After his introduction into the franchise in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man finally gets his own MCU film in the cleverly titled Spider-Man: Homecoming – a reference to the various issues regarding the rights to the titular character.
Homecoming is a film in an odd situation. It’s not an origin story, as Spider-Man was already shown in Civil War to have established himself a small-time hero, and it has no need to introduce its characters in any meaningful way – after all, Spider-Man’s story has been told so many times and in so many ways that at a certain point it’s likely flogging a dead horse. However, Homecoming needed to establish Spider-Man’s place in the MCU while still having him stand alone, and that’s not something that’s easy to do when fans have been clamoring to see him included in the franchise since its earliest days.
I’m going to do my best to avoid extensive comparisons between the various iterations of Spider-Man and instead analyze the film on its own merits – of which it actually has many. However, it’s not without its faults, and these are a little harder to address without comparing it to other versions. For example, Homecoming doesn’t reference Uncle Ben, instead swapping him out in favor of having Tony Stark acting as Peter Parker’s mentor and hero (and something of an absent father figure, too). It’s a fresh take on the character, albeit a little odd for more traditional fans, and it’s probably one that Marvel wouldn’t have taken if Ben’s story hadn’t already been told countless times over the years. Having Tony Stark so heavily included in the narrative makes sense, especially given the events of Civil War and the plot revolving around the fallout caused by the actions of the Avengers. Still, making such blatant use of the franchise’s most popular character felt a little cheap, leaving the saccharine taste of fan service in its wake.
This is easy to forget about, though, as Tom Holland is truly excellent as Spider-Man. Written as a young, naïve, idealistic hero plays to the actor’s strengths, and while he’s incredibly funny, athletic, and sweet, there are still moments where his acting talent is truly allowed to shine. Holland brings a humanity to the role that’s lacking in many other of the MCU’s heroes, and it’s something that lends the film an extra authenticity. He’s also complemented by Michael Keaton as the Vulture, who plays an exceptional villain, with plenty of charisma to back up the subtle, off-handed cruelty of his character.
While the film’s cast are excellent, they’re backed by an excellently written script and a tight narrative that’s both well-paced and logical. Homecoming is also filled with Easter eggs and nods to the MCU that make for an added sense of depth, but these are never so obvious that they take away from the story.
My biggest criticism of the film is that Spider-Man was essentially relegated to Iron Man’s wannabe sidekick, all in favor of giving Stark and Parker a father-son dynamic that isn’t even really explored. This also means that Homecoming plays down Peter’s intelligence – he’s clearly gifted, but far less so than his comic counterpart, instead making use of Stark tech as opposed to creating his own suit and gadgets. It essentially borrows some of Spider-Man’s appeal and lends it to Marvel’s flagship hero instead, something which just feels all wrong to my sensibilities as a lifelong fan of the Webhead.
Homecoming is a brilliant superhero film and a triumphant MCU solo debut for Holland’s Spider-Man, but in some ways, it does the character a disservice that I personally cannot entirely forgive.
Summary: An interesting take on Spider-Man that affords him a comfortable place in the MCU, Spider-Man: Homecoming is well-acted, well-written and well-presented. However, in the inevitable comparisons to other versions of the character, it doesn’t necessarily come out on top.
Highlights: Tom Holland’s performance is equal parts funny and sensitive, and captures the character’s youth while showcasing the actor’s impressive talent. He also boasts excellent chemistry with every one of his co-stars.