2017 is shaping up to be an amazing year for comic book movies. First we got Logan, giving a strong ending to the X-Men after the mediocre X-Men: Apocalypse, then Guardians of the Galaxy 2 which was a lot of fun, then Wonder Woman which finally turned DC’s abysmal record around and now we have Spider-Man: Homecoming, which had the hard task of warming people up for another spider-man introduction.
I don’t think I need to repeat how tired everyone got of these Spider-Man reboots. It is therefore with a great sigh of relief and an exclamation of delightful surprise that Spider-Man: Homecoming is an excellent movie. It is a comedic, well-paced, adventurous tale that dances as light as a feather and hits all the right notes. And considering how many things this movie had to accomplish, that is a bloody miracle.
First, Homecoming avoided the danger of telling us again the origin story of Spider-Man with the radioactive spider and uncle Ben dying and “with great power…”. People seriously would have thrown tomatoes at the screen. I would have. I had them ready. It is still an origin story though, but it is about Spidey (Tom Holland) coming of age and being mentored by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter Parker is still in high school, still being a teenager exploring his own powers, while he has an agent (Jon Favreau) at the Avengers who is babysitting him.
This interaction with the Avengers is a great source of comedy, and Downey Jr. does not show up so much that he derails or dominates the story – letting it stay Spidey’s film. And, of course, this mentorship ties into the larger plan by Marvel to let Spider-Man play a greater role in their future ensemble films. And to keep it Spidey’s film, the action is not as world-spanning as in these Avenger films. Peter Parker as a teenager is still earning his stripes in his own neighborhood and fights a villain who comes and operates in the lower working classes too. That villain, by the way, is one of the better ones so far in the Marvel universe. It is the Vulture, played by a duck-facing Michael Keaton; also a wink-wink to his meta-role in Birdman.
So, it all sort of comes together. Spider-Man: Homecoming has to balance precariously on three or four spider-webs simultaneously to keep the audience satisfied and to tie it to the Marvel universe. Tom Holland as Peter Parker does a good job at being a wide-eyed kid. He has a lot more likeability than Tobey Maguire ever had and is like a younger and naiver version of Andrew Garfield.
The weakest part of the movie were actually the high school drama/comedy scenes. Peter has a sidekick/best friend who doesn’t have much personality on his own, and Peter’s romantic adventures did not really pull me in. What succeeded very well was that Peter had to sacrifice parts of his teenager social life to be Spider-Man. That conflict of priorities made his actions as Spider-Man more important because he had to invest more of himself into choosing to be a superhero. That also puts us on Peter’s side when Iron Man makes some failing attempts at being a father figure.
There are so many right choices made with Spider-Man: Homecoming that it feels like a little miracle.