What has always drawn me to the Spider-Man comics and films is that Spider-Man is a New Yorker who goes to a NYC high school just as I did. The essence of “Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” is that he is of the city, of its streets, and looks out for its people – the good citizens of town while fighting its bad guys.
Director John Watts has crafted Spider-Man: Homecoming as an homage to the city that Peter Parker calls home, and the story written by Watts (and seven other writers) seems to bring us much closer to Stan Lee (who once again has a cameo) and Steve Ditko’s comic book version of the character.
In the previous films both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield appeared to be much older than the high school kid Peter was supposed to be. Tom Holland seems much younger than his age (21) and does a terrific job of making Parker seem like a real high school kid who is nervous around the beautiful Liz (Laura Harrier) and tries to do well in his classes, but has to hide his alter ego from his friends and his Aunt May (a lovely performance by Marisa Tomei).
The story also presents a compelling villain in Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton) who is not all evil and has his own compelling back story. Watching Keaton inhabit this role is a true joy, and the thought of him in two Batman films becomes subsumed by his work in Birdman with that character being most compellingly similar to Vulture in this film.
Keaton’s Toomes is as much of a New Yorker as Holland’s Parker, and what compels Peter to want to protect his city is far different than what motivates Toomes to go rogue after the Department of Damage Control takes over a salvage operation involving Manhattan buildings damaged by the Avengers in battle. Toomes is enraged that the wealthy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) can wield his power and take away work from him and his men, and this leads him to walk on the dark side.
Toomes has uncovered some powerful alien weaponry from the wreckage and decides not to give it back. He and his men start selling the weapons on the black market, and Toomes directs Phineas (Michael Chernus), one of his henchmen who has advanced technological skills, to develop the technology and create the Vulture suit that gives Toomes super strength and the ability to fly.
After Spidey stops the sale of some of these weapons, that event puts him and Vulture on a collision course throughout the rest of the film. There are some terrific battle sequences between them, and the most stunning takes place in New York harbor on the Staten Island Ferry. During this ferocious fight Toomes/Vulture shows his complete disdain for his fellow New Yorkers, while Parker/Spider-Man displays his total dedication to a mission to save human lives.
At this point we reach spoiler territory, but I have no qualms about telling you that the rest of the way is a thrilling ride. Salvatore Totino’s cinematography gives new meaning to breathtaking, and shots high above New York and atop the Washington Monument will amaze while also making those with acrophobia squirm in their seats. Michael Giacchino’s score enhances the action without ever being overwhelming, and Watts displays a fine ability of giving a scene the right amount of time to evolve without stretching it beyond dramatic intensity.
It is also welcome to see Spider-Man fully accepted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe here, so unlike in Captain America: Civil War where Holland’s Spidey is given a somewhat short end of the stick. Tony Stark/Iron Man has enough appearances throughout to make the connection stronger, but he also becomes a mentor and something of a father figure for Parker, though much to Stark's chagrin. It is also always delightful to have Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan around for some comic relief.
What also stands out is how Watts gets the high school scenes right, with enough tension between Peter and the others like Zendaya’s acerbic Michelle and Tony Revolori’s annoying Flash questioning why Peter is always disappearing at important moments. Jacob Batalon does an outstanding job as Peter’s best friend Ned, a Lego building/tech wiz who discovers Peter’s secret identity and cannot contain his enthusiasm. Ned also has the single funniest line in the film when he gets confronted by a teacher while using a school computer to help Peter. The entire audience erupted in laughter, and I rarely see that happen anymore.
Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is nothing like previous Spidey films and everything that they should have been. It feels fresh, exciting, and invigorates the character, much of this having to do with Holland’s inspired performance.
This film is highly recommended to be seen on the big screen to fully appreciate its majestic panoramas and awesome battle sequences. Oh, and stay on through the credits because there is a little scene squeezed in there that you won’t want to miss.