Marvel takes back the web-slinger and hits ‘SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING’ out of the park.
And all the Marvel lovers said “Amen.”
It took heavy brass Starks to title Spidey’s return from Sony to Marvel Homecoming; but then, Marvel has been so emboldened by winning that it forgot this. Why shouldn’t the studio Iron Man built (ahem) marvel in its large scope canon, deeply motivated characters, and tempered storytelling? With recent fare like Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 and upcoming Thor: Ragnarok firing the imagination, it’s difficult to see a world without a Marvel movie exploding the box office.
Consequently, as we approach the Infinity War, audiences sense the dark days ahead for our shawarma-loving team. With the ever-expanding universe that covers so many characters and plot points, I get bogged down in the details. “Wasn’t the Wasp supposed to be a thing?” “Does Pepper still love Tony?” “If Hawkeye just disappeared, would anyone quip his goodbye?” Thee of failure seems as sure as the stink on a pre-Patty Jenkins DC Universe tale, but be at ease, Peter Parker fans: in his latest return to the big screen, Spider-Man hits a home run.
Directly following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire Andrew Garfield Tom Holland) is tasked with returning to his normal life in Queens, albeit the type of mundane existence that includes sticking to tall buildings and shooting webs from his super suit. Parker longs to prove his readiness to join the Avengers and help save humanity on a universal scale. Navigating the social hierarchy of his local high school, however, isn’t much easier, and Peter becomes desperate for an opportunity to seize. Spidey ultimately gets his wish in the form of a terrifying villain, Vulture (Michael Keaton), who threatens both his super life and his “normal” life.
Homecoming continues themes explored in Captain America: Civil War — us versus them, responsibility versus loyalty, strength versus morality — but it is less weighed down by the urge to simply blow up everything that came before, even though that must have been tempting for the screenwriters. What made Wonder Woman so fresh and enjoyable was the return of the one thing that defined the Golden Age of comic book heroes: hope. Similarly, Homecoming feels so very hopeful in a time when so many of us need it. While the big guns head to other countries, planets, and dimensions to fight, we still need heroes who stand up for justice here on the homefront. I’d really like to knock the script for having six writers, but all I can say is…it works. I wasn’t distracted by shifting character motivations or tone; everything fits together seamlessly. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley leave their indelible marks, which are easy to spot for anyone familiar with their previous work.
Most of all, I give great credit to director Jon Watts and, particularly, producer Amy Pascal: the longtime Sony executive knows her Spider-Man, and she obviously took great care in assembling the right creatives to elevate this film above the last reboot, which – while elegantly performed – failed to resonate with audiences. Watts builds momentum from scene one by carefully doling out plot points and letting each moment build upon the last. The vibrant colors pop, but in a less blatant way than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and more attuned with the comic. It’s a decision that will both resonate with longtime fans and the youth just biting into their first Spidey.
Kids are resilient, and the decision to reboot Peter Parker back to high school was an inspired one; more specifically, to not re-tell his tired origin story — to skip all the brooding and lean directly into the wonder of being a superhero. That is precisely what makes Spider-Man so approachable, so grounded in his little pocket of the world. Homecoming is a little bit goofy, a little bit hipster-teenaged-be-bopping, but without the angst. Like a PG version of Deadpool. Spider-Man will always do the right thing because that is his responsibility, his promise; however, he’ll always screw it up, just a little bit, because he is a kid, and he is acting in a role far beyond his years. And that’s the key: Parker as a kid. It’s a film for all ages, truly.
Although hilarity and wisdom are delivered in the form of Robert Downey, Jr., Jon Favreau, and a few surprising cameos I won’t spoil here, the real spirit and best moments of the film are carried by the young cast. Holland delivers a comic book-perfect performance, which could not have been easy following Maguire and Garfield. The casting is as strong as any comic film can be, with strong turns from Jacob Batalon, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, and Laura Harrier in surprising roles. Batalon and Marisa Tomei (hot Aunt May) steal every scene they’re given. And without question, Michael Keaton makes a worthy adversary…but, come on. Was there ever any doubt? Put that guy in any kind of suit with wings, and he soars — pun intended.
Our superheroes are supposed to free us from the muck and foreboding of real life. The problem with even the best of today’s comic-inspired films is the tendency to bolster a story’s gravitas by letting that darkness seep into the hero archetype. He or she is tortured by our everyday problems. Why did Deadpool, Wonder Woman, and Guardians of the Galaxy succeed where others are beginning to feel stale? Because those heroes aren’t fighting a war within themselves: whether a goddess or a scoundrel, each knows what they are, and each just wants to help. And that, dear reader, is exactly what Spider-Man has always been about. Doing the right thing because he made a promise, and being a better man because he has friends and family who love him. He is strong because he chooses to live in the world and not above it. Homecoming is sweet and funny and hopeful and the right kind of film for an age of darkness. Just like the superheroes that graced comic book pages following World War II, when the world needed white knights; Spider-Man: Homecoming shines bright.