Superhero movies are not hard to come by nowadays. With over five superhero movies coming out this year alone, it’s safe to say the genre has exploded, possibly to the point of oversaturation, and there is no better example of this than the Spider-Man franchise. Well, franchises. Spider-man: Homecoming is the second reboot of the Spider-Man character; the last one came out just 3 years ago. That’s a lot of Spider-Man, so I don’t think it’s surprising to say that I was not particularly excited about this new iteration. Superhero movie fatigue has already kicked in for me, not to mention Spider-Man fatigue. Because of this, I went into the theaters preparing myself for disappointment, but left two hours later pleasantly surprised.
Spider-man: Homecoming centers around Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) attempts at balancing his everyday, 15-year-old high school problems with the burden of being Spider-Man. Holland’s performance as not just Spider-Man but the boy behind the costume, Peter Parker, is what made this movie work so well. Holland is young himself and convincingly looks and sounds like a teenager in high school, something that can’t be said for the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy (2002) or The Amazing Spider-Man reboot (2012). Holland not only looks the part, he also sells the part. I believed through his performance that he was an awkward nerdy teenager who just so happens to have superhuman abilities.
The movie begins with Peter just coming back from the big fight in Captain America: Civil War (2016), and he is desperate to be one of the big superheroes and an Avenger. Throughout the movie, this desire to be bigger than just a friendly neighborhood superhero leads Peter to do things without thinking, and he makes crucial mistakes because of that – just like any teenager would. This is what’s so good about Peter in this movie – he really is just a kid who sometimes makes dumb decisions because he thinks he can handle things that he simply isn’t ready to handle. The mentor-type relationship between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Peter really drives this point home, as Stark has to come fix problems that Peter has caused due to his rash decision-making several times throughout the movie. And this could have easily become annoying, but the writing as well as Holland’s performance manage to find the perfect balance. When we finally watch Peter grow and realize his place in the larger superhero world, it is incredibly satisfying.
Another thing that this film had going for it was that it was aware of itself and it’s audience. With this being the second reboot, II was not looking forward to watching Spider-Man’s origin story for the third time. We all know what happens – he gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider, Uncle Ben is killed, he has to get used to being Spider-Man – we’ve seen it all before. But this time, it’s not just the audience that knows this, the writers know it too, and so they skip the origin story altogether. When the movie starts, Peter has already been bitten, Uncle Ben is already dead and these things are all just mentioned in passing. This is a brilliant way to beat the Spider-Man fatigue that audiences are inevitably coming into the theater with.
With all that said, this movie wasn’t perfect. I did not find the romantic storyline between Peter and Liz (Laura Harrier) to be that convincing and actually thought it was the weakest part in the movie. The performances of Holland and Harrier were perfectly fine when they were onscreen together; the problem was that it wasn’t given enough time to work. In previous Spider-Man movies, even The Amazing Spider- Man movies that I really don’t care for, I believed and rooted for the romance because we were given time to see them really connect. Scenes like the iconic upside down kiss from the original 2002 Spider-Man sold the romance completely. While I didn’t need them to recreate or copy that in Homecoming, I do think Peter and Liz needed more quiet, sweet moments on screen together for the audience to really root for their romance.
This issue extends to other aspects of the movie. There are quite a few characters who do not really get a chance to do much. Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) spends the entire movie worrying about Peter, and for all of the buzz around Zendaya’s character Michelle, I was a bit surprised at how little she actually had to do. It was clear her main purpose was just to set up her character for the sequels as she played an insignificant role in the overall plot of the movie. Zendaya’s lack of screen time left time for a lot of character development among those getting screen time, but there should have been a better balance so that there weren’t so many characters left just as set-up. There were also quite a few scenes that lacked the time to build tension. When the villain of the movie, Vulture, kills someone for the first time, a joke is said that completely ruins the tension of the scene. The movie fails at giving some of their characters and scenes enough time to hit their marks.
These problems kept the movie from becoming my personal favorite iteration of Spider-Man. However, these issues do not by any means ruin the movie as a whole. With wonderful acting, a convincing Peter Parker and interesting plot decisions that take the movie into appealingly unexpected directions, Spider-man: Homecoming manages to bring a fresh take to a character we have seen time and time again. With this solid foundation, a more consistent tone, and a better developed supporting cast and romantic subplot, the sequel that’s already in the works has the potential to be something truly great. I can say, for the first time in years, that I am actually looking forward to the next Spider-Man movie.