Spider-Man isn't my favorite superhero by any stretch of the imagination. As a homeschooled kid, I never grew up surrounded by angsty teens and burnout teachers all trying to escape the halls of my local high school. The appeal of watching a young Peter Parker missed me completely in favor of the grossness and oddities of Batman and the entirety of DC Comics. I remember a distinct memory of buying a book on Norse mythology when I was about 11. My mother wasn't particularly happy with the notion of me wanting to learn about Freyja, Odin, and sons, but she was willing to oversee the learning process.
While I understand Spider-Man has had his fair share of dark moments (Civil War, Reign, and the Clone Saga, for starters), the webhead just never appealed much to me outside of the film world. It's almost criminal to have to mention the previous 3 films as a some kind of pseudo-comparison to Homecoming, and in many ways it's completely unnecessary. What Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man outings did for superhero cinema will always be looked at in reverence, in my eyes. It's when Avi Arad finally got to put his gold-ringed fingers all the way into the pie that was Spider-Man 3 did that film degrade to a turd. I had full trust in Raimi, and to this day I do. Spider-Man 3 wasn't his fault. The blame lie elsewhere.
Now, interestingly enough, Avi Arad gets his executive producer credit in Homecoming, and was the only moment during the film where bile rose up in the back of my throat and embittered my emotions. I swallowed my disdain and proceeded into Homecoming with a lot of unguided expectation, and wow, was I surprised to see what happens when everyone aboard gets on the same level to make a character and his world promote itself just as the comic book he's derived from.
Arad received an exec credit for simply being the producer of the last 5 films, in case you were wondering. It's the same principle that allowed Jon Favreau to receive an executive producer credit on Homecoming, as well. Though, it's his creation of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark that gave him that credit. Favreau will receive that credit any time Tony Stark appears or is explicitly mentioned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Arad receives the same credit for Spider-Man and that universe because he's in charge of development. The greatest part of the Sony/Disney deal that led to this film was that Kevin Feige(pictured), Marvel Studios' darling brainchild, took responsibility for producing, leaving Arad to be a mere mention in the credits. Enough about that guy. Let's get onto the film. Spoilers will follow.
MILD SPOILERS AHEAD
First off, I'm not going to say a thing about the plot of the film. The overarching narrative you will have to discover on your own when you watch the film. The spoilers that will follow below are more about new characters, the changes in the MCU Spider-Man: Homecoming ushers in, and general elements regarding how the movie falls into the MCU's recent past, present, and future.
Tom Holland, what a doll he is. He's the living embodiment of Peter Parker. What the other five films failed the Parker character, Holland and Homecoming more than make up for the previous incarnations of the character. Even though Holland is 20 years old, he looks like a pretty believable 15 year old freshman in high school. Even better, he's a perfect Spider-Man in all of the character's sarcastic, quippy glory. The 3 minutes we were blessed with Holland's presence in Captain America: Civil War simply wasn't enough time to know if Holland could pull off the character fully. Oddly enough, that lack of time we get to spend with the character in Civil War is reflective of my feelings after having seen Homecoming last weekend. I was so pumped to see him doing his things, and since Holland nailed the character's traits to a T, I want to see so much more of him in the future.
Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark made his presence known a few times in the film, and every time he did, I kept wondering how his hair had gone blond in the months following Civil War. Also of note, Downey seemed to be phoning the role in every time he was on screen. I could be picking up on the character's nuanced lack of desire to keep being part of the Avengers, so take that criticism with a grain of salt and formulate your own opinion. He just seemed to be out of touch with Parker, and that could very well be why he seemed lackadaisical.
Peter's friends were genuinely entertaining. Each character had a moment to let out some of their personalities, and because of that the high school scenes felt real, and like the halls were filled with indiviual-thinking people rather than motion vectors in shots. The fact each of Peter's classmates got their own moment really solidified the feeling of community in New York. I also appreciated immensely the amount of diversity and the ages (perceived or actual) of the students. I felt like I was watching high school take place rather than 20-something's pretending to be high school students.
Michael Keaton, Michael Keaton, Michael Keaton: you've had my heart since Gung Ho, Beetlejuice, and Multiplicity. You made me cry in Birdman, and formed my childhood with Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, respectively. Sure, your career was paused for some time, but you came back swinging! Keaton's Adrian Toomes AKA Vulture is a horrifying character, a man you can empathize with in plight, and someone you'd never want to find standing at the front door when you knock to see your date. The character of Toomes is given a commendable arc in the MCU, and that's something worth noting considering how uninspired some of the MCU's bad guys have been. Ant-Man's bad guy, played by Corey Stoll, as scary as he was, was given a story that few people could empathize with in that his riches and status were called into question. Many of the MCU's villains have forgettable archs. You remember the time Christopher Eccleston played Malekith in Thor: The Dark World? Yeah, it's okay if you forgot that amazing actor was given a hangup part in a film largely created to formulate and inform a larger arc within the universe. Keaton is given several moments to terrify and excite the audience, all at the expense of his demolition company and the (to him) meddling of Tony Stark. I cannot speak highly enough about Keaton's portrayal of Vulture.
The film drops the audience right into the fallout of the Leviathan and Chitauri "Battle of New York" from The Avengers. We're introduced to the principle players and how they fit into the films, and the main plot of the film is given a moment to breath before we're thrown right into our formal introduction of the title character. In the first few moments of the film, a Leviathan can quite clearly be seen in the background and the mention of Tony Stark's newly created "Department of Damage Control" is mentioned. There we have it; Stark created a cleanup team called Damage Control(which also happens to be a comic book) to clean up the mess that the Avengers and their alien foes left in the wake of their battle. While this portion of the overarching narrative of the MCU has really only been briefly mentioned or seen in the years following, Spider-Man: Homecoming makes an entire film based around the mess left and sets up an arguably amazing (pun intended) bad guy in that of Michael Keaton.
All of the weapons Toomes and company use in the film have been resourced from the aforementioned Battle of New York, the Triskelion incident from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as the incident involving Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones' fight with the Avengers that started last year's Captain America: Civil War. Just like Peter's homemade suit in Homecoming, all of the bad guy's weaponry is derived specifically and mined from other films in the MCU canon. This is a brilliant concept when you step back to see how important the deal between Sony Studios and Marvel Studios really is for filmmaking.
The Deal between Sony and Disney is an unprecedented one. Imagine, for a moment, you've got a wall that's fallen inside a house you're selling and your best friend has a crew who specializes in construction. You come to him and say "Hey, I've tried to patch this hole up, and I've just basically made a mess of the whole thing. Could you come in and repair the wall?" Your buddy looks at you and says, "I've seen you struggling for a while, and not only will my crew and I help you, we'll work for free as long as you promote the work we did so we can reap the benefits later". That analogy works to some extent, but it's not a fully parallel equation. Let me go ahead and say what you might be thinking: No, this never happens in the film world. Every person and company that works on film should be and want to be paid for the work they do for months on end.
Now, Disney owns everything Spider-Man not related to film, so they'll make a mint in comic books, toys, blankets, etc. until the end of time. The favor Disney did was take creative control away from "The Name We Do Not Speak" at Sony and give it over to Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios. Everybody gets a piece of the whole pie that is Spider-Man, and Sony receives the entire slice of the film's profits. That's unprecedented. Let me reiterate, this has never happened in the history of film. Sure, businesses are bought out and assimilated, but these are two very separate entities making a general profit for the good of both the character and their perspective stakes in that character's licensing and marketability.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a call to action for both Sony Studios and Marvel Studios in different ways. Sony needs to get a Spider-Man-centric universe off the ground, and they've largely failed that since Raimi's Spider-Man 3. Marvel Studios has a huge narrative upcoming in the future called The Avengers: Infinity War, and anyone who's read a bit about the comic knows that the comic is pretty difficult to make without Spider-Man. He's a tremendous catalyst in that narrative, and Marvel Studios wants that character to play around with in their own universe.
Does Spider-Man: Homecoming do what a spider can and stick the landing when it falls into our laps? Yes, it absolutely does. Spider-Man: Homecoming is currently screening and is the number 1 rated film in the world. Spend a few dollars on a ticket and watch what a cumulative group of over 15,000 people made for us to enjoy. Spider-Man: Homecoming is both Amazing and Spectacular.