Spider-Man: Homecoming Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon. Directed by Jon Watts. Ranked PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
In an alternate world, Spider-Man might have been the superhero to start the insanely effective Marvel Cinematic Universe and set the phase for Hollywood’s present fixation with interconnected motion picture series. Rather, Marvel’s most popular superhero has actually been cut off from the bigger Marvel world, thanks to a twisted set of licensing arrangements that offer the film rights to Sony more or less in perpetuity. So Spider-Man: Homecoming is a task of business deal-making as much as a creative endeavor, and it succeeds more as the previous than the latter. However considered that Marvel’s business success is a direct result of its approach to moviemaking, the two are inextricably intertwined.
Homecoming makes a quite big deal out of its connections to other Marvel movies, with substantial supporting roles for Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Male and Jon Favreau as his assistant, Delighted Hogan; cameos from other Marvel characters; and a plot that is dependent on preceding Marvel continuity. After making a scene-stealing look in 2015’s Captain America: Civil War, young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back to his humdrum life in Queens, nabbing bicycle thieves and handling the ups and downs of high school. He wishes for bigger adventures with the Avengers, but Tony mainly neglects him.
When Peter comes across a criminal organization making and selling weapons from remaining technology from numerous superhero/supervillain fights, he springs into action, despite warnings from Tony and Happy to leave things to more skilled crime-fighters. Peter’s youth and relative lack of experience set him apart from other Marvel heroes, and the filmmakers mostly keep him grounded, although his Stark-designed match has many technological bells and whistles that it threatens to turn him into a junior version of Iron Male.
Holland is great at communicating Peter’s wide-eyed marvel and thrill at having superpowers and getting to make a difference in the world, and Michael Keaton produces among Marvel’s finest onscreen villains as Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture, a working-class schlub whose villainy is an outcome of systemic mistreatment by larger-than-life figures like Tony Stark. He offers Peter a speech about his motivations towards completion of the motion picture that almost makes you root for Spider-Man to join forces with him.
That does not happen, obviously, and most of Homecoming proceeds according to trusted Marvel formula, with solid but generic instructions from Jon Watts (Police officer Cars and truck). There are a couple of impressive set pieces (most especially one set at the Washington Monolith), some seeds planted for future movies and some entertaining little bits of humor (and a minimum of there isn’t really a world-ending danger at the climax). Spider-Man has definitively signed up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for better or even worse.