Over the last decade I’ve collected many nits worth picking with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Little things bug me here and there and they seem to plague each film to varying degrees. That’s not to say the MCU is without merit – the accomplishment of creating such a universe is somewhat staggering – but the problem often lies in tone and execution. The films of the last 5-years have felt like assembly line creations, arcs we can digest easily and never remember. It felt lazy. Smash-cut to 2017 and we’ve already had two-spectacular superhero films (Logan & Wonder Woman) that avoided this pratfall simply by allowing the characters and story to stand on its own. We don’t need world-building winks and nods every 15 minutes to yank us out of the story, I couldn’t give less of a shit that Thanos is riding around on his space rock.
Which is why 2017 continues to be the year of the superhero renaissance because Spider-Man: Homecoming doesn’t give a shit about Thanos either. It’s not that we aren’t reminded of the larger world here and there but Director Jon Watts does a fantastic job of reigning in those impulses to service a much more grounded, human tale. That’s no small feat given Tom Holland is the third actor to play Spidey in his 7th movie since 2002. We absolutely don’t need this film after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield slung themselves around Manhattan, which is why it’s all the more surprising that is just works.
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is already the web-slinging goofball when Homecoming begins which saves us from yet another costume-making montage. He lives with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and spends more time worrying about his high school crush than he does fighting crime. Sure, when he suits up for the first time it’s as exhilarating as ever but Watts frames this story much smaller than the MCU usually requires. Peter Parker is a 15-year-old kid with teenager problems. His best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) finds out early on who Peter really is and for a while that’s really the extent of his superhero problems.
Sure, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is scuffling around on the periphery and whips out the Iron Man song and dance a couple of times but that’s because he likes the kid and is feeling a bit paternal at the moment.
The stumbles are slight but Homecoming does suffer from the same Marvel problems as all the other films. Michael Keaton shows up as a down on his luck construction manager who becomes and underground criminal selling high-powered weapons throughout the city. Keaton tries his best but is not given great material, essentially flying around like a high-powered Birdman.
But that and the occasionally dull plot machination aside – Homecoming is breezy, good natured fun. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the very sharp script by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. The best compliment I can give is this is the funniest film in the MCU. The humor is fast and silly, like a John Hughes 80’s teen comedy it coasts on that charm and people will eat it up.
As stated previously, there is no reason for Spider-Man: Homecoming to exist beyond the most cynical but if this is the cinema world we now inhabit I’m glad talent can come together to make this. It’s hard growing up and now Marvel has shown us what that would be like if you could shoot ultra-powerful webs from your wrist. It’s tough to juggle, especially when the Homecoming dance is just weeks away.