And what’s frustrating as a film critic is that it really isn’t my job to analyze what this phenomenon might mean in the greater scope of the film industry. My job is to tell you whether or not a movie is good. And because the Marvel films keep cranking out movies that range from good (B+) to decent (B-), it looks like I am constantly recommending that people fly to the theatre to see what I just said is probably damaging the industry. So I leave this introduction as a warning to those who follow the superhero genre as closely as I do. While the review you are about to read is positive, and Spiderman: Homecoming is a decent film, I fear that movies like it (I’m looking at you Doctor Strange and Wonder Woman) are breeding a more complacent audience and, thus, a more complacent Hollywood.
That being said, I can’t deny the charm of Spiderman: Homecoming. After the mediocre The Amazing Spiderman and abysmal The Amazing Spiderman 2, Homecoming feels much more true to the Spiderman character I want out of a movie. Tom Holland plays a younger, more charming yet believably socially isolated Peter Parker, who is trying to balance a normal high-school life with super-heroism. After assisting Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Captain America: Civil War, Parker is disappointed in his lack of meaningful superhero work, constantly hoping Tony will call him in for more official Avengers work. But when Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a mechanic who was screwed over by Stark, starts building and selling weapons using alien technology, Parker faces the challenge of dealing with a devastating threat on his own.
Spiderman: Homecoming immediately defines itself through its lead. Holland is the best to play the character so far, a charismatic and likeable lead that might be one of the most charming members of the MCU right now. He plays both Peter Parker and Spiderman flawlessly, and it’s certainly a step up from the duller protagonists of MCU outings like Doctor Strange and the Thor series. He is the anchor that keep the rest of the film in check, because the majority of the film's other elements are far more standard Marvel-fare than our main hero.
Name an MCU stereotype. This movie has it. Predictable story, dull villain, forgettable score, good but not overly noteworthy action sequences. Without Holland, this film would have been on the lower end of the “acceptable Marvel” scale. But his charm is enough to carry us through the conventions of an otherwise average movie.
At times, the movie also manages to set itself apart from the other Marvel films tonally, something that is rare in the standard MCU fold. Spiderman: Homecoming is not exactly the John Hughes movie I wanted it to be, but it does manage to escape into that vibe every once in a while. It certainly helps that Peter’s high school friends, Ned and Michelle (Jacob Batalon and Zendaya), are two of the more likeable characters in the supporting cast. Ned, Michelle and Peter work off each other very well, and it definitely seems to imply at the end of the film that we will see more of them in future Spiderman films. It’s the times where the movie scales back to a personal level and looks at Peter’s “normal” life that I found myself having the most fun.
So I find myself at the same point I always do with MCU movies. I can’t deny that I liked the film, and that I would love to see Holland on screen as Spiderman again. But I also can’t deny that I feel like the MCU is leeching into the summer blockbuster in a way I don’t want to support. The conclusion that I have come to is this. This movie is going to make a ton of money: that much is inevitable. So we aren’t going to make any difference if we don’t see it ourselves. What matters is that the movie was good, another piece of light Marvel fare to distract us from whatever we’ve got going on for a short two hours. So go nuts.