“Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) isn’t a bad movie. To the contrary, it’s a very good one — I would even rate it a 9 out of 10, if a little reluctantly.
The action, humor, surprises and special effects are all top-notch; it’s got a slew of fun Easter eggs and great continuity within the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and Michael Keaton hits it out of the park as the story’s villain. (As Ed Harris did recently with HBO’s “Westworld,” the sublimely likable Keaton really surprised me with how he could become so intimidating.) Furthermore, the screenwriters wisely omit another redundant re-telling of the web-slinger’s origin. (Even a die-hard fan like me is sick of seeing or reading about it.)
I think your enjoyment of this movie might vary according to what you want Spider-Man to be. This isn’t a movie in which Peter Parker or his alter ego stand out as his own man (despite its plot resolution’s heavy-handed efforts to tell us that). I submit that it’s fairly undistinguished as a standalone superhero film — it feels like an ancillary, companion film to the “Avengers” movies, including last year’s de facto installment, “Captain America: Civil War.” Indeed, fan-favorite Tony Stark is “Spider-Man: Homecoming’s” most significant supporting character — far more than any of the many friends, family, love interests or villains that have long inhabited the iconic hero’s mythos. Peter’s primary motivation throughout the movie is his desire to become an Avenger, like a normal kid would aspire to the varsity football team. Many of his powers stem from a ultra-high-tech costume designed and given to him by Iron Man; it even has an advanced A.I. that is a femme fatale equivalent of J.A.R.V.I.S. (Fun fact: that alluring voice belongs to none other than the alluring Jennifer Connelly. The actress is the wife of Paul Bettany, who is the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. and then the actor portraying The Vision. And Connelly herself played the love interest of 1991’s mostly forgotten “The Rocketeer,” a World War II-era hero with the a similar character concept to Iron Man.)
I was a big fan of Spider-Man in the 1990’s, and, believe me, the ol’ web-head did just fine with his own powers, intelligence and character — and without any sort of “internship” with Iron Man, either metaphorically or otherwise. He was also a far more popular character with readers. I was buying comics regularly between 1991 and 1996 — while Spider-Man books and merchandise were everywhere, I don’t think I ever remember seeing an “Iron Man” comic on the racks at my local comic shop. I kept thinking inwardly of Spider-Man during this movie as “Iron Man Jr.,” and, for me, that wasn’t a good thing.
I also found myself musing during the film that this felt like “Spider-Man Lite.” While “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was fun, it doesn’t have the depth, character development or gravitas of the Sam Raimi trilogy. (Yes, I even liked the third one, despite its bizarre flaws.) I know that critics are praising the movie’s lighter tone, and I realize the need to avoid a simple rehash of the Raimi films. (Nobody would want that; we can rightfully expect more from the excellent MCU.) I actually prefer the Raimi films, though. While Tom Holland might be the better Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire was a strange casting choice), the Raimi movies were more … heartfelt. They were an earnest exploration of the Spider-Man of the comics, and they felt … truer. “Homecoming,” in contrast, is yet another cool installment in the “Avengers” series. “Spider Man 2” came out 13 years ago, and I can still remember how that movie made me feel — not to mention how its sheer quality vindicated “comic book movies” like no other film before it. This new movie will not be memorable that way.
Anyway, although my criticisms above are obviously lengthy, please know that this is only because I love the source material so much — and we comic book fans have a tendency to analyze. I certainly enjoyed the movie, and I’d cheerfully recommend it. (Note my rating.) The MCU continues to entertain with quality movies; its consistency, even with its expanding group of ongoing Netflix series, is kind of astonishing.
Go see this. You’ll have fun.