Marvel’s prodigal son has officially returned. Yes, Spider-Man did make his first “debut” in Captain America: Civil War (and also was recently revealed that he previously appeared in Iron Man 2), but this is the first solo Spider-Man movie since the Andrew Garfield project. However, we’re going to use the word “solo” very loosely here, as Spider-Man: Homecoming was as much an Iron Man movie as a Spider-Man movie.
The events of Spider-Man: Homecoming take place directly after Peter Parker’s involvement in Civil War. We are not told the origin story of the teenager getting bitten by the radioactive spider or see him cry for the umpteenth time over the death of Uncle Ben. The movie assumes that we know the basics of Spider-Man, and to a point, it does the movie both a disservice, but is also necessary for the narrative. The deal between Marvel and Sony to finally include the web-slinger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this far into the game makes things a bit awkward. When you think of Marvel heroes, Spider-Man tends to be near the top of that list. So having to implement him while we are nearing the end of Phase 3, especially given that we are only three years removed from Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, there never really seemed like a good time or way to execute this. While no one is truly at fault for this, it’s just unfortunate to see arguably the most recognizable superhero get awkwardly squeezed into this larger universe.
One way that Marvel thought would help introduce Spider-Man into the MCU was to have a prominent Avenger guide him along the way: insert Tony Stark. While Parker and Stark share a very special connection in the comics, Homecoming is a pseudo-Iron Man film. From the beginning to the end, Stark’s presence weighed heavily on the film. While it’s understandable to have him in the film in order to help out Parker, it just seemed that we were being force fed some more Iron Man. This is a direct cause of introducing Spider-Man in Phase 3, and so this is just something that we have to deal with.
Regardless of Stark’s major inclusion in the film, Tom Holland did not disappoint in his first full rodeo as Spidey. Toby McGuire will forever have a special place in my heart, but Holland absolutely nails the high school teenager turned crime-fighter. The entire cast did a phenomenal job, especially Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Many critics have noted that most Marvel movies have weak villains, but Vulture is not one of them. Keaton was the best Marvel villain since Loki in the first Avengers movie, and it’s not close. Vulture’s ascension toward becoming a villain and his imminent downfall might be the first time a villain’s story was as important and interesting as the superhero. It’s also an interesting move that Sony and Marvel decided to have Vulture discover the identity of Spider-Man. It’s to be determined what he does with this information, though seeing how he reacted to Scorpion confronting him about it in the end scene, it seems that Vulture will keep it to himself.
One of the biggest reveals toward the end of the movie is finally telling us that Zendaya is indeed M.J. Many people guessed that the actress would be playing Parker’s love interest in Homecoming, but that role was taken by the senior Liz and daughter of Vulture. Following her father’s arrest and her subsequent move out of Queens, it seems that it’s time for M.J. (Michelle, still no-known last name) to take center stage. Zendaya’s M.J. is so far considerably different than the past love interests of Spider-Man with Kirsten Durst’s Mary Jane and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. While Durst and Stone were more of the typical damsels in distress, Zendaya showed extreme independence and a general sense of not caring about anything. It’s a refreshing take on the character and will be intriguing once she receives more screen time in the sequel.
Minus the large amount of Robert Downey, Jr., Spider-Man: Homecoming was the best Spidey movie since McGuire’s Spider-Man 2. Given the obstacles needed to hurdle in order to even get the web-slinger in the MCU and the awkwardness of inserting him this late in the game, Homecoming did what it needed to do. It presented a new, fresh take on the hero and his friends, and introduced new enemies that we haven’t seen before. Hopefully Sony and Marvel come to terms on a new deal that will extend Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU, but in the meantime, let’s all just enjoy the ride.
Final Score: 8.75/10