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.