Spider-Man: Homecoming – Back to its roots

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios/Columbia Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Sony Pictures

8 out of 10

The big thing that really made Spider-Man stand out back when he first showed up was that  Spider-Man wasn’t a superhero, he’s a teenager who happens to have superpowers. He’s just a guy trying to juggle superheroics and school, which made him a much more relatable and understandable character. This facet of his character has kind of taken a backseat in the last couple  Spider-Man films, but “Homecoming” makes it a central focus. Peter Parker’s school life takes up as much, if not more, of the film than him being Spider-Man. Which is great because some of the funniest scenes in “Homecoming” are just him talking with schoolmates. They could have very easily have just been annoying, but the film handles them incredibly well, and the conflict between his school life and superhero identity are fundamental to the success of “Homecoming.” The struggle of him learning how to manage his new responsibilities is infinitely relatable and it’s a huge part of why this film works.

As far as the action and comedy go, they’re on the better side of standard Marvel fare. The action doesn’t rely as heavily on huge explosive spectacle as some other Marvel films, which is a plus to me. It’s more “Winter Soldier” than “Civil War,” relying on emotion to make action sequences work instead just raw displays of CGI. Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t have moments that are awesome out of context, but they do rely more heavily on the context of the film. The film’s comedy, on the other hand, is some of the best Marvel comedy I’ve seen in awhile. One of the major issues with the recent “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was that comedy felt forced at times. “Homecoming” does an excellent job of making sure its comedy feels natural and a part of the narrative. As I said earlier, some of the funniest scenes are just Peter Parker interacting with his fellow students, and I think that’s just a testament to how comfortably the comedy fits within the narrative.

The standout performance of  “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is easily Keaton as the Vulture. Frankly, it’s a rarity for a Marvel film to have a good villain, the majority are two dimensional and underdeveloped. This stems in part from the comic book origins of these villains – a lot of the time superheroes just needed something clearly evil to punch. But another major issue is the fact that the majority of Marvel films are an origin story in one way or another. They’re too busy introducing their protagonist to really spend much time developing the character. And then, with the notable exception of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, they’re usually killed off. However, in “Homecoming,” Keaton’s Vulture is quite literally the first character introduced. We’re immediately shown his descent into crime, and it’s an exceedingly relatable origin. But the thing that really makes it work is the fact that Keaton is just killing it every time he’s on screen. He brings a depth and intensity to his character that makes him menacing despite never having had to raise voice. He’s my favorite Marvel villain in a while by a wide margin and his excellent performance brings weight to scenes that potentially wouldn’t have worked without him.

Marvel has consistently put out films that are at the least decent and often great, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” doesn’t change that. It’s a funny, action packed film that gets back to what Spider-Man is all about. With the addition of Keaton’s superb performance it really is one of the better Marvel films, period.

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8