Spider-Man: Homecoming review

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How else would you spend your summer vacation?

I’m a huge hero fan, and have been reading comics for decades. Yes, decades. So I like to think I’m at least a decent judge of hero movies. I’ll sum this up quickly and then go in to detail later. Spider-Man: Homecoming is fantastic. It’s a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’d say the best Spider-Man movie I’ve ever seen. And I liked the Tobey Maguire ones. At least the first one.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big place already. So how do you work in new characters and make them fit? In this case, effortlessly. The big plot actually hinges around something that fits in perfectly with the other movies, specifically Avengers, Winter Soldier, and Civil War. The Vulture is very different from the comics, but, as with the vast majority of changes they made for the movies, it works perfectly well and is an arguable improvement. Even Vulture’s name works better in this version.

One of the things I salute the writers for is that they do NOT do the origin again. I think at this point, we can live without seeing Superman, Batman, Hulk, or Spider-Man’s origin on screen again. Really, how many times do they need to kill Thomas and Martha Wayne or Uncle Ben? They spare us this and the first several scenes are skips in time.

The first scene gives us the new Vulture’s origin, and it’s very well done, fits the greater Marvel Universe, and makes him almost a sympathetic character. Then, we see Spider-Man’s part in the Civil War from his side. It’s entertaining, and very true to Peter Parker as a young kid. We also learn that Peter has been handed off to Happy Hogan by Tony Stark, making Stark a mentor at one remove. A lot of the early movie is Peter being very frustrated by the restrictions put on him by Tony, both directly and in the really amazing costume Stark built him.

But, Peter has always been a genius, and his school friends tend to be as well. So, when Peter has a few misadventures and his geek friend helps him out, they do the equivalent of the kids hacking the parental controls on the cable tv. Stark plays the disapproving mentor as Peter goes on to more and more heroics, while Peter is the eager young hero, trying to both do what’s right and earn Stark’s approval.

A lot of the time, high school drama can be eye-rolling boring, especially to adults. My high school days are (thankfully) far in the past, but I was actually entertained. Peter’s friends are fun, his main sidekick, Ned, manages to be both comic relief and actually useful. And I give high praise to the writers for both Easter Eggs and using comic fans’ knowledge against them. I won’t say who, but at least one character seems to be a new version of one of Peter’s early supporting characters, and the twist they work in here is amazingly well done.

For sharp-eyed fans, we see versions not only of Peter, May, and the Vulture, but the Shocker, Scorpion, and I really wonder about one possible addition. Several times, we see a girl with white hair who always wears black. Is this a nod to the Black Cat? The new Flash Thompson is still obnoxious, but not a jock this time.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that Peter and Stark have a falling out, and Stark takes back the costume. This is when Peter digs deep and becomes the hero we all know and love. His “original” costume, before Stark, looks a lot like another spider character, the Scarlet Spider. The twists of his pursuit of the Vulture are wonderfully well done, and I didn’t see them coming at all. Stark isn’t a major character, but his scenes are important and help guide the movie. There are also cameos by one other Avenger and another character I really thought would never be seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe again.

The special effects are great. Spider-Man’s speed and powers come across fantastically, and the fight scenes are really well done. Iron Man’s few appearances are well executed, and the plot twists all throughout are surprising but they work. I was impressed by this movie on every level.

Hero movies are not usually known for their acting and that’s often fair enough. But I have to give huge points to Tom Holland. He not only looks the part, and has some really impressive gymnastic skills without powers, but he’s a skilled actor. When Peter gets a date (a rare Parker triumph that of course goes horribly wrong later), the range of emotion on his face flits from joy to surprise to “What just happened?” in a few moments and it’s really well done. Holland is young (not as young as Parker, but young) and I could see a great career ahead of him. Marisa Tomei does a fine job as Aunt May, as well.

Now as much as I loved this movie, I won’t say it was perfect. There were three points that kind of blipped on my radar. They weren’t major, and the movie was still fantastic, but I have a few questions/concerns. The first was that Peter’s Scarlet/first costume has fingerless gloves. For someone so concerned with hiding his identity, he’s going around leaving fingerprints everywhere? Second, Tony Stark was the poster boy for the Sokovia Accords. He insisted on pushing Registration to the point where he fought Captain America over it. But Peter still has a secret ID, so he’s not registered, and Stark is mentoring him? That’s a bit odd. And one of Spider-Man’s trademark powers is wholly absent. I’ll grant it makes him almost unbeatable in a fight, but there’s not a hint of his Spider Sense that warns him of danger. There’s not really much about him being a photographer, either, but I could see that coming later. Those to one side, I will once again bemoan the general trend of hero movies to have the secret ID not even last the whole movie (too many learn it in this one) and for the masked hero to wander around in public with no mask. I don’t know if that’s a director thing, a actor vanity thing, or something else, but it needs to stop. If you sign up to play a masked hero, you’re going to be wearing a mask. The mask issue is in the Marvel Universe and the DC tv shows.

What I liked: Just about everything. The action and effects were fantastic. The movie fits seamlessly into the Marvel Universe but stands alone. Tom Holland is brilliant. The plot twists are really well done, and the new origin for Vulture (and Shocker for that matter) actually make a lot more sense than their comic book counterparts. Iron Man’s presence was important, but not overwhelming. And the cameos were great. There are two credit scenes… kind of. One is great. The soundtrack is even good, with a nod to the cartoon theme and the Avengers movie theme.

What I didn’t: I mention most of that above. The gloves, the Sokovia Accords paradox, the Spidey sense being missing. And all of those are small quibbles. It’s a phenomenal movie.

I’ll give this a 4.5 out of 5. Spider-Man started off great in Civil War, and this is a wonderful continuation for him.

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