spider-man homecoming theme

For some fans, it goes without saying that Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t just a title that describes what’s happening in the high school life of the superhero’s young alter ego Peter Parker (Tom Holland). It’s also evocative of the fact that the webslinger is finally back home where he belongs, in the same cinematic universe as his other Marvel Comics comrades, the Avengers.

Spider-Man: Homecoming gives us the spectacular version of the webslinger that fans have been waiting to see. It stands out from the rest of the adaptations, including the more favored original iteration directed by Sam Raimi and portrayed by Tobey Maguire, simply because it introduces a dynamic that has been lacking from the Spider-Man franchises thus far. Not only does it combine the trials and tribulations of high school life with the dangers of being a secret superhero, but it also gives Spider-Man a much larger world to play in, one that may be more intimidating than the wallcrawler himself even realizes.

Read on for more in our full Spider-Man Homecoming review.

Spider-Man: Homecoming starts off in the past, not long after the battle of New York from The Avengers. There’s rubble everywhere from the climactic battle between Earth’s mightiest heroes and the Chitauri alien invaders that Loki brought to the planet. There are dead aliens everywhere, including the giant corpse of the giant Leviathan that Hulk and Thor brought down right in the middle of Grand Central Station in New York City. This is where we meet our villain.

Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is a construction contractor who landed a massive contract with the city to clean up all the damage done by this massive battle. He’s already figured out the best way to dismantle a lot of the alien junk is with their own tools and weapons. But Adrian is about to have a rude awakening as a government sanctioned crew called The Department of Damage Control, overseen by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and led by actress Tyne Daly, has been called in to take everything over, screwing Toomes out of this big job, and threatening the livelihood of his family. That’s right, Tony Stark has just created a new villain.

Still in the past, we get to see exactly what happened between when Robert Downey Jr. recruited Peter Parker at his Queens apartment and his arrival at the airport in Berlin in Captain America: Civil War. It’s a hilarious home video sequence where we really get to see Peter Parker’s teenage side, his excitement barely contained as he travels to Berlin, gets a new Spider-Man suit, and can’t stop bugging his handler Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). He can’t resist taking video of himself during that big airport brawl.

As entertaining as this opening sequence is, I couldn’t help but find it just a little clunky. But the good news is that it leads seamlessly into the beginning of the movie, with Tony Stark dropping Peter Parker back home, along with his new suit. Now that Spidey has seen this level of superhero action, he’s eager for the next “retreat,” hoping to prove himself to Stark and legitimately become an Avenger. It’s the driving force for Peter Parker throughout the entire film, and it’s also the catalyst for a new kind of origin story for Spidey.

Spider-Man Homecoming Credits Scene

Don’t worry, we don’t see the famous spider bite again, there’s no flashback to a pep talk from Uncle Ben. In fact, the name Uncle Ben isn’t even mentioned one time in this movie. Marvel Studios seems hellbent on making sure that all the familiar parts of Spider-Man’s origin story are done with, at least for this first outing. But that doesn’t mean that we still don’t see the origins of Spider-Man on another level. This is a 15-year old kid with superpowers who has just been given a taste of what it’s like to be a grown-up superhero alongside the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and a giant sized Ant-Man, but is he ready to play in the big leagues?

What helps Spider-Man: Homecoming stand out from the previous two franchises is the fact that this is the youngest Peter Parker we’ve ever seen in a movie. He’s a teenager with all the problems that comes with being a teenager, with the added struggles of trying to keep his superhero identity a secret from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), friends like Ned (Jacob Batalon), Michelle (Zendaya), and his high school crush Liz (Laura Harrier). That’s a lot of pressure for a kid to deal with, and it doesn’t help that he’s putting all this pressure on himself to prove to Tony Stark that he can be an Avenger.

Proving his worth as a superhero becomes a lot more difficult when Adrian Toomes emerges as the leader of an underground criminal organization selling customized alien weapons to criminals. Not only are the weapons in question dangerous, elevating the street-level fighting that Spider-Man has been tackling in New York City for a little while now (he’s already recognized all around the city), but neither Happy Hogan nor Tony Stark seem to take this threat seriously. Even after hearing about Toomes intimidating flying Vulture suit, Stark seems nonplussed about the threat.

Some fans have been worried that this wouldn’t be enough of a solo Spider-Man movie with Tony Stark poking his nose around. But in all honesty, Stark does his best to stay out of the proceedings until absolutely necessary. It’s that dynamic that makes Spider-Man: Homecoming interesting, because Stark essentially gives Spidey the chance to prove himself, but he can’t help but bite off more than he can chew. This is a kid who is still learning about what it means to be a hero, and he’s not ready to carry the weight on his shoulders of what it means to protect them.

Tom Holland is fantastic in his turn as this new Spider-Man. We only got a taste of his acting chops in Captain America: Civil War, but in Homecoming, we see the full range of his abilities. Not only does he do a great job of giving us a Peter Parker who isn’t too far removed from Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but he’s an outstanding, wise-cracking Spider-Man as well. Holland masterfully gives off the vibe of a guy who has confidence when he puts on the Spider-Man suit, but still isn’t too sure of himself when confronting the criminals he has to deal with, including once hopeful Spider-Man actor Donald Glover as a criminal who may have some larger ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe down the road.

Michael Keaton in Dumbo

Furthermore, Spider-Man: Homecoming also gives us a satisfying villain, something the MCU has been lacking in most of its movies. Michael Keaton brings a subtle ferocity to Adrian Toomes, a man who isn’t motivated by vengeance, but merely out of dedication to being a provider for his family. His interaction with Spider-Man makes for some of the most suspenseful and exciting sequences between a hero and villain that the Marvel universe has seen, including one particular jaw-dropping moment that has smartly been kept out of the marketing thus far. If there’s one complaint that I have about Adrian Toomes, it’s that when all is said and one, he’s not quite the middle class, blue collar guy he’s portrayed to be, but maybe that’s what makes him more villainous in the end.

The action in this movie is phenomenal too. Spidey’s acrobatics have never been more impressive, and the way the camera follows him through the city and in face-offs with our villain gives the proceedings plenty of flair. Michael Giacchino‘s score also works surprisingly well. Though the themes don’t quite pop as much when hearing them on the soundtrack outside of the movie, they accompany the action on-screen rather well. What’s interesting is that director Jon Watts keeps Spider-Man pretty close to the ground. You would think that Spider-Man wouldn’t be so uneasy about climbing so high on the Washington Monument when he’s forced to show off some heroics in Washington DC, but that’s when you realize that he’s not swinging around the skyscrapers of downtown New York City just yet. He’s still a lower key superhero.

That’s what makes the abundance of Marvel Cinematic Universe references and inclusions work so well. Initially, I thought there might be a little too much in the vein of making sure that audiences knew that this new Spider-Man was a full fledged part of the MCU. But actually, the presence of this larger world is exactly what Spider-Man needs to see in order to realize his place in the world right now. He may have taken the training wheels protocol off his high-tech suit, but he’s still just a high school kid who happens to be able to do whatever a spider can.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a franchise reboot done right. Thanks to an extraordinary performance from Tom Holland, an authentic portrayal of high school life that would make John Hughes proud, some surprises that have thankfully been kept secret for the most part, and a larger sandbox for Spidey to crawl around in and some impressive action, Spider-Man is amazing once again.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10

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