Head of the Class

Typically, I would give a brief anecdote before diving head on. I’m just gonna cut right to the chase. Spider-Man Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film to ever hit the screen.

I’m sure there’s gonna be a percentage of fans that lionized the Sam Raimi trilogy (The first two films especially still hold up really well, the less said about Spider-Man 3, the better), or the Andrew Garfield mini-run of films (which nailed the Peter/Gwen romance, I didn’t like how it rehashed his origins again) are gathering their pitchforks with that statement. Allow me to explain why this gets so much right.

What sets Homecoming apart from past iterations of the character is that Spider-Man is already established from the beginning. It takes place a couple months after his reintroduction in Captain America: Civil War. It was a huge relief not having to sit through his origins yet again. It was like beating a dead horse during the last reboot. (Sidebar: I can only see Uncle Ben die before it gets redundant)

Tom Holland doesn’t just play Spider-Man, he is Spider-Man. I was sold when he appeared in Civil War. He’s every bit as lovable, courageous and hilarious as he is here and he gets a lot more to do. Initially, I was worried that the trailers featured Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) too heavily, fearing that he may overshadow Peter and make this a Marvel Team-Up type of film. Thankfully, that’s not the case. This is Peter’s story, through and through. Tony’s there for Peter to play off of, to give him the what for and it’s an important part of his arc. Peter’s biggest motivation is to become an Avenger but of course, being a good student, friend, nephew gets in the way of that. It puts the iconic words “Great power comes great responsibility” into practice. He fails a lot more than he succeeds and it makes the character so endearing.

The supporting cast also delivers the goods. Jacob Batalon quietly steals the show as Peter’s best friend, Ned. Zendaya’s awesome as Michelle, who always has an answer for anything. Laura Harrier also did a nice job as Liz Allen, a great choice for a love interest and I did buy that she’s an attainable cool girl for Peter. Jon Favreau makes a return as Happy Hogan and he did a great job as the straight man to Spidey’s schtick. Donald Glover makes a cameo as Aaron Davis, which could have some major implications down the road…Nuff said. Marisa Tomei made a very good Aunt May, too.

The common thread between the earlier iterations of the character (especially the Raimi trilogy) is that each of them condensed his high school days in about the first 40 minutes. Homecoming exploits Peter’s high school life to the max. Jon Watts cleverly masquerades this standalone story as a John Hughes coming-of-age film (there’s even a Ferris Bueller homage somewhere). It’s a huge risk that pays off handsomely.

The tone is perfect. All of Marvel’s films lean on humor and Spider-Man, more often than not, nails that. The laughs per minute is pretty high, and it enhances the action sequences throughout the film and they’re a blast. It doesn’t shy away from the heavier stuff either. The webhead at this point, isn’t a neophyte but he hasn’t mastered his powers yet. He’s growing into them. His banter with Karen, his suit’s UI à la Jarvis (voiced by Jennifer Connelly!) is awesome.

Michael Keaton avoids the pitfalls of being the shortchanged villain as Adrian Toomes, better known as the Vulture. He did a fantastic job fleshing out a C-list villain and make him sympathetic. He’s not out for world domination, he just wants to provide for his family. That motivation puts him on my Mount Rushmore of great Marvel villains (He’s sharing that with Fisk, Kilgrave and Loki). That makes the film just as street-level and grounded as the Netflix series, sans the violence or brutal subject matter (Sidebar: If I don’t see Spidey meet Daredevil one day…I will flip a table)

The easter eggs also sets this off. The references to the Spider-Man mythos as well as what’s going on in the MCU are everywhere. Peter even recorded a vlog of his trip to Germany where he makes his presence known on the tarmac.

This film grows up before your very eyes. It’s an absolute joy that swung so high that it’s in the upper echelon of Marvel’s best films and it can’t be missed. The Mickey Mouse of Marvel is back on top and Spider-Man Homecoming effortlessly makes the honor roll.

🎵 Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can🎵

 

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