(This is a spoiler-free review!)
Breathe easy, Spidey fans.
With six movies in 15 years, and this being the third (THIRD!) time we’ve seen the origin of the character, it would be easy to pass Spider-Man Homecoming off as a casual watch; something you could see if you wanted to, but don’t feel like you need to. Even for the most avid Marvel fans, some of the studios’ movies are feeling more like a chore than a joy, and many are opting to skip those that don’t immediately trip their trigger. (I still haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World, and know plenty of people who’ve yet to watch Doctor Strange.)
But, to put it simply: You should absolutely go see Spider-Man Homecoming, even if you’re not a Marvel fan.
While movies like Ant Man and Doctor Strange were designed to be easier entry points into the Marvel universe by going through the characters origin and showcasing largely independent characters from the rest of the universe, they were largely underwhelming. Homecoming, however, manages to showcase a character already shown in a previous Marvel movie (Captain America: Civil War) in a way that doesn’t assume you’ve seen every second of every other Marvel movie up to that point.
But why is that the case, especially considering a key part of the current Spider-Man character is his tie to Tony Stark/Iron Man? For starters, the movie brilliantly and succinctly explains Spidey’s journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) up to the current point. This not only brings the more casual viewer up to speed, but takes such a brief time and puts such a fun spin on it, that it’s actually fun to watch for the die hard, know everything fan as well.
Secondly, for all of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark that was shown in the trailers leading up to this movie, he’s in it exactly the right amount. While his relationship with Peter Parker plays out almost beat for beat with how the trailer sets it up, the percentage of time he’s in the trailer compared to the actual movie isn’t even close to comparable. As I watched Homecoming I kept feeling a small fear in the back of my head that Iron Man was going to come in at any moment and hijack the movie, but thankfully, Marvel opted to let Tom Holland’s performance shine.
And shine he does! Holland gives us, without question, the best Peter Parker to date. Marvel has nailed the side of Parker that consists of balancing high school and being a web-slinging superhero, complete with the awkward interactions and cringe-worthy moments that’s littered many peoples’ high school years. It would almost be annoying if it wasn’t so endearing – and Holland plays earnest and well-meaning so well that it’s hard not to feel for his character as he goes through all-to-relatable growing pains. While the action in Spider-Man movies has always been good (and in Homecoming it’s great), seeing Peter Parker struggling to coexist with his superhero identity has never been translated well on screen, until now.
The supporting cast is mostly excellent. Jacob Batalon plays Peter’s best friend, and while I feared his character would be too deep into the awkward, unfunny nerd stereotype to be enjoyable, he’s written and acted so well that he was actually a highlight of the movie. Zendaya’s character, on the other hand, feels a little forced at times. Some of her jokes felt a bit out of place, especially in moments of tension and emotion, however it’s mostly fine and her character is a nice compliment to Holland’s and Batalon’s. Marisa Tomei is a fantastic Aunt May (as those who watched Civil War already knew), and Donald Glover’s small scene in the movie is arguably its funniest moment – no small feat considering how much of a joy the film is.
But, most importantly, is how good Michael Keaton is. The main complaint of Marvel movies, and rightfully so, is that the villains have been lackluster at best. Loki was the only enjoyable one at any point, and he was run so far into the ground that people are, quite frankly, tired of him. But with Keaton, Marvel have finally shown they can make a good, multi-dimensional villain that the audience can enjoy and even empathize with. I can say, without a doubt, that Keaton’s performance has delivered us the best Marvel villain to date, in any movie. It’s remarkable what establishing a sensible backstory and motive for a bad guy can do, and Keaton’s ability to be both menacing but also likable finally hits a spot that Marvel had thus far missed.
For Marvel, this combination of a quick and easy telling of an origin, wonderful blend of action, comedy, and emotion, with an enjoyable villain breathes life into a series of movies that was starting to get stale. A studio whose too consistent formula was starting to wear thin with audiences has shown they can evolve and create something new, interesting, and fun, and for the die hard and casual viewers alike, that’s exciting.
What Spider-Man Homecoming ultimately provides, whether you’ve seen other Marvel movies or not (or even if you enjoy them or not), is one of the most fun and complete movie-going experiences of the year.
Don’t miss out.