With great intellectual property rights comes great responsibility. Marvel and Sony are finally working together to bring us a Spider-Man movie set in the popular, ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is the 16th movie in the massive franchise). The movie has all of the fun and excitement that are standard fare in the MCU while also taking Spidey in a fresh direction.
After the epic events of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (though it still isn’t entirely clear in what year this takes place), Peter Parker is trying to balance his life as a friendly neighborhood superhero and a normal high school student. He discovers a criminal group lead by Adrian Toomes (aka The Vulture) and has to work to stop them. The movie does a clever job of keeping this plot lines working together. It never feels like the movie gets distracted or can’t handle its different tones. In actuality, the film’s over arching plot of Peter trying to prove his self worth feels self-referential of Spider-Man’s disappointing recent history in cinema.
Following five feature films, this is a new type of Spider-Man. He is involved in activities that we haven’t seen from this character before. We get to see Peter fully in high school life. Spider-Man is seen in new locations such as the suburbs, a ferry, and an airplane. These lead to an original feel to this movie so that elements from the previous 5 movies are not seen. We don’t even get to witness the classic “spider bite” origin story, though it is referenced. It is disappointing that there are no grand, sweeping web-swinging sequences. Those were always a joy to see in the other movies, but we have seen enough of those.
The cast are all spectacular. Tom Holland is the nerdy, insecure, and ambitious Peter Parker. It feels like he is less witty than he was in ‘Civil War’, though he still has plenty of humorous moments. Robert Downey Jr. returns as the Marvel staple Tony Stark, who gets a chance to be more fatherly and redeem himself after largely being the antagonist of ‘Civil War’. He is in the movie enough to make it clear about Peter’s and Tony’s relationship dynamic, but not dominate this movie. Jon Favreau makes a welcome come back as Stark’s right hand man Happy Hogan who has been moving up in the world but is feeling overwhelmed / disgruntled about some of his responsibilities.
The new additions to the MCU are also quality characters. Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is Peter’s best friend in high school. Audiences will love him. He is quite simply what most high schoolers would be like if they found out their best friend is a superhero. Contrasting his roles of Birdman and Batman, Michael Keaton plays Vulture. Marvel has had mostly underwhelming villains in their films, but this is one of their best. Veteran actor Michael Keaton is really able to show his talents and becomes the most relatable antagonist we have seen in the MCU. Martin Starr, Zendaya, and Donald Glover also round out enjoyable cast members, although Glover was tragically underutilized given his amount of support for this movie.
The music is composed by fan favorite Michael Giacchino who comes back to the MCU after his mystic score for ‘Doctor Strange’ and the current Marvel Studios fanfare to deliver one of Marvel’s best music scores. He composed several themes for this movie including a new memorable Spider-Man theme (which also has a playful version for when Peter is being himself), a dark & menacing Vulture theme, a romance theme for Liz and Peter, and a new Iron Man theme. Sadly, we don’t get any reprise of any of the previous 4 Iron Man themes, but continuity has never been the MCU’s strong point for music. It is wonderful to hear the classic Spider-Man theme song and the Avengers theme. I could write a lot more about the music, which I did (http://gosoundtracks.com/2017/06/28/first-impressions-spider-man-homecoming-score-by-michael-giacchino/).
Like the adolescent hero, the movie is not perfect. The timing doesn’t make sense, the action scenes do not feel as visceral as we expect from modern superhero confrontations, there are still a lot of questions about how everything works (which I’ll post more about later). The movie is still very solid from start to finish.
This a superhero movie for everyone. It is a fun adventure for casual audiences and die hard fans will love the new take and loads of Marvel & Spider-Man easter eggs. It is delightful, fast paced, breezy, grounded, simple, and (most importantly) fresh. In addition, the movie presents important morals of finding your own strength within and persistence in doing the right thing. The movie’s high school setting and style pay off very well and it seems Marvel has found that putting their movies in other genres is the future of their franchise. The future looks very bright for our favorite web-head.
(Also, be sure to have patience to stay for the after credits scene)
Jon Watts’ teenage superhero action adventure SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING from Sony Pictures & Marvel Studios stars Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalan, Laura Harrier, Martin Starr, & Donald Glover and is out in theaters July 7th, 2017.
PG-13 – 2hrs 13min