By: Christian Harding (Two Beers) –
Given the increasingly accelerating rise in ‘geek/nerd’-friendly cinema within the blockbuster scene the 21st century, one of the most popular and profitable film series of this era has been the Spider-Man franchise. With his being among the most popular comic book properties of all time, multiple interpretations of the character are to be expected, of course. However, few would disagree that attempting to adapt the franchise for the big screen not once, not twice, but *three times* over a period of only fifteen years seems a bit excessive. But such are the demands of current blockbuster tentpole franchising, and here we have the third modern adaptation of the beloved webslinger.
What makes this one stand apart from the previous two versions, first portrayed by Tobey Maguire and then again years later by Andrew Garfield, is that this Spider-Man is officially part of the timeline and continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something which many comic book fans have been asking for ever since the whole experiment kicked off with Iron Man back in 2008. And after a brief but memorable appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man finally gets his own feature-length film to shine and prove to both Tony Stark and audiences all over the globe that he can carry his own solo-outing in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Welp, this didn’t age very well.
This might go without saying, but it needs to be addressed up front: Spider-Man: Homecoming is by far the best solo Spider-Man film since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Of course, the middling level of film quality we’ve gotten from this franchise since then sort of puts a damper on that praise, but it just feels so good to finally have another one of these fall into the positive category for a change. Tonally, Homecoming comfortably fits in with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe outings (unsurprising, since their flicks are known for a tonal and stylistic consistency maintained throughout all of them), and its more lightweight approach to the character and his world even compliments the attempted ‘high school comedy’ angle pretty well.
Apart from Tom Holland’s solid turn as the titular superhero in training (I’m not entirely confident declaring him as the best of the three actors to play Spidey just yet, but he still does a perfectly fine job of making the role his own and standing out from the rest), supporting players like Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, and Disney Channel alumni Zendaya all fare pretty well, and are dealt a solid balance of smart comedic writing while blending their own unique, likable personalities into their roles. Here’s hoping we get more out of them during inevitable future installments. Also worth mentioning is the villain du jour in Michael Keaton’s Vulture. While he doesn’t single-handedly solve Marvel’s villain problem (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about), Keaton gives a solid turn in the role and has more than a few really memorable, intimidating moments to balance out the otherwise hokey looking Vulture suit.
For all that Spider-Man: Homecoming is really trying to distance itself from the previous installments in the franchise and be seen as its own singular interpretation of the Spider-Man universe, it sometimes can’t help but get bogged down with constant references and easter eggs to both Marvel characters and films of the past – the first twenty minutes or so in particular are dominated with these elements to a distracting degree, but they thankfully become less and less present (or at least noticeable) as the film goes on.
All that being said, I also give the creative minds behind the film a decent amount of credit for at least attempting to make Tony Stark’s presence herein somewhat tied into the plot, as well as making him a key part in Peter Parker’s emotional journey. It’s just that now that Spider-Man is officially a part of the MCU, it feels pretty redundant to be so reliant on references and canon-stroking to continue emphasizing his role in the grander scheme of things. This feels especially needless when considering that this one film also needs to shake off the memory of both Maguire and Garfield’s versions of the character on top of everything else. This might seem like an odd point to focus on, but hopefully they can at least balance all of these elements with better success in the upcoming installments.
*leans over to date and whispers* “…that’s Spider-Man…”
On the whole, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a pretty rousing success, considering all it had to live up to. At the very least, it’s definitely the breath of fresh air this character needed so desperately after three wishy-washy at best solo films, and is just an all around entertaining film in its own right. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first two Sam Raimi directed films, that’s almost an unfair standard to judge this interpretation of the character just yet, since we’re only at the beginning of his tenure. Judged on its own merits, it’s a solidly enjoyable flick and well worth checking out if you aren’t fatigued by the constant rebooting of the same characters time and time again.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: for every cameo by an Avenger or other previously established Marvel character.
Do another Shot: whenever you spot a Marvel Easter-egg (and do one more if a character in the film acknowledges it).
Shotgun a Beer: for each reference to a past Spider-Man film and/or actor.
Pour a Glass Out: for the combined man-tears of both previous Spider-Man actors seeing their franchises continue without them.