“With great power comes great responsibility.”
That line is never uttered in Spider-Man: Homecoming (out July 7), but its message acts as the crux of Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) journey, which shows how he copes with post-Civil War life and teenage angst. Rather than forcing audiences to re-live Parker’s origin story, Homecoming is a more intimate story about him maturing from an enthusiastic and eager super-human to someone who comes to better understand the world.
By the end of the movie, his arc reaches a satisfying conclusion, while leaving audiences wanting more. And audiences will get more, too. Not only is Holland’s Spidey expected to appear in both upcoming Avengers films, but Marvel already confirmed the sequel to Homecoming will lead Marvel’s Phase 4.
Tom Holland is fantastic
As we saw in Captain America: Civil War, Holland is the perfect choice to play Peter Parker, not only because he imbues the character with humor and charm, but he brings a youthful exuberance. And he perfectly nails the peaks and valleys of emotion Peter experiences.
In the film, he’s just a young kid trying to grapple with his life as a student and Avenger-in-training. It’s an entertaining juggling act that unfolds believably over the movie’s runtime (which never felt long or drawn out). And the really impressive thing is Holland makes the character eminently relatable, whether he’s building the LEGO Death Star with his buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) or attempting to save his friends from certain death.
Although this is only Holland’s second turn as Spidey, he’s already made the character his own. The great thing is he’s not perfect either. In Homecoming, he screws up quite a bit, but he’s guided by a moral compass that makes you root for him no matter what bone-headed decisions he makes.
The villain is menacing
Michael Keaton has a presence no matter what movie or character he’s playing, and his turn as Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture) is menacing and, at times, frightening. He’s not in Homecoming quite as much as the trailers suggest, but he evolves into a great antagonist who provides Peter with a big challenge.
When Homecoming starts out, we learn about Toomes and why he turns to villainy in the first place. He sees people like Tony Stark and the other one percent as the enemy for making working-class people like him so disposable. Early in the film, a significant event puts him on a dark path in which he never turns back.
His arc is pretty cliche in that he leads a criminal life in order to provide his family with a good life. But what he does is never reconciled with his need to protect his family. He’s selling dangerous alien weapons to criminals, yet he tells Peter he does it out of the love of his family.
This element is never fully explored, as we only get a tiny glimpse at his family life. Still, it’s a heart-wrenching—albeit familiar—story that springs Peter into action in an effort to keep his Queens neighborhood (and New York City) safe.
What I love about Keaton’s casting is he has so much conviction when delivering lines. There’s a scene when he and Peter are talking in private and he’s truly terrifying. On the flip side of that, he’s charming and driven, though ultimately less fleshed out than we would have hoped.
Not every superhero movie needs to be about the world’s fate hanging in the balance. That’s what next year’s Avengers: Infinity War is for. What makes movies like Homecoming work so well is they provide our heroes with smaller, more believable stakes.
Once Peter returns from his big airport fight in Berlin, he’s just a normal kid doing normal things. Soon, however, he gets anxious and starts fighting crime around his city. But even then he starts to feel like he’s not fulfilling his newfound potential.
This is where his maturity comes into play. He finds out the hard way that the decisions he makes have real consequences, even if he is capable of stopping a bus with his bare hands. One of the big decisions he’s constantly grappling with is how his crime-fighting will affect his academics—and his relationship with a classmate named Liz (Liz Harrier), whom Peter has a crush on.
Additionally, he soon has to contend with his identity being revealed to Ned, who is in such disbelief that he drops the LEGO Death Star into bits. It’s a fun dynamic and allows the film to drop some backstory about Peter and his Aunt May without wasting entire sequences on the “how” and “why.”
The MCU is very much at the forefront
Although the stakes are smaller, the movie has no problems with letting you know that Spider-Man exists in a much larger universe. Not only does Peter have an “internship” with Tony Stark, but we see videos of Captain America, and there are several nods to Peter’s time in Berlin, too.
The very existence of the MCU is actually what drives Keaton’s Vulture into a life of crime. As someone who is tasked to clean up the damage left behind from the infamous Chitauri invasion, there are numerous references to alien technology and the Avengers who, for all we know, are on vacation just hanging out.
Despite the insistence by the filmmakers that Spidey exists in the MCU, all the references feel natural. And there are no forced plot points to expand the universe or setup threads up that won’t pay off for a few years. Homecoming is simply concerned with Peter’s life at school and his attempt to bring down the Vulture.
Again, it makes for a much more relatable character.
I can’t wait to see more
It’s cool to see Spidey as a young, vulnerable superhero, someone who is willing to put his life in danger yet is terrified to express his feeling to a girl he likes. Homecoming is a true coming-of-age story, exactly like the John Hughes films it was attempting to imitate.
I do wish there was more emphasis on New York City and Peter’s home in Queens; in Spider-Man films, the city always acts as a secondary character, but it was essentially nonexistent in Homecoming.
However, there are still plenty of fantastic action sequences and the relationship between Peter and Tony Stark is a delight to watch. And seeing a grumpy Happy Hogan is always good for a laugh or two.
Homecoming is by no means the best MCU film, but it’s a great way and believable way to integrate and establish Spider-Man as a mainstay. Now that we have a more mature Peter, I can’t wait to see what he does next.