It’s crazy to think that it’s been almost 10 years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was established. Since 2008, we’ve seen Iron Man blow up buildings and Captain America take on enemies with just his shield. Marvel may be formulaic, but it knows what the audience wants and continue to deliver quality material on an annual basis.
When it was announced that Marvel and Sony were going to partner up to bring Spider-Man to the MCU, the crowd was divisive. Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of the webbed hero was met with mixed reaction with fans saying that he didn’t embody Peter Parker’s awkward personality. When Tom Holland was announced as the brand new Peter Parker, fans were skeptical about yet another rendition. Thankfully, his introduction in Captain America: Civil War eased our minds and even had fans calling him the best Spider-Man yet.
One year after his debut, Holland proves that he can stand on his own in his stand-alone film, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Set after the events of Civil War, it follows Peter during his sophomore year of high school. He’s had a taste of the Avenger life and will do anything to get back in the action. While he’s waiting for Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) call, he’s the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man who spends after school giving directions to old ladies and stealing back bikes from robbers. When he catches an illegal arms deal in action, he strives to put an end to the business, but is consistently stopped by Stark.
This movie felt like a breath of fresh air because of how grounded it was. It actually felt like it was set in the MCU because we got to see this world through the eyes of the common folk. Teenagers are learning about the Sokokia Accords, and high school P.E teachers put on PSA videos with Captain America. Even though we have been acquainted with them for almost 10 years, The Avengers are so foreign to the rest of the world and it’s interesting to see how regular people react to their deeds.
That point of view is essential to understand the Vulture, who is one of the most compelling villains in the MCU. Michael Keaton plays this troubled man with such nuance, giving off gentle vibes with a mix of brutality. The Avengers may have saved the world from aliens, but it’s workers like Adrian Toomes who have to clean up the mess. Even though he’s very intense, you can still see sadness and dedication to his family.
It’s safe to say that Holland is the best Spider-Man to date. He happily embraces Peter nerdy and socially awkward personality and seamlessly blends into this high school environment. His only friend is Ned (Jacob Batalon giving one of the most realistic portrayals of a teenager), who is a little more than excited to find out that his best friend is an Avenger. Their characters are so colorful that it’s easy to forget the other supporting characters all together.
To those who were worried that Iron Man was going to steal the show, rest assured that he’s only in the film for around 10 minutes tops. That being said, his character gave a strong presence acting more like a reluctant father figure than the billionaire playboy that we know and love. We all know about Tony’s daddy issues, and it seems that he’s trying to be more supportive than his own father was. Peter wants to be just like him, but Tony wants him to be better.
The writers and director Jon Watt give Spider-Man:Homecoming the John Hughes treatment and makes it more of a coming of age story than an actual superhero film. Spider-Man is considerably underpowered compared to his opponents, but he still goes after them because that’s all he believes he’s good for (He pleads to Tony, “I’m nothing without this suit!”). By making him clumsy and starry-eyed, this feels more like an origin story than any of the Marvel origin stories. Peter is given real challenges, and he doesn’t necessarily achieve them all by the end of the film. The writers remind us that he’s still a kid, and, for now, just a neighborhood friendly Spider-Man.