It has been 15 years since Sony Pictures Entertainment released the first Spider-Man, directed by Sam Raimi. Since then, Peter Parker has appeared on the big screen six other times played by three different actors, including — most recently — Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
After five other Spider-Man movies and almost five years of closed-door discussions between Sony and Marvel, Homecoming is aptly named; one of Marvel’s most beloved characters has made his return to the screen and the studio that created him (although Sony still has creative control over the films).
And a successful return it has been. In its first weekend, Homecoming grossed more than $117 million in the domestic box offices, making it the second-best opening of any Spider-Man film behind only 2007’s Spider-Man 3, which brought in about $151 million its first weekend.
Unlike its predecessors, Homecoming doesn’t give the audience the Amazing Spider-Man, who swings from tall buildings in downtown New York. Instead, we receive our “friendly neighborhood” Spider-Man, often seen running through someone’s backyard in Queens.
And this isn’t just a nod to comic book lovers — who will recognize the phrase “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” used by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and repeated by Peter at the end of the film, as one used often by Spider-Man and when referring to him in the comics. The film really does give us a Spider-Man different from any we’ve seen on the big screen before.
Homecoming captures every side of Spider-Man, showing that, while he is a kid with superpowers and a fancy suit, Peter Parker is also so much more. By creating a truly relatable hero, the two studios were able to form a character that perfectly meshes with the already established Marvel Cinematic Universe, which speaks to Holland’s performance and the way he fills the role in his first solo outing as the web-slinger.
Holland brings the comedic side of the character to the screen while also showing strong character development and acting ability throughout the film. This is seen largely when Holland interacts with the Vulture (Michael Keaton) both as Spider-Man, in a scene where Vulture drops a building on him, and as Peter when he picks Liz up for the Homecoming dance and gets the surprise of his life.
From the beginning, Homecoming is a different kind of Spider-Man movie. The film opens, not with the protagonist, but with the antagonist, showing the audience the backstory of Vulture — performed beautifully by Keaton, who finally gets to fill the role that his character played in 2014’s Birdman.
Keaton’s performance as Adrian Toomes sets the standard for villains; he plays perfectly off Holland’s Spider-Man and has almost as much character development as the protagonist of the film. Vulture goes to jail at the end of the film, so who knows — we may get to see Keaton play Vulture again.
While Holland and Keaton primarily carry the film, Homecoming is not without its supporting cast.
It is not Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau (who plays Stark’s driver and bodyguard, Happy Hogan) who catch the audience’s attention. It is Peter’s supporting cast of Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) and Michelle Jones (Zendaya).
Batalon’s lovable “guy in the chair” and Zendaya’s witty and sarcastic Jones provide a breath of relief in a fast-paced film, and while Zendaya is not playing Mary Jane Watson, she did give a nod to the character at the end of the film when she says “my friends call me MJ.”
The presence of these two characters serves to remind us that this is not some over-the-top “billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” saving the world, but a high school student — one I personally cannot wait to see on the big screen again.
Homecoming is a work of art from start to finish. The plot and the acting come together to create a film that exceeds the expectations accompanying a reboot 15 years in the making.