Even though I was largely and loudly opposed to the third re-boot of a Peter Parker-led Spider-Man franchise in 15 years, (especially after falling in love with Andrew Garfield's version despite being saddled with a spectacularly cluttered script in The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Tom Holland won me over enough that I was willing to shell out the funds for a VIP ticket to a Thursday night screening.
No, it wasn't his heavily CGI'd appearance in Captain America: Civil War as a pinch-hitter for Team Stark, but rather his killer performance on Lip Synch Battle, where he and co-star (and girlfriend!?!) Zendaya both turned in gender-bending showstoppers. With Holland's spectacular and sure-footed mash-up of Gene Kelly's "Singing In The Rain" and Rihanna's "Umbrella" gave the me life.
So I went into the movie with no expectations—except to be annoyed by Tony Stark's intricate facial hair—and was thoroughly flabbergasted. Not only is Spider-man: Homecoming another box office grand slam for Marvel and Sony, it is a lovingly written, realistically-cast and well-acted superhero movie for the Gen Z and millennial set—something that was missing from both Marvel and DC Entertainment’s current and upcoming rosters.
Homecoming asks the important questions as it expands Marvel Cinematic Universe: How do you be a superhero in the age of Instagram, iPhones and invasions? How does a 15-year-old boy return to "regular" life after kicking ass in a massive battle in Berlin with The Avengers? How does a young boy become a good man in today's society?
It answers them with a poppy reverence and a pitch-perfect awareness usually only found in fan fiction and without one direct mention of Uncle Ben.
Unlike the Parkers created by Tobey Maguire and Garfield, Holland's version is an aloof, adorably-voiced geek in a school full of geeks, but his head is perpetually in the clouds, dreaming of a career saving the world as a full-fledged Avenger. Who can be bothered by Flash Thompson (an academic decathlete and a part-time DJ as if you didn't need a bigger reason to hate him) when there are bodegas to save, girls to crush on, and a billionaire superhero to impress? Even with superpowers, Peter is exceptionally teenaged, struggling to finding his identity in a world where Captain America's state-mandated videos play even though the students are woke enough to view him as both a grandpa, a drug abuser, and a "war criminal."
Homecoming is an embarrassment of superhero riches. Starting from the cast full of scene-stealers, a thrill-packed script that wisely skips the origin story we all know in order to make way for an original and modern take on the Spidey mythology. As Peter’s best friend, Ned, Jacob Batalon janks more thunder than Toomes' gang knocks over ATMs. The iconic Batman actor, Michael Keaton, is downright electric as a downtrodden working man-turned-villain Adam Toomes. Spider-Man villains tend to skew toward intense camp, so Vulture's swagger and hatred for one-percenters is a kick-ass shock.
Keaton not only renders Toomes into a terrifying badass—thanks to an fierce set of mechanical wings that will have Sam Wilson’s Falcon demanding an upgrade--in these times, he makes Toomes' descent into criminality totally understandable, despite being one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes in all three re-boots.
The action sequences do not disappoint, combining Spidey's iconic smart-mouth and pettiness with his physics-defying super-skillz in an all but seamless mix of in-camera and CGI action. Spider-Man also hasn't forgotten his past. One of the movie’s biggest action sequences pays a clever homage to the train sequence Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2, which is arguably one of the best superhero films ever made.
The beauty of Homecoming is that both Peter and Spider-Man are figuring out the webbed ropes of superherodom, and he fumbles as he learns to fly, and thankfully has an uncharacteristically doting Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy (Jon Favreau) to protect him.
Like Spider-Man's webslinging, Homecoming has exhilarating highs and a few flailing lows. Namely the film makes little use of its beyond capable female cast. Zendaya's mysterious Michelle Jones gets her fair share of killer one-liners and is always mysteriously present, but doesn't get a chance to join the action. Michelle's bizarre fascination with Peter and sudden appearances had me hoping she had superpowers of her own. SPOILER ALERT: She does not...yet.
There's also a depressing dearth of Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei, who is the hottest and youngest Aunt May in Webhead history (even though her wardrobe of high-waist pants and John Lennon glasses is a distractingly odd and dated). I applaud the decision to skip Uncle Ben’s murder, yet the decision did leave May with scraps of a storyline. She has even less to do that the beautiful Laura Harrier, who was trapped in the clichéd roles of the girl next door and damsel-in-distress. Coming off the heels of DC's Wonder Woman, a movie that miraculously managed to give both the superhero and the love interest their own meaty arcs, is completely unnecessary and mildly infuriating. I must note with a sharp sigh of exasperation that all of the characters on Toomes’ gang AND Team Spiderman are also men. Never forget in the MCU, alien invasions are the new normal, but ladies kicking ass is an improbable anomaly.
Despite Wonder Woman's recent and historic success, Marvel is still outstripping DC Entertainment both critically and financially. They have done the unthinkable by creating an ever-expanding, intertwined universe of films that both embody the pop culture brilliance, vibrancy, and whimsy of their comic book origins while being relevant socially relevant and eerily timely. However, Marvel has always lagged in inclusion in gender, race and sexuality—a front DC Entertainment is rapidly gaining some ground. The release of Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther will significantly improve their roster, but Marvel still employs more dudes named Chris and more actors playing Peter Parker than female superheroes. And don’t get me started on their woeful lack of women of color in costume.
Hopefully, the inevitable sequel will properly utilize Zendaya and Tomei while further expanding on the Peter Parker's life and his surprisingly endearing bond with Tony Stark, sidekick Ned, and his fanboy love of the Avengers.
If you do anything this week, go see Spider-Man: Homecoming once or twice. And eat something bad for you. Preferably at the same time.
What did you think of Spider-Man: Homecoming? Hit up the comments section below!