Spider-Man Homecoming is the sixth film featuring the web-head in the past 15 years, and brings with it the third different actor to play the role of the titular character. Third time seems to be the charm for Spider-Man, as this iteration of the character is the best one yet, despite the film itself having a few flaws.
The best decision made for the film was the choice to skip the origin story. By this point, Spider-Man’s origin is as well-known as any superhero, and no one needed to or wanted to see Uncle Ben get shot again. Skipping that allows the film to dive right into the real meat of the story, as well as allowing time for the villain to be developed.
The MCU has been fairly notorious for its poor villains in their films, as very few of them are memorable. Even outside of the origin films, the villains are usually the weakest part of the film, even among the better ones in the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy is widely seen as one of the best in the series, and it has one of the worst villains of them all. Only the Winter Soldier and Loki are able to stand out as memorable villains, and the first one isn’t even a villain anymore.
The fact that Homecoming has not only a memorable villain, but a very good one automatically gives it a leg up on some other films in the MCU as well as amongst other comic book films. Michael Keaton’s role as Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. The Vulture is on par with the villains of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. He is one of the most fleshed out villains in the MCU, and as a result, is one of the most understandable and sympathetic ones too. The film begins with him leading a crew to clean up some of the aftermath of, “The Incident” from The Avengers. But he and his team are forced off the assignment when a government program partners with Tony Stark to take over. Having his contract terminated, and losing all of the money he invested in the project, he decides to go ahead and keep some of the alien items for himself to make up some of the cash he lost. Move ahead a few years, and he and his crew are now black market arms dealers working with stolen equipment and weapons from the various catastrophes that have taken place in the MCU.
The Vulture is easily one of the best, and most fleshed out villains in the MCU.
First of all, this is a very nice idea. The idea of a black market popping up around weapons made from alien parts, discarded or broken iron man equipment, pieces of Ultron and whatever else these guys can get their hands on is a very good one. It not only raises the stakes of this film in particular, but it places a level of consequences to everything that happens in the MCU as a whole. As for the Vulture, he is effective while being a bit of a cliché. He is the working class man who has been pushed around by the wealthy for too long decided to take action against them. This has been done many, many times, but it still works here. It adds a layer of depth to a character that makes him less of a sinister type of threat, but more of an understandable one, and is a more complex and compelling character as a result.
Enough about the villain, it is time focus on the man whose name is on the marquee- well, not quite a man, but you get the idea. Tom Holland is the best big screen Spider-Man so far. He plays a much younger Peter Parker- only 15 in the film- and he is able to pull off that youthfulness far more effectively than Andrew Garfield did, and he is simply more energetic and fun than Toby Maguire.
Spider-Kid just doesn’t sound as impressive as Spider-Man.
This youthfulness does play a part in the film’s weaknesses, however. The first time we see Spider-Man in action, he is doing the best he can to impress Iron Man so that he can become a full time Avenger. This involves helping old ladies cross the street, stopping bicycle thieves and preventing car thefts which may or may not have been actual thefts. Along the way, he is very much acting like a kid which is made painfully apparent. The shtick was fun at first, but it wears on a little too long, and drags the later parts of the first act down. There is one sequence in particular where he is attempting to chase a van through the suburbs and he repeatedly crashes into people’s yards. This goes on a little too long, and there are a few other times in which his youth is played as a gag that outstays its welcome. Fortunately, the second half of the film has fewer of these moments as Spider-Man gets more mature and serious about what his role in everything that is going on.
The other weakness of the film that stood out a little more than others was the character of MJ. She is…weird. MJ has typically been this foxy lady whose famous first words are, “Face it tiger, you hit the jackpot.” Granted, that was in 1966, so the language may be a bit different today, but the core of the character was one that fairly bold and outgoing. This MJ, however, is a quirky and strange individual. That is not necessarily a bad thing; different takes on a character are always interesting. The negative aspect comes in the fact that the character makes almost no difference on the plot, and she is thus irrelevant for a vast majority of the film. Hell, her character is only officially reveled as MJ at the very tail end of the film. What was the point of even having the character in it? There was already a love interest for Peter Parker in this, so not only was MJ not really needed, but she was in it and did almost nothing. As good as many of the decisions were in this film, this one stands out as something that doesn’t really work.
All that being said, this is a quality film. Is it the best Spider-Man film? That is difficult to say; the first two were both very good, and have a very different interpretation on the character. (Plus it has simply been too long since I have seen them, so I cannot make a conclusive statement here) But it is definitely better than the previous three, and it stacks up favorably to most superhero films that have come out recently. It is a refreshing and fun take on a very well-known character which should set up a revival of sorts for Spider-Man on the big screen.