Welcome Home, Peter.
Warning: Mild, Partial Spoilers Below
Spider-Man: Homecoming picks up immediately after Captain America: Civil War. In case you missed that movie, they include a witty, cell-recorded recap of Spider-Man’s involvement in the plot. Unfortunately, after being dropped off at home by Tony Stark, he is also sidelined, and not treated as a true Avenger. He struggles to make a difference in his community, while at the same time maintaining his secret identity in a teenage, high-school nightmare. In the meantime, salvage crews fired from the sites of the Avengers’ battles have been stealing alien tech from the Stark Industries transports, and using them to make next-next-gen weapons, which they sell to thugs on the street for a killing. When Parker stumbles on one of these deals, he tries in vain to get Stark’s lackey Happy to get him help on the chase. He does manage to acquire a sample of the alien tech, but without timely and attentive aid from Iron Man and the remaining Avengers, all he can do is track them down. He and his hacker friend Ned crack open the Stark-supplied Spider-suit, and remove its limiting protocols, enabling a dizzying array of new features that he is not ready to use. This, combined with a series of tactical missteps on Peter’s part begin to put people in mortal peril, prompting Tony Stark to take back the suit. By freak chance, he discovers the identity of the thieves’ leader, and takes him on with his original, home-made gear in an exciting knock-down, drag-out duel in the skies and on the beach.
Homecoming may be the first of the official Spider-Man movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it is the tenth Spider-Man movie put out by a studio. After trading Sony the rights to do a Deadpool movie, Marvel cut a deal with Sony to bring Spider-Man home. This movie is a triumphant celebration of the feat, and takes Spidey back to some of his truest roots, while introducing all sorts of twists and turns in the process. It is a reimagining of Spider-Man’s involvement in Marvel’s Civil War Event and the Superhero Registration Act, now called the Sokovia Accords in the MCU. In the comics, he reveals his identity, which puts Mary Jane and his Aunt May in the line of fire. He then works with Dr. Strange to erase the memory of his secret identity from the world, but the secret tore apart his marriage to MJ, and utterly destroyed his life, returning him to where he was at the beginning of his comics career. This movie has the Civil War story as subtext, but takes a very different path, ending up telling a story that is true to the feeling of Peter’s old stories, while modernizing its narrative to the MCU standards.
The MCU uses side and background characters to make tiny nods to Peter’s story.. There is no Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacey here. We do, however, meet several characters who are in the background of Parker’s past, some of whom went on to get super-aliases on their own. His friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) was initially patterned after Ned Leeds, a fellow journalist at the Daily Bugle who was temporarily brainwashed into being the third Hobgoblin. The thug that Parker saves during the “gun deal gone bad” is Aaron Davis (Donald Glover), who is the Uncle of the Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-Man, and is also a cat-burglar known as Prowler. This is a nod to the theory that Glover was going to play as Miles Morales. We also see Liz Allen (who has a different last name in this movie), Betty Brant, Cindy Moon, and a couple other girls he dated in college. Flash Thompson gets an overhaul in this movie, thanks to some color-blind casting. I approve of Tony Revolori’s portrayal of the bully, especially because I can see that his bravado comes from insecurities and a jealosy of Parker, just as the comics. Later in the print version, Flash became a soldier, was crippled by an IED, and took on the Venom Symbiote to serve the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy as Agent Venom. I get the feeling that Revolori’s version has the potential to become that.
Each of the bad guys that get names in this movie are in Spider-Man’s rogue gallery, but only get a nod to their villainous name. We have the Vulture, the Shocker, the Scorpion, and the Tinkerer. If you don’t know the characters from the comics, they will pass you by without realizing their significance. This is ultimately the downfall of this movie. in the attempt to keep this movie on-the-ground, the villains just aren’t threatening. They are a bunch of street thugs and a dude with a flight suit. Their motivations? “Recession is tough bro, stick it to the 1% and take care of old number one.” That’s it. You understand why they do it, but you still look at them like they’re punks. This, coupled with an overly long movie with one action sequence too many, it kinda drags in the middle. Good thing it’s so full of awesome on either end.
Visually, this movie is rock-solid. It doesn’t try to be hyper-beautiful CG-fests like other supermovies. Instead, it asks Holland to perform real stunts, and augments them subtly with CG for those stunts that are impossible. The VFX are focused on making it feel gritty, real, and on-the-ground, much like Spider-Man himself for most of the film. What is interesting is that this is a Spidey that lacks one of his most key abilities, his nigh-precognitive Spider-Sense. Time and again, we see him miscalculate his acrobatics, get taken by surprise by foes, and whatnot. The MCU may have removed this power, opting instead to give him an in-suit AI he names Karen (voiced by Jennifer Connelly). His competence shoots up considerably with her aid in calculations.
So, when you get right down to it, Spider-Man: Homecoming may not be the Spidey film you need, but it is the one you deserve. Wait, I think I just mixed my movie universes… Um… With Disney cash flow comes great responsibilities? I dunno. Anyways, I give this movie nine web-grenades out of ten.
Stick around for a mid-credits scene, and another stinger at the end of the credits to reward your patience.