'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Review: Your Friendly (Sweet and Funny) Neighborhood Marvel Movie
By John Boone
Spider-Man made his long-awaited return to the Marvel fold in last year's Captain America: Civil War, but Spider-Man: Homecoming marks the web slinger's first solo outing within the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe -- a fact Marvel Studios won't soon let you forget, either, ingraining Spidey deeply within its franchise: The Avengers Tower is prominently featured in the posters. Iron Man is on hand to play a mentoring role, while Captain America pops up for increasingly great cameos. Students at Midtown High School study the Sokovia Accords in history class. The Battle of New York serves as the genesis for the bad guy's villainy.
Homecoming begins with a prologue set shortly after the events of The Avengers. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) heads a post-battle cleanup operation, salvaging materials left behind by the Chitauri aliens, until Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his Department of Damage Control put Toomes out of a job. "The world's changing," he announces. "It's time we changed, too." Eight years later, he's become a weapons dealer known as the Vulture.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland), meanwhile, has been dropped back into Queens and back into his real world after a weekend spent battling half the Avengers roster on an airport tarmac in Berlin. (A scene revisited via Peter's personal vlog, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the logistics of airfare and hotel accommodations often glossed over by superhero movies.) He had a taste of the superhero lifestyle and, homework be damned, eventually stumbles upon an ATM robbery that puts him directly in the Vulture's path.
There is a lot that relies on everything that's led up to Homecoming -- not the least of which is Iron Man himself, whose welcome, thankfully, is not overstayed. (Downey Jr. is also great playing off Holland.) But it's great on its own: Holland's Spider-Man continues to be a blast, and the 21-year-old seems to be having a blast playing Spidey. He is disarmingly charming in the role, sweet and soft-spoken when it's called for, or else bursting with wisecracking energy. The diverse supporting cast of high school students feels simultaneously modern, yet John Hughesian. (Zendaya is a star, but Jacob Batalon as best bud Ned is the scene-stealer.) Keaton plays the villain as mostly a blue-collar hothead, but becomes truly sinister later on. And the action sequences, where Spider-Man zips from here to there with a thwack of his wrist, value fun over coolness or badassness -- though, certainly, they are both of those, too.
Homecoming, as directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car), makes plenty of room for fun. Sixteen movies deep into the MCU, this one feels fresh, relentlessly fun and with a plucky, upbeat vigor none of the others have had. (Ant-Man, perhaps, came closest.) And it's funny, not just in the ways you chuckle intermittently throughout a summer blockbuster, but with genuine laugh out loud comedy. (Credit to the extensive list of writers on this, who hail from the likes of Community, Horrible Bosses and The LEGO Batman Movie.)
There is something here that feels younger, yes, and more impish, but also the street-level approach makes it relatable, descended from the Asgardian heavens and out of the billion-dollar tax bracket. There are so many moments that feel almost real, like how people would actually exist in a world with superheroes. (Also real? There's a bodega cat!) I can't get into what I thought the best part of the movie was -- the part of the movie that elevated it from good Marvel movie to terrific movie-movie -- because it's best to watch as unspoiled as possible. Instead, I'll say, welcome back, Spider-Man. You make a damn good addition to the Universe.