Six reasons ‘Homecoming’ is among the best Spider-Man movies 

Note: I hate spoilers. Hate them. I believe dunderheads who carelessly throw movie, television, and book spoilers around on social media are worse than the worst super villain. So, I believe I have been sufficiently vague enough here to avoid spider spoilers for “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” But my advice? See the movie first before reading further, and then check back to see how right…or wrong…I really am.

Seriously. What are you waiting for? 

Last week in a fit of spider-geekdom I kicked off my viewing of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” with my official list of my favorite Spidey movies.  

The only question? Where would “Homecoming,” co-produced by Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures and distributed by Sony Pictures, end up in my rankings? 

The answer? Right at the top with the 2004 classic “Spider-Man 2.” Yes, it’s that good, for six reasons: 


A New Direction, but… 

No Peter Parker origin story here. Been there. Enjoyed that. Time for something new, and “Homecoming” delivers.  

A diverse-and-talented supporting cast, a focus on the technology of Tony Stark’s Spidey suit, and a real “high school feel” distinguish “Homecoming” from any other Spider-Man story to date. 

Are there changes? Yes, but the tweaks to the Spider-Man legend feel authentic and necessary, not forced. 

The story is fresh. It’s fun. And that’s a good thing. 


Homage to the Classics
 

Despite the new direction, though, there is a danger in superhero storytelling in senselessly straying too far from classic roots. Consider the 2015 “Fantastic Four” movie if you doubt me here. 

Fortunately, the brilliance in “Homecoming” lies in how well writers and producers weave classic Spider-Man elements into a script that’s so thoroughly new. 

Classic Spidey characters? Check. Classic Spidey villains? Check. Teenage drama (because Spider-Man is, after all, a kid)? Check.  

These elements are still here. In fact, they help “Homecoming” feel more like a true Spider-Man story than anything we’ve seen since “Spider-Man 2” – a true “homecoming” for the character in every sense of the word. 

True Spider-Man enthusiasts will appreciate the many nods to classic Spidey stories and characters throughout “Homecoming.” It’s filled with just enough sly winks and Easter eggs to pay homage to a classic character in a new world. 

That’s clever storytelling. 


A Stark Contrast
 

We get just enough of Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark and Iron Man. Not a mere cameo appearance. Not too much. Just right. 

Downey, Jr.’s “Captain America: Civil War” chemistry with Tom Holland is just as fun here, but even more compelling because Tony Stark’s mentorship of an eager Peter Parker gives us insight into Stark’s constantly evolving character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The brashness remains, but there’s something more, too – a selflessness and a recognition that with great power comes great responsibility. 

The fact that Peter Parker is learning this life lesson from Tony Stark instead of his Uncle Ben is both a brilliant twist on a classic Spidey story and an indication of just how much Stark has evolved from his introduction in “Iron Man” in 2008. 

It’s a stark contrast from the Tony we met nine years ago. “Homecoming” is more than a Peter Parker story. It’s a Tony Stark story, too, one that will likely spin right into next year’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” 


Michael Keaton’s Villainy
 

It’s no secret I love movie villains. Trust me – Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (the Vulture) ranks right up there with Alfred Molina’s Dr. Otto Octavius in “Spider-Man 2” as one of the best Spidey villains ever. 

In fact, Keaton’s Vulture is both sinister and sympathetic, a complexity that makes him one of the best MCU villains, too, because despite the technology that defines his character, he’s so often so human in this story. We’ve missed this complexity in MCU villains, but Keaton delivers it here.

It’s Keaton’s ability to find the humanity within the sinister Vulture that makes him so scary, so perfect for “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” 


Tom Holland IS Spider-Man
 

Tobey Maguire was great. Despite the scripts, Andrew Garfield was better. But, in “Homecoming,” Tom Holland delivers the best live-action performance of Spider-Man ever. 

Holland is everything Peter Parker must be: uncertain but eager, nerdy but fun, clumsy but heroic. And it’s Peter Parker’s heroism in spite of his Spidey-suit where Holland really shines.  

Spider-Man is supposed to be the most human of heroes in spite of his gifts. No actor has more exemplified this trait and better personified the character than Tom Holland does. And, it doesn’t hurt that Holland has brilliant chemistry with every other actor in the movie.  


Smaller Piece to a Larger Story
 

Finally, I suspect that the legacy of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” will only grow as we move closer to and even beyond “Avengers: Infinity War.” 

All previous Spider-Man movies built the Spidey-verse, but “Homecoming” is a part of something larger – an entire universe of superheroes. Without being specific (spoilers, after all), there’s more going on beyond just a really fun, creative Spider-Man story.  

How this story – this piece — fits into the larger MCU puzzle remains to be seen, but the Spider-Man we meet here will continue to evolve in and beyond upcoming movies. For that reason “Spider-Man: Homecoming” will eventually be seen as a homecoming for a classic character poised to be an essential part of a constantly expanding Marvel universe.  

That alone makes it’s among the most significant Spider-Man movies ever.  

Spider-Nerd ranks Spidey movies with ‘Homecoming’ only moments away

I’m moments away from a highlight of my summer – my viewing of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Yes, I am posting this from the theater. Opening previews be damned. 

There’s something incredible about losing yourself in the world of a story, and movies are, at their core, stories. The comic book nerd and storyteller in me hopes that Spidey’s latest adventure will be among his best.  

In the meantime, to prepare for “Homecoming,” I spent the last week re-watching the five previous Spider-Man movies. Essential research, after all.  I didn’t include the incredibly entertaining “Captain America: Civil War” in that batch, since it is primarily a Cap/Avengers movie, but let’s face it – Tom Holland’s Spider-Man debut and his scenes with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark were highlights of the movie.

Where will Holland’s Spider-Man and “Homecoming” rank in the Spidey-verse of movies? I’m guessing among the best, but before finding out, here’s my unofficial comic nerd rating of the last five Spider-Man movies, in reverse order, of course: 

5. “Spider-Man 3” (2007) 

An unsympathetic Peter Parker controlled by a symbiote, a Topher Grace miscast as Venom, and a plot that barely brings all the pieces together make this my least favorite. Great Spider-Man/Sandman action sequences and an interesting-if-overshadowed villain performance by Thomas Haden Church as the Sandman are highlights, though. 

4. “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012) 

Spot-on chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Ben and May Parker, and an interesting mystery twist on Peter’s Spider-Man origin story all work well here, but where is the lighthearted Spider-Man we all know and love?  

3. “Spider-Man” (2002) 

How can you not love one of the best superhero origin stories of all time? Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson deliver here, and so does Willem Defoe’s Norman Osborn, one of the best super villain portrayals ever. This movie sets up the Spider-Man trilogy perfectly. I’ve watched this movie so many times. It’s cliché to say, but the story and the movie withstand the test of time. 

2. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) 

Many won’t agree with placing this above “Spider-Man,” but I love it slightly more in my heart because Andrew Garfield IS Peter Parker/Spider-Man in this movie. Despite the film’s flaws, Garfield delivers the best Spidey performance to date in this movie (we’ll see if that’s still the case after “Homecoming”). True Spider-Man historians know how this story plays out before the movie even begins, but the Garfield/Emma Stone chemistry and strong writing deliver an homage to the Peter Parker-Gwen Stacy romance, and the movie’s final battle scene and conclusion are powerful.  

1. “Spider-Man 2” (2004) 

The best. My favorite. This is, above all else, a Peter Parker story. The second movie both honors the 2002 original and brilliantly sets up the third installment. It not only features the most satisfying conclusion in all of the movies, but includes brilliant emotional and action scenes (look for Spider-Man saving the city from a runaway train) and the best Spidey villain portrayal of all – Alfred Molina’s Dr. Otto Octavius, a bad guy we both sympathize with and fear (those mechanical arms are just creepy). This is, in my opinion, the best Spider-Man story. 

So, where will “Spider-Man: Homecoming” rank on my list?  

I’m about to find out.