider-Man. This is the joke-making Spidey from the comics, who annoys his enemies with his wit as much as he does with his webs, and the decision to focus a lot of the film on the real and ordinary annoyances of high school really bring that out.

All in all, this is a perfect MCU film. Not quite better than Avengers (but that’s not saying much), and perhaps I might put Winter Soldier a notch above it, but that’s about it. And #3 in such a crowd is still an achievement to crow about. See this film! Five out of five stars.

Oh, and there are two helpings of schawarma. Stay through the end of the credits.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.