Spider-Man: Homecoming is pretty clearly the best movie featuring the character since at least 2004’s Spider-Man 2, and it’s another fine addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is comfortable keeping its stakes low, with a story that truly is about a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and that does not conclude with some world-ending battle. I absolutely can’t wait to return to this universe, both the larger Marvel universe in Avengers: Infinity War and the smaller universe of Queens in the Homecoming sequel.
Here are some early impressions of Spider-Man: Homecoming, including the things I loved and the few things I didn’t.
This post will feature spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Loved: The Connections to the MCU
Spider-Man: Homecoming left me in awe of everything Marvel has accomplished with its cinematic universe, even more so than Captain America: Civil War did. This world has become so rich, and Homecoming is firmly planted in it at all times. Mentions of the Sokovia Accords or Captain America’s PSAs don’t feel like gratuitous references for the sake of references. It more feels like Marvel has fully thought through what it would be like to live in this fictional reality of theirs, and I love that they have grown to the point where they’re comfortable throwing in more than just a handful of Easter Eggs and vague references to “what happened in New York.” Homecoming does kind of feel like an episode of a TV show rather than a new movie of its own, but I happen to love that TV show.
Hell, the entire villain storyline in this film is completely derived from Marvel thinking through what the fallout from their previous movies would be. I’ve never really considered what happens to the leftover bad-guy weaponry after an MCU film, but yeah, what does happen to it? Our villain here is not some mustache-twirling bad guy who has concocted a plot to fire missiles at New York City because he’s evil; he’s a guy whose entire motivation has to do with the fallout of The Avengers, and that’s kind of brilliant.
Loved: Peter Parker Sucking at Being Spider-Man
Peter Parker is kind of a bad Spider-Man in this movie. He’s constantly screwing up, making bad decisions, and is generally super unsure of himself.
The film always makes clear that his heart is in the right place, and he’s someone who loves helping people, staring at the clock all afternoon waiting to get out and be Spider-Man. At the same time, he is just a 15 year old kid, and we see that vulnerability come through quite often, like when he’s actively terrified to be on top of the Washington Monument and notes that he’s never been that high up before. There’s also, of course, the amazing scene in which he completely breaks down and panics while trapped under rumble. In retrospect, I can’t believe no previous Spider-Man movie has had a scene like that. Why should a high-school kid be so equipped to handle his imminent death?
It does help that Tom Holland is the first live action Spider-Man actor who actually looks his age, but he’s also the first to act his age as well.
Loved: The Score
I think it’s officially time for this “Marvel scores suck” narrative to die, because while that may have been true for the first half of the MCU, everything since Avengers: Age of Ultron has been pretty damn good. Homecoming‘s score is probably my favorite since the original Avengers, and there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind at this point that Michael Giacchino is the greatest non-John Williams composer working today.
For starters, it’s Giacchino who gives us the first “fuck yeah” moment of the movie: an orchestral version of the classic Spider-Man theme that plays over the Marvel Studios logo. You can just feel the energy in the room watching that theme kick into gear in the theater, and it’s so rare to hear audience members actually break out in applause solely due to a piece of score. I don’t think it’s necessarily just excitement over recognizing something classic, either; his rendition turns a lovable but inherently silly theme into an absolutely badass piece of music that I have already played back on the soundtrack about 20 times.
Part of me does kind of wish that this ended up being the main theme of Spider-Man, but at the same time, Giacchino does give Spider-Man a theme which is heroic and recognizable; I left the theater humming it, which is always a good sign. The Vulture, too, has a pretty solid theme that is well utilized all throughout the film.
I think the biggest issue with the Marvel scores is simply the fact that the themes are not repeated often enough. With so many different composers working on so many different movies, characters like Iron Man and Captain America are constantly getting new themes, and so audiences don’t have the opportunity to get the theme stuck in their head over the course of several years the way that John Williams beats the Force theme into our heads throughout all eight Star Wars films. Hell, even Spider-Man had a distinct theme in Civil War which has completely vanished. Giacchino’s score is proof of how effective it can be when we have some consistency in the music; when even a subdued rendition of Alan Silvestri’s original Avengers theme kicked in in Homecoming, I legitimately almost cried.
Loved: The Washington Monument Sequence
I mentioned it before, but the standout sequence of the film for me was the Washington Monument rescue, which is probably the tensest thing I’ve ever seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It doesn’t hurt that I’m afraid of heights myself, but I was clutching my seat the entire time and almost could not watch as Spider-Man struggled atop the monument and needed to gain some momentum to break in. The film brilliantly ratchets up the suspense with the ticking clock of the elevator fall, and it seems to actually use our knowledge of previous Spider-Man films to its benefit. One of the last things we saw in a Spider-Man movie was Gwen Stacy falling to her death as Spider-Man fails to save her with his webbing. So when Spider-Man’s love interest in this film is about to fall to her death and he is using his webbing to try to save her, it’s legitimately nerve-racking, and we don’t brush it off the way we normally would for a “hero’s girlfriend in peril” scene.
Loved: The Driving to Homecoming Sequence
If the Washington Monument sequence is not the highlight, it’s got to be the stretch from the moment it is revealed that [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!] Adrian Toomes is Liz’s father all the way up until the arrival at the Homecoming.
The twist itself is masterfully handled. It’s been quite some time since I was in a theater where I heard audible gasps from at least 50 percent of the crowd, but that happened in Homecoming when The Vulture opened the door of Liz’s house. What I love about the way the scene is structured, though, is that it’s kind of two back-to-back twists. First you see Adrian Toomes, and it’s a shock that he’s there, but you may initially assume he discovered Peter’s identity and has kidnapped his homecoming date. But then the scene progresses and you realize no, he really is Liz’s father.
The ensuing few minutes is the perfect combination of hilariously awkward and legitimately stressful, and Tom Holland plays the shock beautifully. For a moment, I felt like I was watching Breaking Bad, seeing this guy who seems to be a nice family man but who can break from that in an instant and become incredibly threatening.
Did Not Love: The Funky Retconning
Okay, what the hell is going on with the timeline in this movie? After the flashback to The Avengers, we get a title card that says “8 years later.” The Avengers was set in 2012, as we can gleam from the fact that Iron Man 3 takes place shortly after and is set in December 2012. That would make put Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2020.
But hold up. Homecoming is right after Civil War, right? It seems pretty clear that not much time has passed between films, yet in Civil War, it’s stated that the Avengers have been together for four years and that Tony Stark revealed himself as Iron Man eight years ago. Both of those lines place Civil War in 2016, not to mention all the interviews where director Joe Russo explicitly stated the movie was set in 2016.
It seems like there are basically three options here. One, Civil War and Homecoming are retroactively being moved to 2020 instead of 2016. Two, The Avengers is retroactively being moved back to 2008, meaning the entire first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe happened in a single year. Or three, the “8 years later” title card is legitimately just a mistake. But that seems like a pretty big mistake.
That’s not even the only weird retcon in the movie, though. This is an incredibly minor nitpick, but it did bug me. When we see the battle in Civil War from Spider-Man’s perspective, he swings in and says, “Hey everyone.” But that’s not what happened in Civil War! In that scene in Civil War, Spider-Man swings in, but he doesn’t say anything. Tony is the first one to speak, saying, “Nice job kid.” Peter Parker then says that he could have stuck the landing a little bit better, going on to thank Tony for the suit, introduce himself to Captain America as a big fan, and then, finally, saying, “Hey everyone.” However, he does say “Hey everyone” immediately after swinging in during the trailer for Civil War, so my theory is that they consulted the trailer when making that Homecoming scene and did not consult the final movie itself. Boy, I hope someone got fired for that blunder.
Did Not Love: The Michelle Reveal
You know what I’m sick of? Movies where an actor is rumored to be playing an iconic character, only to deny it in the press for months until the movie comes out and, surprise, they’re really playing that character like we all suspected. Often, this doesn’t seem to be to preserve some major twist. It just seems like secrecy for secrecy’s sake, and it always seems to result in a scene equivalent to the super lame moment in The Dark Knight Rises when John Blake reveals that his real name is…wait for it…Robin! You know, like, Robin!
The same type of thing happens here when Zendaya’s character Michelle reveals at the very end of the film that her friends call her MJ. To some degree, I understand the desire to keep this a secret. Had we known that Zendaya was playing Mary Jane, we might not have invested fully in the Liz relationship in Homecoming.
But the reveal itself I found to be groan-worthy, one of those examples in films of a character seeming to say something because the audience needs to hear it and not because they would say that in that situation. That said, I did enjoy Zendaya’s performance and look forward to seeing more of her in the sequels; I just think that whole reveal, including the buildup to it in the media and on screen, could have been handled better.
Other Random Thoughts
-I could have used more quips from Spider-Man. They really got the funny aspect of the character right in Civil War, but in Homecoming, almost none of the best jokes are even said by Spider-Man, with the exception maybe of his “This sucks!” I didn’t expect Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 Spider-Man to wind up being the funnier one.
-Speaking of comedic, I really enjoyed Hannibal Buress with his brief screen time. My second favorite joke of the movie is definitely him standing on the wrong side of the TV during Captain America’s PSA. (Favorite joke has got to be Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis complaining to Spider-Man that he has ice cream in the car.)
-Also gotta love the joke of Spider-Man being in the suburbs with nothing to swing on.
-Super small detail, but I loved the low production value high school news show.
-As expected, the trailers for this movie ended up being some of the worst of all time in terms of giving away spoilers. There really wasn’t a single setpiece in the movie that was not shown at some point during the marketing. What is it with Sony and horrible trailers? What is going on over there?