While watching Spider-Man: Homecoming, there was a feeling I had that I was watching what was missing. Not just what was missing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but what had been missing from all prior Spider-Man movies. Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t just a great Spider-Man movie, it’s a movie that allows itself to be funny and serious and immature and young. It embodies the main character — the movie is Peter Parker, in all the ways that matter.
First off, the MCU timeline makes no sense whatsoever. If The Avengers took place in 2012, then “eight years later” would mean this movie takes place in 2020. But this movie takes place two months after Captain America: Civil War, which took place in 2016...which means that The Avengers had to take place in 2008, which means that all of Phase 1 took place within one year of the first Iron Man. Which...is that right? Does this movie take place in 2016? Or did Captain America: Civil War take place in 2017? Are we living in the future?
Never mind, because that doesn’t matter, because Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes is also not just what a Spider-Man movie needed, but what the MCU needed. He is a three-dimensional supervillain who is smart and scary. He’s not uber-smart like Zemo was, guessing exactly what the heroes would do, but he is smart enough to know that he has to keep under the radar and that Spider-Man is messing up with that plan. All of his scenes were great, including accidentally killing one of his henchmen. And even out of his suit, he was goddamn scary. The scene with him in the car, stopping at the red light, as the idea of Peter being Spider-Man dawns on him was just a chilling moment.
Even better was the fact that 1) he doesn’t die and 2) he stays relatively gray. Sure, he tries to kill Peter, but once Peter saves his life, he doesn’t reveal his secret identity to anyone. And him doing what he does in order to provide for his family was a nice alteration — even being the father of Liz Allan (or I guess Liz Toomes in this universe) was a fascinating twist.
All of the characters in the film really do stand out — and having Peter confide in Ned and then Karen/Suit Lady made him a lot more interesting. This is a Peter who has friends — in the original Spider-Man trilogy and even Amazing Spider-Man, it seemed as if Peter was a sad loner whose only friend was Harry Osborn sometimes. This Peter has friends, even if he is still picked on by Flash Thompson (another nice change — he’s no longer a physically imposing bully, but now a rich trust fund kid). Tom Holland isn’t anything like Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. He never comes across as annoying or grating like they did sometimes. Hell, he comes across as a realistic teenager.
Same goes for Jacob Batalon as Ned — who is basically Ganke Lee, let’s face it (in fact, I expected his name to be “Ned Lee,” which it was in the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon), but that isn’t a bad thing. He is, essentially, the audience surrogate, but enough of his own character that it never becomes annoying. (And I love his hat. Never give up on the hat, Ned.)
Hell, every character has a moment in the film that’s great. Aunt May is great, Liz is great, even Jennifer Connolly as a disembodied voice was great. Zendaya as Michelle provided some very nice bits of comedy, even if her being “MJ” came out of nowhere and makes no sense. (Film, it’s okay if you don’t introduce her yet. Don’t rush into things. Remember to keep your feet on the ground.)
Hell, Happy Hogan was great in this film. In fact, he had more character development in this film than he had in the previous three Iron Man films. (Is it bad that now I ship Happy/May?)
This is a movie with heart. It’s a movie that revels in being about young people. There’s a neat moment where it expertly mimics Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and that’s what the movie feels like: a celebration of how we feel in high school. Excited, full of energy, and very overwhelmed, all at once.