No post-colon subtitle I can recall carries quite as much metaphorical weight as that of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The 400-Word Review - Spider-Man: Homecoming
By Sean Collier
July 10, 2017
The literal meanings of the word are twofold, as the film concerns itself with the young web-slinger’s return to his daily life after he is temporarily recruited to help Iron Man battle Captain America (as depicted in last year’s Civil War); there is also an actual homecoming dance depicted in the film, which is very much a high-school flick. More broadly, the title is a subtle joke about Spidey’s return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; after years apart from his brethren (owing to the rights to the character not yet being consumed by the Disney monolith), the most iconic Avenger is now a full member of the team.
But I kept thinking of that word, “homecoming,” as signifying a return to thematic accuracy. While characters (superheroes especially) are evolving, changeable creatures — as well they should be — the 2010s have seen numerous instances of big-screen character misrepresentation. DC’s Cinematic Universe has only done justice to Wonder Woman, as its Superman and Batman are woefully unfamiliar and off-putting versions of those characters; even Spider-Man himself suffered through a somewhat false representation in the hands of Sony and director Marc Webb.
This latest Spider-Man, however — played with infectious eagerness and relatable uncertainty by Tom Holland — is very much the character that fans know, brought to bear on the shared film universe that has sprung up in his absence. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) needed Peter Parker’s help in the skirmish with Captain America and recognizes the lad’s potential as a future Avenger; fearing a blunder that could imperil civilians or the teenager himself, though, Stark seeks to keep Parker’s exploits low-key. Unfortunately, an ATM robbery illuminates a trail that leads back to a sinister arms dealer (Michael Keaton), thrusting Spider-Man into a battle of grave import.
Keaton is the greatest strength in a very effective film; in a fascinating bit of coincidence, his villain recalls no one so much as Jack Nicholson’s Joker — who, of course, fought to foil Keaton’s Batman nearly three decades ago. But Homecoming is by no means a one-performance movie; it is an effective comedy, a compelling adolescent tale and a simply great comic-book flick. While the genre’s ubiquity is still growing, Homecoming confirms it: 2017 is the greatest single year in the history of superhero cinema.
My Rating: 9/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark