‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is a blast to watch and a blast to think about

As many complaints as I have about Spider-Man: Homecoming’s spoiler-filled marketing strategy, this poster superbly establishes the movie’s tone and character arc in a single image. Images courtesy Columbia Pictures.

9/10 Spider-Man: Homecoming is not the best Spider-Man movie, that’s still Spider-Man 2 and it’s always going to be Spider-Man 2. Homecoming may be the new favorite, however.

After a thrilling debut in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has fallen into a months-long stretch of boredom fighting petty crimes as he waits for another call from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who seems to have never taken him seriously. Parker finds his own trouble when he discovers a ring of robbers and gun dealers who work with dangerous technology salvaged from the Chitauri invasion in The Avengers. Among his new foes’ arsenal is a fearsome steampunk flight suit designed for their leader, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton).

Made under intense pressure on two stuidos, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a flawless diamond of a movie. Its scenes are magnetic and well-planned, all the characters pop despite some of them being heavily re-imagined, and most importantly, all of its emotional ups and downs land. The jokes, mostly at Parker’s expense, hit home, and Toomes is outright scary as a blue collar gang leader. Most of the surface-level stuff in the movie works really well.

The Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man series imploded just 10 years ago now. Homecoming represents Sony’s second attempt to restart the property and Marvel Studios’ seventh go-around at introducing a new hero in that timespan. They’ve started to take heat for the origin stories all feeling the same, a criticism that poses extreme danger to their now 16-part serial franchise. Both studios wanted to make something very different with this movie, and they have with a surprisingly intricate narrative.

Parker is set in a frustrating position, with an outward desire that he’s almost powerless to accomplish — to run off and join the Avengers — directly opposed to his internal need — to accept and put energy into the life that he does have. Director Jon Watts uses the camera to emphasize his lack of power, frequently showing him as tiny in the frame, and he even has to fight his supersuit, the very symbol of his power and the only validation he’s ever received as a hero. After hacking the high-tech leotard Stark gave him in Civil War and disabling the “training wheels protocol,” Parker meets his onboard computer, Karen (Jennifer Connolly), and is overwhelmed by its hidden capabilities.

This lack of power in his own narrative despite his fantastic abilities is the constant that has kept Spider-Man such an iconic character throughout his 55-year history. The Raimi/Maguire series played it for fire-and-brimstone drama, but Homecoming plays it for quaint charm, and it works just as well.

One of the best things about Spider-Man: Homecoming is the vulture suit’s design. It’s huge, it’s retro, it’s almost gothic. Toomes stays in constant motion and it’s hard to get a really good look at the suit, lending more to its menace.

Instead of having to watch Uncle Ben die for a third time, Parker is given two parallel father figures — the benevolent but barely-there Stark, who brings his own daddy issues to the table, and the imposing Toomes, who kills, steals and deals to provide for his family.

While Toomes fights to protect the business and family he’s built, Parker fights for essentially nothing other than his own self-image as a superhero. Toomes starts the movie in a flashback as a New York City salvage contractor trying to clean up after the events of The Avengers who is forced out by the government. A politically charged reading of Homecoming with him as the main character would be valid. Keaton brings a terrifying cool to the role.

Holland, in turn, brings youthful exuberance and a lack of confidence to the table.

With great performances, firm direction and complex conflict, Spider-Man: Homecoming immediately becomes one of Marvel’s best and most interesting offerings. It comes highly recommended.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and a syndicated columnist with the Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions and suggestions to reelentropy@gmail.com.

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