Written by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley & Jon Watts & Christopher Ford & Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts
Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
Release date: July 7, 2017
The general consensus amongst critics and die-hard comic book movie fans alike is that no matter how great the MCU films get, the pinnacle of the genre was achieved back in the early 2000s with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). Interestingly enough, two of the dirt worst superhero movies since then also featured the webslinger: Raimi’s awful Spider-Man 3 in 2007, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, which killed the rebooted franchise before it could even make the planned Sinister Six film it spent 2 hours setting up. Marvel Studios and Sony were able to come to an agreement since that debacle, which led to the best Spidey on screen in 12 years with Tom Holland’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year. A year later, Sony & Marvel again united to bring us Spider-Man: Homecoming, and maybe because I’m writing this an hour after seeing it, without time to properly marinate”¦ but Homecoming is the best standalone Spider-Man movie since”¦ ever.
It’s kind of hard to believe how great Spider-Man: Homecoming is. Director Jon Watts just turned 36 and had only directed two feature films, the Eli Roth-produced horror movie Clown, and a surprisingly effective indie crime thriller Cop Car starring Kevin Bacon. He and five other writers pulled together a screenplay that somehow works on every level. A month ago The Mummy was met with “universal” disapproval with many complaining that the six-writer team could not find a shared vision. In Homecoming, the script flows so well it feel like the writers were part of a collective hive. The movie is a great John Hughes-style coming of age story, a fantastic action flick with some typically effective Marvel set pieces, it has family drama, subtle political implications, enough Easter Eggs for the geek crowd, and above all else, it’s nonstop hilariously funny. I never laughed this much during a MCU movie and that includes the two GoTG films.
I remember upon hearing Spidey would be joining the MCU and we’d be getting another standalone film, my biggest dread was having to sit through another insufferable origin story. Thankfully, Civil War helped us get here, because this film opens with a unique twist on the origin story, introducing main antagonist Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). He is blue collar all the way, the head contractor of a crew charged with cleaning up NYC after the Chitauri invasion from the end of the first Avengers film. He and his team are rudely dismissed by suits from Damage Control. See Tony Stark used his power, influence, and money to buy the contracts and now “the people who made the mess will get paid to clean it up.” With the prospects of his crew and himself losing house and home, they grab all the alien tech they can find and begin crafting Chitauri-style weapons for the highest bidder. In order to continue making the weapons, his team goes out and raids Damage Control stockpiles. Toomes leads the men himself using a high-powered set of wings and a flight suit giving us The Vulture. And yes, it’s blatantly funny that Michael Keaton is once again playing a character with wings after Batman and Birdman.
The best part of this movie though is Tom Holland. They hit the casting jackpot with him. He is at the same time the best on-screen Peter Parker (sorry Tobey) and the best on-screen Spider-Man. Despite being 21, he looks exactly like a 15-year-old teenager and is perfect at simultaneously acting like he IS Spider-Man, but also angry about having to hide that he’s Spider-Man. The best scenes for me were with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). Their discussions after Ned finds out his secret are amazing. Imagine right now you found out your best friend was a superhero, how would you act? That is Ned, and Batalon gives a wonderful performance and provides some of the best laughs. “Do you lay eggs?” And seriously, the girl Peter likes, Liz (Laura Harrier) has a crush on Spider-Man”¦ how do you NOT run up to her and show off your powers???
This builds into the other major dynamic of the film, which is where Peter fits in with the Avengers and his “boss” Tony Stark, played again, with quiet reserve this time by Robert Downey Jr. In Civil War, Spider-Man played a huge role in the epic Avengers battle in Berlin. He stood up to Captain America for crying out loud, so certainly he should be getting some major assignments from the top right? Stark wants him to be a more “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” Tony several times in the film makes reference that he sounds like “his dad” when talking to Peter and there are actually some truly poignant moments of reflection there leading to a great scene between the two after the big second act action sequence on the Staten Island Ferry.
Toomes and his crew want one more big score of weapons tech and this comes together in the final act just as Peter is preparing for, you guessed it, Homecoming. This leads to a suitably epic shock moment that floored the theater I was in and makes the final third of the film thrilling and tense with character decisions that have real stakes. And because it’s Marvel you know there is post-credits fun and all I’ll say is that they have the post-credit scene to end all post-credit scenes, one that manages to pay off existing jokes in the films and poke fun at the audience in a way that even the audience respects.
I am actually struggling to find a nitpick here. Watts and his team of writers take Spider-Man and Peter into places and put him in positions we have never seen on film before. Like, yes, in fact Peter does have to strip down out of his clothes before suiting up in allies. What does Spider-Man do when there’s no high building to swing from? The film perfects the coming of age stuff to the point where at times Spider-Man is off screen for long portions and you do not even miss him. The acting is great from everyone. Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Jon Favreau again as Happy, all the high schoolers, including Zendaya, were really good, and of course there are some cameos. Keaton brings the chops here and his duality as both a working class guy doing right by his family and evil supervillain weapons distributor make him probably the best one off Marvel villain since Red Skull in Captain America and the best Spidey villain since Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octopus is SM2.
But Spider-Man: Homecoming belongs to Tom Holland. He embodies the character in the same way Hugh Jackman just IS Wolverine and, more close to home, RDJ just IS Tony Stark. And watching Holland just ease into this role made me think the film may be the best MCU standalone since the very first Iron Man in 2008. Spider-Man: Homecoming is, in my opinion, the best Spider-Man movie ever made. Go see it now, bring the kids, bring everyone.
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