Spider-Man Homecoming Review: A Small-Scale, Heartwarming Superhero Film
Ever since I saw Spider-Man swing into battle in Captain America: Civil War, I have been awaiting his first outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Spider-Man: Homecoming. Having now seen it, I was not disappointed. Unlike the past Spider-Man films, Homecoming places a young actor in high school and has him deal with teenage life, rather than casting a nearly thirty-year-old man supposedly on the verge of graduating. Marvel reportedly wanted Homecoming to resemble a High School drama rather than an action film, and it clearly shows: much of the film takes place in school, and relies heavily on the interactions of the young cast. Unfortunately, much of the film is too lighthearted and loses some of the higher drama present in past Spider-Man films. Although the series has room to improve, I enjoyed this first outing and am excited for the Spider-Man sequels to come.
If I can praise anything about Homecoming, it’s that the film nails the setting of Spider-Man better than any of its predecessors. Rather than establishing Peter Parker as a senior on the verge of graduation, this time Parker is a sophomore in High School still dealing with the troubles of his youth. Unlike the Sam Raimi or Marc Webb films, the actor cast as Spider-Man is only 21 years old. Andrew Garfield was 29 and Tobey Maguire was 27 when they debuted as Peter Parker, making Tom Holland far younger than his predecessors. Because of this Homecoming can place him in High School and make his fictional age believable, and this allows the film to explore Spider-Man as he was originally written.
Homecoming shows Peter struggling through High School, whereas the past films such as Spider-Man 2 were forced to show him dealing with the pains of adulthood.
In my opinion, this choice ended up hurting the film as much as it helped.
On one hand, I finally saw Spider-Man smack in the middle of High School on the big screen. He dealt with struggles specific to teenage years, such as asking girls to a dance, preparing for school competitions, and serving detention.
Homecoming thrives due to the chemistry between its main actors, all of whom look and feel exactly as loveable High School students would. Hollywood often portrays teenagers as pointlessly rebellious, angry, and cynical while casting grown men and women to play them. This film shows that many High Schoolers aren’t irritating and vain, and that films can show smart students who audiences relate to.
The cast of this film are funny and likeable. Some of the best moments in the movie are a result of the great writing and acting in the lighthearted High School scenes.
Unfortunately, by making its characters so young and its setting so light, Spider-Man: Homecoming loses some of the raw emotion and intensity of its predecessors.
About half of the film is a comedic romp through Peter’s sophomore year, and while it entertained me, it lacked the higher drama of Spider-Man 2. I still preferred it to anything I had seen since 2004, but I was surprised that it had received such high praise.
Fortunately, at a certain point this film abandoned its softer tone and became far more riveting.
All of the intensity in this film is attributable to one character: The Vulture.
When I first heard that the Vulture was the planned villain for Homecoming, I was slightly worried. Looking solely at the comics, I found the Vulture to be an extremely campy character with a ridiculous design: an old man who wore a green suit with feathered wings attached to his arms.
Homecoming turns this character into a blue-collar worker turned murderer, who uses a massive mechanical suit to fight.
The villain also inhabits a surprisingly morally complex area.
Just as I argued Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 became stronger in its second half due to the presence of its villain, Spider-Man: Homecoming follows the same trend.
Peter is forced to overcome his fears and insecurities in order to defeat his villain, which made the scenes between Spider-Man and the Vulture a joy to watch.
I hope that future Marvel films maintain a high standard of quality throughout all of their runtime. But at least it seems Marvel Studios may finally be figuring out how to make a great villain. And hopefully, this trend continues.
I wish this film had utilized its villain more, but it still provided an entertaining experience and set-up characters I cannot wait to see again.