Review: 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' is the Best Spider-Man Movie Yet
by Adam Frazier
July 6, 2017
Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, Spider-Man first appeared in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15, an anthology series published by Marvel Comics. The character's origin story goes something like this: Midtown High's only professional wallflower, Peter Parker, becomes a web-slinging "wall-crawler" when he is bitten by a radioactive spider and acquires the proportionate strength and agility of an arachnid. 55 years later, Spider-Man has become one of the most popular superheroes ever, inspiring countless comics, cartoons, video games, and not one but two film franchises: Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007) and Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man series (2012-2014). Those movies, produced and distributed by Sony, have their moments, but ultimately fail to deliver a definitive take on the character. Enter the appropriately titled Spider-Man: Homecoming, a new film co-produced by Marvel Studios proving third time's the charm.
After making his spectacular debut in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in its sixteenth entry. Invigorated by his experience with the Avengers in Berlin, Peter returns to Queens, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the tutelage of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his right-hand man, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Peter believes that his "internship" with Stark Industries is merely a test toward becoming a full-fledged member of the Avengers, but no one's returning his calls about the next mission. Pete tries to fall back into his normal routine: preparing for the academic decathlon, building a LEGO Death Star with his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), and pining for the brainy, beautiful Liz (Laura Harrier) – all while helping little old ladies cross the street as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Directed by Jon Watts (of Clown, Cop Car), Spider-Man: Homecoming deals with the ground-level consequences of The Battle of New York, the epic finale of 2012's The Avengers, in which Earth's Mightiest Heroes faced off against Loki and his army of cybernetically enhanced Chitauri. While the Avengers saved the day, they've left New Yorkers with a mess to clean up. The restoration effort has been good for Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), whose salvage company has been awarded the contract of collecting the alien tech left behind in the wreckage. Things are going great for Toomes until the Department of Damage Control swoops in and takes his livelihood away. When he finds out that billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark, the guy responsible for the mess, is getting paid to clean it up, he decides to do something about it himself.
Desperate to provide for his family, Toomes begins stealing alien technology, building himself a wing suit that he uses to rob DODC trucks – repurposing their salvage as weapons to sell on the black market. As the Vulture, Toomes is the perfect starter villain for this young Spider-Man to tackle, because their paths as villain and hero are running parallel to each other. The appeal of Spider-Man has always been that he's a kid with real-world problems and inadequacies that people can relate to. Here, Vulture isn't an old coot in a lycra bird suit, but a blue-collar guy burdened by the pressures of adulthood. Toomes isn't concerned with world domination – he's experienced life's unfairness first-hand, and he's tired of playing a game that's rigged by the rich and powerful. But when putting food on the table means threatening the lives of New Yorkers, it's up to Parker to stop Vulture before his twisted version of the American Dream becomes reality.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie yet – a definitive take on the character that fits perfectly within the MCU without getting bogged down in the world-building of Marvel's ever-expanding shared universe. While Tobey Maguire was a pretty good Peter Parker and Andrew Garfield made for a decent Spider-Man, Tom Holland is the best of both, delivering heart and humor in equal measure. In the way Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans were born to play Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, Tom Holland was destined to do whatever a spider can. Like Peter, Holland is an eager kid having the time of his life learning to be a superhero, and the fun he's having on screen is contagious. It's impossible not to grin ear-to-ear when he clumsily experiments with his new suit's hidden features, or laugh when Spidey woefully fails at intimidating a criminal (Donald Glover) during a haphazard interrogation.
When it comes to action, there are sequences that rival any from the previous films: Spider-Man's Roosevelt Island Tramway scene, the train fight in Spider-Man 2, the first 10 minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Watts' exhilarating and enthusiastic film finds a way to one-up them all. In addition to the requisite wall-crawling and web-slinging, there are lovely character moments with Peter as he juggles his relationships with his aunt, his mentor, his friends, and his classmates. There isn't a rote performance or flat character in the whole movie – even supporting players like Peter's decathlon teammates feel like real teenagers at a real high school, struggling with their own teenager issues. As a result, Homecoming feels less like a superhero blockbuster and more like what would happen if John Hughes was bitten by an irradiated spider before making The Breakfast Club.
During the Golden Age of Comics, teenagers in superhero stories were often relegated to the role of sidekick. Superman had Jimmy Olsen, Batman had Robin, and Captain America had Bucky Barnes. These sidekick characters were important because they gave the protagonist someone to talk to – someone to externalize their internal monologue to. What's unique about Spider-Man is that he is his own teenage sidekick. Spidey is always talking to himself, his thoughts and feelings communicated to the reader via thought bubbles. And unlike Robin or Bucky, Pete doesn't have a superhero mentor to show him the way – he has to learn for himself that "with great power comes great responsibility."
Watts' recognizes a need for communicating Peter's internal musings, and so his fancy new Stark Industries suit comes equipped with an A.I. sidekick, like Iron Man's J.A.R.V.I.S., named Karen (voiced by Jennifer Connelly). Now Spidey has someone to express worries and frustrations to or make quips to when he's in the thick of it. In addition to Karen, he has a superhero mentor in Tony Stark. This Peter Parker grew up in the MCU – he saw Tony Stark say "I am Iron Man" on TV when he was eight years old. He wants to be like Iron Man, but Tony needs him to be better. It makes for an interesting dynamic that I can't wait to see more of in Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man's subsequent cinematic outings.
It's hard to believe that a Spidey movie without Uncle Ben, Green Goblin, Harry Osborn, J. Jonah Jameson, The Daily Bugle, Mary Jane Watson, or Gwen Stacy could feel this definitive, but it does. The performances are pitch-perfect, with Michael Keaton establishing himself as one of the better bad guys in the MCU, taking a mid-level villain and making him a charismatic and formidable threat. For a film with six screenwriters, it's amazing how Watts' film feels like a singular vision, not the product of two major motion picture studios co-producing a movie that needs to serve the needs of a reboot while also fitting within the rigid continuity of an already established shared universe. If there's one thing lacking, it's Aunt May's somewhat limited role. Tomei is great, but she doesn't have a spotlight scene like Rosemary Harris' stirring speech about heroism in Spider-Man 2. Hopefully, she'll get the opportunity to be more vital to the story and its stakes in the sequel, currently slated for release in 2019.
Still, Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fresh take on Marvel's iconic web-slinger that gets everything right. Not only is it the best Spider-Man movie yet, it's also a top-tier entry in the ever-expanding MCU – as funny, thrilling, and thoroughly satisfying as Iron Man or The Avengers. It doesn't feel like the second reboot of a franchise but rather a new beginning for a beloved character who's back where he belongs – in the very capable hands of Marvel Studios. Welcome home, web-head, you've been missed.
Adam's Rating: 4 out of 5
Follow Adam on Twitter - @AdamFrazier
Reader Feedback - 37 Comments
I never expect an MCU movie to be bad but nothing about this one excited me...until reading this.
Jon Odishaw on Jul 6, 2017
CyraNOSE on Jul 6, 2017
Say "What" again! say "What" again! I dare ya, I double dare ya motherfucker, say "What" one more goddamn time!
Cecrellne on Jul 7, 2017
didnt like it at all.... infact if it was not for Michael Keaton as antagonist I would have hated this movie!!!
Rahul R on Jul 6, 2017
You're ridiculous. Obviously you have a bone to pick for your own reasons to find a way to "hate" this little flick.
Mark on Jul 6, 2017
i have my opinion, everyone has one....if you dont have opinion of your own...thats your problem!!! I dint like it ... it is as simple as that!!!
Rahul R on Jul 7, 2017
There's always 1 person who has to purposely be a dick.
CyraNOSE on Jul 6, 2017
May be your father might be a dick...so you see everyone as a dick !!!
Rahul R on Jul 7, 2017
2 words Alex... no shit!
CyraNOSE on Jul 6, 2017
The idea that this isn't bogged down with a Mary Jane Watson (like Superman's endlessly screaming and needy Lois Lane) is one of many reasons why I'd like to give it a go.
Payne by name on Jul 6, 2017
No doubt Adam Frazier is being paid by Disney.
twistys on Jul 6, 2017
Ha! Need some water for your "PLANT", Adam?!? 😉
THE_RAW_ on Jul 7, 2017
Just came back from seeing it...and was not disappointed. Went in with moderate expectations for Spidey, but was really surprised. *Slight Spoilers?*.... The way they tie this movie in so organically with the first Avengers immediately brings it right into focus and give it a very weighty feel in the overall MCU. It also seemed like there were a few hints about Infinity War mingled here and there in the film...nothing overt but perhaps clues. Can't wait to see it again for those parts. Happy, Tony, and a few other familiar faces were a welcome sight in the film. Also kinda cool how Cap gets a word in to encourage Peter to do the right thing...almost a pickup from Civil War. Also, be sure to watch for Peter's High School principal...GREAT Easter egg. Another huge win for Marvel...welcome home Spiderman!
BigNate BoxOfficer on Jul 6, 2017
I think it's amazing that marvel still knows what works and what doesn't,and their picks of directors is also very good! I loved cop car, so this also on my list...
ari smulders on Jul 6, 2017
Even with all the positive buzz, I'm remaining cautiously optimistic. Still deciding to even watch it in the theater at this point... Spider-Man fatigue is a real problem for me....
THE_RAW_ on Jul 7, 2017
To be honest it's a little overhyped. The film was fun, but forgettable.
Indianamcclain on Jul 7, 2017
Your disparaging of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films turned me off completely. It's one thing to prefer a more bouncy, sexually ambiguous Peter Parker...it's another to deny how unique and timeless Raimi's style is. Quit being a slobbering fanboy and give your article a once-over before clicking "publish". You're supposed to be a film critic, not a hypester.
txJM on Jul 7, 2017
Xerxexx on Jul 7, 2017
That's when I realized he was just trolling and trying to start stuff so stopped reading the rest of the comment
Cilantroman on Jul 12, 2017
Raimi's Spiderman films were tedious.
Payne by name on Jul 8, 2017
Thank you for yet another illustration about why people with short attention spans have no business being published alongside film critics.
txJM on Jul 8, 2017
Grow up you child, you have no business on a website for adults who might have opinions that differ from your own.
Payne by name on Jul 10, 2017
"A website for adults" *Looks up* "Review: 'Spider-Man Homecoming'" Okay, adult.
txJM on Jul 10, 2017
Yeah, unsurprisingly you aren't getting the reference to being an adult are you? Namely that people can have opinions counter to your own and doing so doesn't mean that they are inferior to your superior movie appreciation. I mean really, retorting with the cliched 'you must have a short attention span if you didn't appreciate the film like I did' couldn't be more juvenile. I'm surprised that you didn't continue the typical immature response by telling me to go back to watching Transformers!
Payne by name on Jul 11, 2017
TL;DR Go watch Transformers.
txJM on Jul 12, 2017
Literally the Spiderman movie we deserved! "Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie yet – a definitive take on the character that fits perfectly within the MCU without getting bogged down in the world-building of Marvel's ever-expanding shared universe," you said it best Adam! I had so much fun, and I can't wait to see what comes next! Excellent review!
Brandon Cole on Jul 7, 2017
First doesn't mean definitive - there are a lot of great things about those first two films, but there's a lot of things I don't care for: getting rid of the web shooters, the design of Green Goblin, Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane, James Franco's Harry Osborn, etc.
Adam Frazier on Jul 7, 2017
The spiderman I loved in the comic books didn't have web shooters.
tarek on Jul 8, 2017
He didn't? Raimi's twist was the change to organic.
97point6 on Jul 12, 2017
Yeah I think Spider-Man 2 will always define the pre-MCU era as one of the greatest superhero films ever, but it's more Donner's Superman mixed with Burton's Batman, with a bit of Raimi's own Darkman, than it is a live-action Spider-Man comic. Certainly Doc Ock is fantastic, so good that it's hard to imagine anyone else revisiting that character and doing it better.
Adam Frazier on Jul 11, 2017
Donald Glover?! Kind of a slap in the face casting him...but I guess all is fair.
DAVIDPD on Jul 7, 2017
Well, not to get into spoiler territory, but the character Glover plays is closely tied to a certain other Spider-Man...
Adam Frazier on Jul 9, 2017
DAVIDPD on Jul 9, 2017
Wanted to like it.... but struggled. For me it wasn't even in the same league as Spider-Man 2. All the best bits are exactly as seen in the trailers.... hardly anything new to be seen. Did he even fight vulture ? All I remember was him being dragged into the air twice. When you talk about definitive versions of spider man yes to be fair Tom Holland did nail it.... but you can't compare any fights in this to the original goblin fight or the big set piece that was the train scene in spider man 2
Chris Round on Jul 7, 2017
I would have to strongly disagree with your assessment that this is a definitive take on Spiderman. This movie was not a Spiderman movie. Spoilers below: Basically the plot of the movie is Spiderman trying to fix Iron Man's messes, and Spiderman gets berated left and right for it for trying to do good. And Iron Man is oblivious to any of the repercussions of his actions or inactions. Why would you provide basically an Iron Man suit to a 15 year old kid without any training? I never EVER grew up with a Spiderman that had that many gadgets in his suit and an AI trainer. There was no tie in to Uncle Ben which is the whole reason why Spiderman became a hero in the first place. With great power comes great responsibility. There were no character motivation for being a hero other than...I can't even finish this sentence. Iron Man is a dick as always and being a hypocrite telling him that he needs to be a hero without the suit...says the guy that is basically nothing without the battery in his chest. The whole plot is of Spidey trying to do right but no adults are listening. Iron Man's speech was wholly misplaced, he screwed up royally but not telling Peter that he's working on the problem. Maybe a little communication would help instead of berating the kid for trying to do the right thing when no one is seemingly dealing with the situation. And why does Peter think that? Maybe because Tony said that it's not within the Avengers pay grade to deal with these stolen weapons. The whole vlog in the beginning infuriated me. Basically didn't understand what was at stake when fighting Captain America and it's just appealing to our youtube culture. And Marvel movies keep having very lackadaisical security measures for their most important weapons. Just a thought, if you were transporting all the weapons from Stark Tower, maybe have the house party protocol Iron Man suits to run security detail on it. There were no real danger to Spiderman at all. Never once did I fear for our hero's life or safety. Karen basically said if you fell from this high, you will did. Scene later, he falls but instead of people fearing for his life, they joke around and have Flash say, "O, by the way, do you know Peter Parker?" Next scene, don't show whatever happened to him. At least give me something showing him saving himself. Things I did like was Vulture, but basically Michael Keaton's performance was spot on. I think it's a huge problem when I rather side with Vulture's character and his motivations than Tony Stark just being an asshole to every one in his environment with no consequences. I feel like the action scenes were good too. Vulture's suit was cool. If anybody is on the fence about this movie, just don't watch it. Your money is better spent on Baby Driver.
Hansel Tjia on Jul 9, 2017
Cracking film. Went in with low expectations but was blown away. Funny, involving, entertaining and with plenty of engaging characters. Felt like the first 30 minutes of Guardians II before that melted into tedium. The best take that I've seen on Spiderman in the cinema and better than Ultron, the Thor films, Ant Man and Dr Strange.
Payne by name on Jul 10, 2017
Loved the movie and can't wait to watch it again. A few nitpicks (*mild spoiler alert*): 1. Rather than a cameo appearance by Iron Man, there is almost as much Tony Stark as there was Peter Park in this movie. This was a little distracting. 2. I don't mind changing MJ's race/ethnicity/etc, but why name her Michelle? Sounds more like the studio got cold feet about changing the character's background and created a new one instead. 3. Ned's Jonah Hill -lite character wasn't as funny as the movie thought he was.
Cilantroman on Jul 12, 2017
Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.