“I’m nothing without the suit,” pleads fifteen year old Peter Parker. “If you’re nothing without the suit then you shouldn’t have it,” Tony Stark quickly replied, multi-billionaire industrialist aka Iron Man like a surrogate father figure.
Let’s be honest to call it as it is. Spider-Man: Homecoming completely blasted it out of the park. Directed by Jon Watts, screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein plus five other writers including Watts, the film marvel’s in story, acting, pacing and stunning CGI.
Also, let’s be honest about one more thing. We all know a lot was riding on this film ever since the last released Spider-Man film, The Amazing Spider-Man II with lead actor Andrew Garfield in 2014. Having had five previous Spider-Man films all owned by Sony now in joint partnership with Disney owned Marvel, no doubt there were those who had said enough already. Which I’m glad in this case that didn’t stop Sony/Disney-Marvel. That said, minor spoilers are ahead.
Let’s begin with the story. Bruce Lee, revered martial artist, philosopher, and filmmaker had once said, “Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” What drives and gives traction to the story behind Spider-Man: Homecoming is its simplicity, which some may have overlooked, yet we’re given a clue in the beginning quotes of this write-up between Peter Parker and Tony Stark.
To differentiate, remember in the five previous Spider-Man films, the first three acted by lead Tobey Maguire and the last two by Andrew Garfield, it was all about the weight of the world on Peter Parker’s shoulders. You have a young man with amazing superhuman strength and other extraordinary abilities, on top of being highly intelligent and academically talented at that, and every so often he’s haunted by that memorable quote by Uncle Ben Parker in Spider-Man I who said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Then also let’s not forget the occasional teen angst, which makes the Peter Parker character both in comics and in the films relatable.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker isn’t haunted by the specter of the memory of Uncle Ben Parker. That’s not meant to be bad in any way that the director and the writers had chosen to completely neglect bringing up the mention of wise Uncle Ben Parker at all in the film. Which we all know by following both the comics and the film that he was a father figure to his nephew.
Ever since the newer iteration of Spider-Man made his first cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War in 2016, enlisted by Tony Stark to help his team go after Cap and those on Cap’s side, we see a refreshingly different aspect to the Peter Parker character.
In this film, Peter Parker is allowed to enjoy his extraordinary abilities. Yet that enjoyment is not by showing off, but out of a youthful eagerness to right wrongs. Also equally important, eager to prove himself to a man who recruits him that he obviously idolizes, Tony Stark, genius tech inventor extraordinaire, multi-billionaire industrialist, aka Iron Man the golden Avenger. “I just wanted to be like you!” says Peter Parker. “And I wanted you to be better,” Tony Stark replies.
When Peter Parker, acted by twenty-one year old British actor Tom Holland, appears in the first scene in the film, it takes off. We see the beginnings of the fifteen year old’s over-eagerness and exuberance. The scene takes us back to an event not previously shown, the trip with Happy Hogan to meet Tony Stark in Berlin, Germany before the events in Captain America: Civil War. Peter Parker takes a video log during the trip while in awe. Happy Hogan, acted by Jon Favreau who directed Iron Man I and II, close friend and head of security to Tony Stark, presents Peter Parker with the Spidey suit with tech enhancements made by Stark. The same suit we first saw in Captain America: Civil War. The video log scenes also adds to the comic delight in the film.
Then there’s the acting. Okay this is a superhero film after all, so we know from the jump not to expect any Daniel Day Lewis/Meryl Streep Oscar worthy scenes. That’s not to say it can’t ever happen, because it did. Heath Ledger, who had won a posthumous Oscar for his brilliant role as the Joker in the 2008 Batman film The Dark Knight. Even so, the acting holds up in Spider-Man: Homecoming. All of the actors appear to take on their respective roles with appreciation, and not as if it’s a take the money and run type of acting. Which is very easy to spot. We’ve all heard for example about Robert Downey Jr.’s salary since Iron Man I, yet he’s wonderful as Tony Stark in his limited screen time in this film.
David S. Goyer, screenwriter and producer, had said, “Someone said once that no villain thinks of themselves as a villain. They’re all the hero of their own story.” We get that from the backstory of Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), aka Vulture, head of a salvage business, previously hired to work on extracting debris left after the Chitauri army invasion of Manhattan in Avengers I. Just a guy trying to provide for his family. That is, until the government shows up to take over operations. There’s also a big surprise behind the Toomes character that’s revealed past halfway into Spider-Man: Homecoming, which also makes for a standout superhero film.
Others also did well in supporting roles. Marisa Tomei as Aunt May Parker, who’s a maternal influence to nephew Pete. Jacob Batalon, Filipino-American actor, is wonderful as Pete’s best friend Ned, while actress Laura Harrier, African-American and of Polish and English descent, plays Pete’s love interest Liz. Peter Parker in this film attends a science and technology high school with a noticeably diverse student body, unlike in the five previous Spider-Man films.
Then there’s the pacing. With a running time at 133 minutes, Spider-Man: Homecoming has come under criticism for being a bit long. I disagree. Marvel films seem to have perfected the art of shooting drama and action scenes at a breezy clip. For example, I compare films as if reading a book. Tom Clancy’s techno-thriller Clear and Present Danger is about 600 pages hardbound, yet I went through it in a flash despite being a slow reader. While a typical Toni Morrison average 300 page book is not easy for me to get through. Read two tried a few. The point being it’s not the length, but the in between. I’ve sat through The Hateful Eight and The Dark Knight Rises, both averaging 165 minutes of screen time, and hadn’t left my seat not once as long as the story engages at a steady pace. Spider-Man: Homecoming is indeed engaging.
Then lastly, there’s the wonderful CGI. I may not be an expert in the use of it, but great CGI (computer generated imagery) in my own subjective opinion has four elements, fast, seamless, crisp, and realism. That simply comes from experience of having watched a ton of Sci-fi, Action and Superhero films. Fast as in not always slow motion in nearly every other action scene, seamless as in smooth flowing, crisp as in clarity and sharpness, and realism as to be as visually realistic as possible, and Spider-Man: Homecoming succeeds on all four.
The film also has come under criticism for diversity. Not from lack of it, thank God. Peter Parker lives in Queens, New York after all. But for being a window dressing film. Okay, to answer that, every ethnic character supports the story, plain and simple. Also, Peter Parker is not, I repeat, not a white savior to best friend Ned. For actually, Ned does get Pete out of a jam in a few scenes.
Actor Tom Holland has confirmed recently that Spider-Man: Homecoming will be the first in a trilogy. No surprise, though great news. Yet it’s equally a good thing for Uncle Ben Parker to later be mentioned. While I do enjoy both DC and Marvel films, I believe you just gotta give credit when credit is due. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a superbly crafted superhero film in story, acting, pacing, and CGI. A must see five stars out of five grand slam film.