There’s something to be said for the experience of a Thursday night screening. There’s the last minute scramble to get decent seats and the delicious sense of breaking the rules that comes with getting to see something before it technically comes out. But the best part is the theater being packed with fans. Sharing that instant sense of community with a group of total strangers is part of the magic of the cinema. You are among your tribe – people who understand the film they’re about to see, it’s source material, and the industry that surrounds it. The greatest moment of my theater going experience came when Sony’s logo appeared on screen and was loudly booed by someone a few rows behind me. The whole theater burst out laughing. We, the fans, like the titular hero, have all of us come home to Marvel.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best iteration of the web slinger to hit the big screen. It completely eclipses Sony’s previous attempts at the character, gives us a fresh approach to a familiar hero, and it is saturated in Marvel’s signature style and tone. Though this funny, lighthearted romp through New York may lack some tension, it makes up for it with an irresistible excess of heart and an obvious love for its lead character.
This is the most loyal adaptation of Spider-Man to date. Comic book Spider-Man is a snarky smart ass when he’s wearing the red tights, but an awkward nerd when he’s Peter Parker. Toby Mcguire nailed the awkward nerd, but not the snarky Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield on the other hand was a much better Spider-Man, but he was a cool nerd who skateboarded around school and dated Emma Stone. He was not Peter Parker. Tom Holland is the best of both worlds.
At 21, Holland is the youngest actor to play Spider-Man and this is the youngest version of the hero to date. Parker is a mere 15 years old and still in high school (like the original comics). As such, Homecoming spends a great deal of time highlighting his youth and inexperience. This makes the film feel quite distinct from the rest of Marvel’s solo outings. It is unusual for the central narrative thrust of the film to be our hero’s inadequacy. Spider-Man wants to be an Avenger, but he’s not ready. Not yet. We see him mess up his web slinging, get one-upped by the bad guy, walk right into some social pitfalls at school, and most of all, learn, through painful trial and error, how to use the fancy suit he got from Tony Stark.
The presence of Robert Downey Jr., and through him, the rest of the MCU, is the other primary way that Homecoming distinguishes itself from its predecessors. Considering that this is the 6th outing for this character, Marvel needed to make it feel different, and since their vast wealth of intellectual property was the best tool they had at their disposal, they put the connections to their other films front and center. Iron Man pops up throughout the film as a sort of surrogate father figure, there’s an incredibly clever opening sequence that connects to Civil War, and we get the best post-credits scene to date, but the main way this manifests itself is the aforementioned new suit.
A good deal of screen time is spent on Spider-Man learning about all the fancy tech and gadgets Stark built into his suit. Since this is first and foremost a story about coming into one’s own, his discovery of his suit’s functions parallels his self discovery. Growing into the mantle of heroism is a prominent theme which the film deftly conveys without getting too heavy handed. This idea plays into the third act finale with the villain, which the film resolves a bit differently than most Marvel films, showing a good degree of self-awareness on the part of the studio.
Speaking of the villain and self-awareness, Michael Keaton’s casting as The Vulture was exquisite. This is the guy who played Batman, Birdman, and most recently, Ray Croc, the sleazy salesman behind McDonald’s in The Founder. In this film he plays The Vulture, a sleazy businessman who invents a flight suit that he uses to rob the government. I have never once asked the question, “what if the guy who founded McDonald’s was a super villain?”, but I am delighted to have it answered for me.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man to date and a clear standout for solo films in the MCU. Fast paced, exciting, funny, and full of heart, this is Marvel at their best and it is sure to please fans and general audiences alike. We can all of us be thankful that the big studios managed to share their toys, play in the same sandbox, and give us the Spider-Man film that we’ve always wanted and deserved. The only question that remains is this: how can we get Fox into this sandbox too? Because they ran off with a bunch of Marvel’s stuff back in the 90s and its about time they gave it back.