If Tom Holland didn’t convince you he was a worthy Spider-Man back in his short yet largely lauded role in Captain America: Civil War role last year, he is sure to win you over in the first few minutes of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Holland puts his winning boyish charm on full display in the opening sequence which shows us just how Spider-Man ended up on that tarmac in Berlin for the climactic team fight in Civil War via some amateur footage Pete shot on his cellphone while simultaneously facing off against some of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. No big deal, right?
Despite it being the sixth Spider-Man movie in 15 years (third in the last five), Homecoming feels brand new. This is largely due to the youthful cast that breathe some new life and millennial sensibilities into a cinematic universe full of mostly middle-aged males. Leading up to its release, Homecoming had been widely compared to John Hughes’ classic coming-of-age films from the ‘80s (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club). Sure enough, one of the funnier sequences in the film, one which sees Spider-Man without a skyscraper in sight to latch onto and swing from, blatantly pays homage to one of Hughes’ more famous films: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. We certainly do get to see Peter struggle with very typical 15-year-old boy problems like crushing on a senior girl and being called “Penis Parker” by a lame bully. This all, of course, while also struggling with his need to want to do more with his powers than simply chase down bike thieves across Queens, despite being told by his absent-pseudo-father figure, Tony Stark, to temper his ambitions. Robert Downey Jr. shines in his limited scenes and brings just the right amount of humor and authority, though never actually taking the spotlight from our favorite webslinger at any point.
While world-building is an important and prevalent part of most MCU installments, to the point many fans argue some of their films feel like two-hour long trailers setting up other upcoming films, it is refreshing to have a film that tells a captivating story while not sacrificing runtime for the sake of shameless self-advertising. Homecoming manages to find the perfect balance of humor, action, and heart and as a result, is able to tell a wonderfully composed and mostly self-contained Spider-Man origin story — one that gives audiences enough credit to gloss over the common knowledge radioactive spider bite that grants Peter his powers and death of Uncle Ben which have taken up sizable chunks of its predecessors.
Homecoming’s greatest achievement might be how it proves that audiences don’t need world-shattering, cataclysmic events to keep them invested. Nothing that happens in Homecoming has some cosmic ramification; the focus, instead, is more so on the impact of post-The Avengers events on the everyday person who now lives in a world where superheroes swooping in to save the day is just part of the norm. In the overall scheme of things, Adrian Toomes, a.k.a The Vulture, (Michael Keaton) is as small-time as primary antagonists get in the MCU, yet Michael Keaton succeeds in making a historically laughable villain into a truly imposing and commanding presence on the screen. Channeling the likes of anti-hero icons Tony Soprano and Walter White, Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is the blue-collar worker turned criminal mastermind and leader of a gang of baddies who have harnessed Chitauri tech to create weapons that they use and sell in order to provide for their families. There is actually a fascinating reason behind Toomes’ descent into villainy, one which is likely to make audiences pause and consider if there is, perhaps, some justification behind his change in worldview and subsequent actions. Truly complex villains, that is, villains that we might find ourselves seriously sympathizing with, are hard to come by in this universe inhabited by a killer sentient robot with daddy issues, a literal god of mischief, and Lee Pace dressed up as an over-sized angry smurf, but Toomes breaks the mold and is one of the most resonating and compelling parts of the entire film.
More than just the film’s sub-title, Homecoming serves as the long-awaited reunion and seamless induction ceremony of Marvel’s most popular hero into their ever-expanding MCU, which was always missing its quirky little webhead. Marvel has proven that Spidey is in great hands and we can only hope that Sony plays ball and Tom Holland’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is here to stay for the foreseeable future, perhaps even anchoring a new Avengers team someday.
Mario Avalos is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, along with certificates in Film Studies and Professional and Public Writing.