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Is ‘Spider-Man Homecoming’ the best Spider-Man movie ever?

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the webslinger’s first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but is it the best Spider-Man movie?

The latest incarnation of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) made quite an entrance in Captain America: Civil War, and audiences have been looking forward to his first stand-alone movie as Spider-Man version 3.0. On many levels, this is the best Spider-Man movie. On a few levels, however, it’s not and it is indicative of a larger problem with the accessibility of the MCU nearly 10 years after its inception.

This is a spoiler heavy review, so if you’re looking to avoid spoilers, now would be a good time to click away.

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What Came Before…

My biggest (of only a few) complaints about Spider-Man: Homecoming is that it requires some homework. If you’re new to the MCU, you’re going to be completely lost as to what’s going on. Smartly, the creatives behind this moved chose to sidestep doing yet another Spider-Man origin story in favor of dropping a modernized Peter Parker into the middle of the action.

Unlike other Avengers tie-ins like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, or even Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming requires a pretty extensive knowledge of events in the MCU. In fact, I’d say it’s the most dependent “solo” film in the MCU so far.

Newcomers with no previous knowledge of the MCU will be completely lost as Spider-Man: Homecoming feels more like another entry in The Avengers franchise than it does a proper standalone Spider-Man movie. The movie really does require that the viewer watched at least the two Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War to really get what is going on. In fact, the very scene that introduces Michael Keaton’s Vulture takes place directly after the first Avengers movie.

The film does give a nice recap of what happened during Civil War from Peter’s perspective after the opening credits. But once again, audiences who’ve never seen that movie will be totally lost as to what is going on. The MCU increasingly feels like an episode of a TV series, but without the “Previously On…” to catch new viewers up to speed.

It’s a minor quibble, and I imagine most filmgoers who are going to see this movie have at least some familiarity with the rest of the MCU, but there it is.

The Plot

Peter Parker is still dealing with the events of Captain America: Civil War, and is eagerly awaiting a call from the Avengers… that never comes. He’s having a hard time readjusting to everyday high school life, and is preoccupied with the superhero gig. He wants to get back into the action with the Avengers, but is stuck kicking around Queens dealing with small-time crooks until Tony Stark feels like taking his calls. (Which he doesn’t.)

However, playing neighborhood watchman leads to bigger things as he stumble upon some crooks using alien tech to rob a bank. The tech was sold to them by Adrian Toomes a.k.a. The Vulture (Michael Keaton) who wants to stick it to the man after losing the contract to salvage the alien Chitauri tech from The Avengers. He turns to a life of crime, selling alien tech to lowlife criminals and has his sights set on Avengers tech being transported from Stark Tower to the new Avengers HQ in upstate New York.

Yadda, yadda, yadda… Spider-Man tries to call on Stark for help, but he’s too busy partying to pay any attention to the kid. So Peter takes matters into his own hands, leading to a confrontation that nearly gets a ferry full of New Yorkers killed in the process. Stark finally shows up to give Peter a scolding, and takes away his magic high tech Spidey suit (more on that later.)

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Peter’s got a date to the homecoming dance with a girl named Liz… who just happens to be the Vulture’s daughter. Complicated!

This leads to the showdown, with Peter taking on the Vulture all by himself (well, not quite — he has his “man in the chair,” his best friend Ned.) Peter saves the day without The Avengers help, and is offered a spot on the team.

To which he (rightly) says thanks, but no thanks.

However, as a parting gift, Tony bestows upon him the magic high-tech Spidey suit. So, about that suit…

Spider-Man a.k.a. Iron Man, Jr.?

Let’s talk about the Spider-Man suit.

It looks good… real good. In fact, it’s the closest to the classic suits of the 60s and 70s, right down to web glider “wings” under the arms and expressive eyes.

But it also has some majorly high-tech upgrades that you would expect from Stark. These include an Iron Man-esque AI (which Peter names “Karen”) and a little googly-eyed Spider drone that could give BB-8 a run for his money.

The suit itself is a major plot point and a source of much of the film’s humor.

It’s also a huge problem for a spider-Man movie, as comics Spider-Man was a poor high school (and later college) kid from Queens who made money as a freelance photographer. While there were occasional upgrades to the suit, most often it was just the man in spandex who saved the day.

And I thought they were going to lose the suit, by showing the problems it created for Peter by having too many options, and later by Tony Stark taking it from him, which forced Peter to go back to his homemade suit to confront The Vulture.

When Peter turned down Tony’s offer to join The Avengers (and get an even fancier suit) I thought “Yep. This is awesome. He’s going to go back to Queens and be his own man with a suit he makes for himself. So now we’ll have comic book Spider-Man.”

But no. Tony gifts him the magic suit at the end of the film, meaning the suit is probably here to stay. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The Good

The cast is stellar. It’s the best high school ensemble this side of a John Hughes movie, and you really feel that Peter is a high school student in 2017. On that end of it, they got it all right. Michael Keaton was an excellent blue collar villain, and like my wife says, we just don’t see enough of him these days. Thankfully, they don’t kill him off like previous Spider-Man films!

The film is genuinely funny, action-packed and offers some very unexpected plot twists.

Spidey’s humor is dead on, and Tom Holland is definitely the best Peter Parker to date.

The Bad

I’ve mostly covered that, but really my only two gripes were that it didn’t feel like a proper standalone Spider-Man film and that the plot hinged way too much on the suit.

The Unexpected

Spider-Man Homecoming really mixes up the casting decisions. Tom Holland is a comic book perfect young Peter Parker, but he’s surrounded by classmates who are very different from their comic book counterparts. The film went out of its way to show diversity (it takes place in New York in 2017, so yeah that’s a given), but that’s not all that it remixed from the comics.

Aunt May is way younger, and played by Marisa Tomei.

Liz Allan is now The Vulture’s daughter.

Zendaya wasn’t lying. She’s not playing Mary Jane Watson. However, she is playing “MJ.” Her character’s name is Michelle, but she prefers “MJ” for short. I’m thinking that the MCU Spider-Man won’t run into Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy, as they’re trying very hard to blaze a new path here.

Flash Thompson doesn’t seem to be a jock, but rather just a spoiled rich kid who’s in the Academic Decathlon with Peter. He’s still a dick, though.

Peter’s best friend Ned is obviously inspired by Ganke Lee, the best friend of Miles Morales’ Spider-Man in the comics.

Speaking of Miles Morales… the movie had a cameo by Donald Glover, who lobbied to play Spider-Man a few years ago and voices Miles Morales in the animated movies. His character makes a comment about having “a young nephew” in the neighborhood. Hmm…

The Verdict

Even with some of my issues, Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the best superhero movies of the year. In fact, I’d say it’s second only to Wonder Woman.

But it’s not the best standalone Spider-Man film to date. That honor, in my opinion, still falls to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.

However, I’m looking forward to Peter’s adventures going forward, and hope that in future installments they can cut the cord to The Avengers, delivering a solid standalone Spider-Man flick in the MCU.

Final Score 8/10

 


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