Rating: B, in a “meh” way.
Synopsis: Peter Parker gets a third first movie.
Let it be known- The original Spider-man with Toby Maguire is my ideal template for an introductory comic book-based movie. Spider-man 2 is in my top 3 comic-book based movies of all time (X-2 is number one and Civil War can take number 2). I don’t base this off the adaptation of characters or story, but how the work performed as a movie. Somewhere, comic book fans are slamming their heads on their desks, but whatever.
Overall, I feel wholly satisfied with Maguire’s two outings as Spidey (unlike John, I don’t acknowledge the third). I haven’t even seen the Andrew Garfield versions because do I need to? But the Avengers exist now! We haven’t seen an Avengers version of Spidey! But we’ve had two intro movies. Do we really need a third first movie for Peter Parker?
Ok, maybe not a third first movie. It’s not a traditional intro movie in the sense that we are shown how he gets his powers and adjusts to them. I get that the movie takes place around Civil War and eventually all Avengers standalones come together. However, as a so-called introduction piece, this never feels like a standalone movie, which is really important for a character’s/series’ (in this case, actor’s) first foray. I’m led to believe Holland’s series is never going to be quite his own- I don’t know if we’ll ever get a movie based on the neighborhood friendly superhero in his natural environment.
Plotwise, Homecoming is simple. The villain is a wronged post-Avengers survivor, whose business and career were ruined by Tony Stark’s Damage Control. Meanwhile, Peter Parker is getting used to his new suit that gives him abilities beyond his wildest dreams. He is also trying to convince Tony Stark and Happy Hogan he is ready for the Avengers, but Tony wants him to stay home and think on a smaller, neighborhood community level. There’s a lot of “Be true to yourself!” and self-discovery themes going on here. While Homecoming is entertaining and a good time on a surface-level sense, there’s a sense of “meh” to it. The story itself is fine. Tom Holland is appropriately funny and shows a strong first outing. Michael Keaton is great. The CG is fine, minus the camouflage-invisible plane. I think it makes a good, adventurous romp. As an introductory superhero foray, there are some elements that just don’t work for me.
I think a lot of this has to do with the supporting roles surrounding Parker that lend a lot of helping hands. Holland is heavily supported and he has a lot of people to banter with. I like his delivery for the most part and he has good eagerness. Outside of the fight scenes, Parker is able to find his way or solve his problem by talking to Ned, Tony Stark, and Happy. He spends a lot of time talking to his suit. Too much time talking to his suit. With so many people to bounce off, it’s just a little too easy for him. The stakes don’t feel as high. It’s very much a guarded, safe movie.
And there’s a lot, a lot, a lot of Robert Downey, Jr. An overwhelming amount. I understand that Holland’s arc in Homecoming is from wanting to be a part of the team that saves the world to “Nah, maybe just New York,” but the final moments feel lazy with no emotional tie to his community. The ferry scene, reminiscent of Spider-man 2’s train sequence, could have evoked this sense of “protecting the home,” but instead this is given to Peter’s unpreparedness.
I can’t help but compare this to the original Maguire movies, who really carried the Spider-man movies on his own. We got those montage scenes in the first one as he’s figuring out his powers on a very small, personal, accessible level and in the second, he’s struggling how to balance each side of himself. We see him accepting who he is and maturing into the role. Holland’s arc is a little reversed- here, he’s given all the tools to becoming THE Spider-man- he just doesn’t know how to use them. Back to that suit, a lot is devoted to “If you need the suit to make the man, you don’t deserve it!” which is more or less fulfilled by the end- but there is a lot of time devoted to his banter with “Suit Lady.” I wish we had more time with Spider-man minus the suit as I would have felt more connected to Peter the Human and Spider-man the Person. There’s no internal or natural thought process that cause us to root for or believe in Peter without the suit and so the reflective moment towards the end doesn’t have quite the same punch to it. It doesn’t have that grounded, personal sense to it.
The question still stands: Do we need a third first movie for Peter Parker?
The answer is… maybe? Can’t we just have a post-Civil War Spiderman without any Avengers?
I think crossovers are great when they are used appropriately- the Marvel Universe is just getting smaller and smaller. (I’m hoping Black Panther just makes a few references to Civil War and lets Chadwick Boseman gets to do his thing). It’s a little disappointing as you could probably cut out all the scenes Tony Stark is in, remove some of the suit’s abilities, and have a stronger, purely Spider-man-based movie. I think one of the highlights of Spider-man’s character (and for me, with most people-with-powers movies) was Peter’s tie to his humanity. We connect with his adolescent uncertainty and how the suit makes him feel more confident. We identify with his feeling helpless in ordinary clothing as an ordinary human being. Homecoming touches upon these things but doesn’t really drive them home. I have no doubt that Holland can play a good Peter, but I’m hoping for less Avengers next time to really let him shine.