I do not like arachnids, but I do like Spider-Man. My first worry about Spider-Man: Homecoming wasn’t whether it would be good, it was whether there were any of those terrifying creatures in the film. Mercifully, we have been spared. So, with my baseline measurement fulfilled, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a rousing success. Most of the movie is good, but I suggest watching either The Avengers or Captain America: Civil War before this film (assuming you haven’t already, multiple times).
Our newest Spidey (Tom Holland) makes his first appearance in Civil War so Homecoming does not waste time with the origin story. I like this Peter Parker. Holland was born in 1996, so it’s the closest actor to the age of the character it’s been in a while (Tobey was 27, Andrew, 29). Holland’s Peter Parker navigates high school while maintaining his “internship” with Stark Industries. This internship really is just the one time that Iron Man borrowed him to help fight Captain America in Civil War. Stark has let him keep the super-powered Spidey-Suit, so since he has this amazing suit, Stark instructs his driver, Happy (Jon Favreau), to babysit him. Happy still has other responsibilities, so he monitors from afar, calling in help when Peter gets himself in a mess every now and then. Without him, Spidey would’ve been squished early on.
Ex-Birdman/Batman Michael Keaton plays Adrian Toomes, who begins the film working as the owner of a small salvage/industrial company in charge of cleaning up New York City after the events of The Avengers. They’re interrupted by Stark Industries, who is contracted to work with the federal government’s new Department of Damage Control to clean up the disaster zone. This leads the workers to steal some of the weird alien technology they find on site. He’s the “blue-collar” worker who loses a big contract to Big Business and Bigger Government. The money Toomes and his crew would’ve made cleaning up their city instead ends up in the pocket of one of the most arrogant super-humans—scratch that—the most arrogant super-human, who destroyed the city in the first place.
But he rebuilds. Within eight years, Toomes has his own warehouse, is still working with the same crew and is basically an underground arms dealer, fashioning super-weapons out of the leftover tech. They must defend themselves, of course, as weapon-dealing is dangerous business, so Toomes makes a winged mechanical vulture costume to literally swoop in and eliminate troublesome enemies. There’s a neat Easter egg for Batman fans in there, too.
My favorite character is Ned, Peter Parker’s best friend. He asks the real questions, and upon discovering Peter’s secret life as Spider-Man, is immediately ready to become his “guy in the chair” – a trope he describes as the guy a hero calls on for help who sits in a swiveling chair, surrounded by computer screens, and wheels around a room shouting directions. Parker’s love interest is a fellow smart person named Liz (Laura Harrier), a pretty senior who is on the Academic Decathlon team with Peter, Ned, and a few others including another girl, Michelle (Zendaya).
There’s a dynamic between the social world and the crime world that Peter refuses to choose between. His assumption that he can have it both ways leads to trouble with a lot of people. At one point, Liz has a house party at her beautiful suburban abode, in sharp contrast to the apartment in Queens that Peter lives in with his aunt, so he hopes impress her with his “friendship” with Spider-Man. The party doesn’t go as anyone hopes; Spider-Man suddenly finds himself fighting Vulture and his crew for the very first time, and becomes fully aware that he is neither invincible, nor is he prepared to take on a Big Bad. But, he does find a piece of the alien technology after his fight, and Vulture wants it back. He finds out just how vulnerable he is around four or five more times before the film ends, while only ending up in detention once. Yeah.
Arguably the best recurring bit of the movie comes from some of public school’s favorite teaching tools: Public Service Announcements starring Captain America, and timely updates from the school’s news show. On another note, I’m not sure Zendaya’s character makes as much sense from the outset as she should; her appearances are intriguing, but only offer a shallow understanding of what is surely meant to be developed in the sequel. In fact, there is so much packed in that they could’ve saved some of it. It’s not irrelevant, it’s just a lot.
The movie goes on for some time, switching back and forth between two tones of realism and comic book heroics. The problem is that the film feels unnecessarily long: it’s over two hours of watching Spider-Man finding trouble and being woefully unprepared for what’s around the corner. The writers of the film address Peter’s inexperience directly through the meta-casting of Donald Glover, who plays Miles Morales in a cartoon series. He appears, seemingly only to tell Peter, “You gotta get better at this.” Truer words.
If the question is whether this is worth watching in the theater, the answer is a “Yes.” But don’t be surprised when you find yourself checking your watch.