Kernel Rating (out of 5): (4.5 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 133 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 12+. This latest Marvel film is mostly high school-centered, so many of the challenges of its protagonist are how to fit in when faced with bullying, a crush who may not return his affections, and classes that seem beneath his abilities. Those elements will resonate most with teenage audiences, but should be relatable to middle school viewers, too. Some cursing, including one implied use of the f-word; a rude hand gesture; some teenage romantic angst; some crude, sexually themed jokes; and a variety of typical Marvel violence, including destroyed buildings, harmed civilians, a person who is vaporized, and some moments that may be scary for those afraid of heights.
Marvel brings Spider-Man fully into the Avengers universe with ‘Homecoming,’ and the film resonates most when it lets Peter Parker just be a kid. The youthful vibe of this character reset, with its sense of humor and its light touch, makes ‘Homecoming’ one of the most enjoyable Marvel movies in years.
By Roxana Hadadi
It’s a fairly reasonable argument that we didn’t really need another “Spider-Man” film, not when the first trilogy starring Tobey Maguire and the duo of films with Andrew Garfield seem so recent. But what could have just been a so-so film that operated as an excuse for Marvel to finally allow the character into the Avengers universe is actually a vibrant, pitch-perfect blockbuster that lets the youthful vibe of Peter Parker be the center of attention. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the most straightforwardly enjoyable Marvel movie in a long time.
Picking up after his introduction in “Captain America: Civil War,” “Homecoming” focuses on 15-year-old New Yorker Peter Parker (Tom Holland, of "In the Heart of the Sea"), a genius who lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei, of "Love the Coopers") in an apartment in Queens and has hidden from her that a mysterious spider bite gave him extraordinary abilities. In the months since the events of “Civil War,” Parker has been consumed with the idea that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., of "Avengers: Age of Ultron") may call on him again—and struggling with Iron Man’s advice: “Don’t do anything I would do ... don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
By day, Peter keeps attending Midtown School, where he aces classes without even trying, hangs around with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), avoids the bully Flash (Tony Revolori, of "The 5th Wave") who calls him “Penis Parker,” and stares longingly at senior Liz (Laura Harrier, of "The Last Five Years"), the captain of the school’s academic Decathlon team.
After school, Peter tries to make his neighborhood a better place under the guise of having an internship with Stark Industries, his little white lie for being Spider-Man: He gives a woman directions, he recovers a stolen bike, and he tries to foil a car theft. But his calls with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, of "The Jungle Book"), who Tony has positioned as Peter’s handler, never really go well because Happy never seems to be listening or taking anything Peter does seriously. Every adult Peter meets just keeps treating him like a kid.
That changes when Peter disrupts an ATM robbery by four men in cheap Avengers masks: “Thor, Hulk, good to finally meet you guys,” Peter cracks, but things go sideways quickly when the perpetrators use mysterious, powerful technology that can levitate Peter and slice buildings apart. Who is behind these new guns and weapons on the streets of Peter’s neighborhood? His digging leads back to Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, of "Minions"), a villain whose motivations against the Avengers seem, honestly, completely justified. “The world’s changing; it’s time we changed, too,” Toomes says to his crew in an opening scene, and it’s clear that he’s not going to let anyone—not even Spider-Man—stand in his way.
To give away more of Toomes’s plan would be to spoil the character, but suffice to say that he is the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a while, one whose plan, in a post-Avengers world, is completely relatable and honestly somewhat justified. Keaton is an actor with the right kind of menace to make this work, with just enough edge beneath his toothy grin, and the fight scenes with his Vulture character and Spider-Man are thrillingly designed. He and the exuberant-and-believably youthful Holland have good oppositional chemistry, and it’s refreshing that “Homecoming” went in a different direction from the typical Green Goblin bad guy route.
Director Jon Watts makes other good choices, too, like channeling ‘80s high school movies with his depiction of awkward Peter and his misfit friends (a direct homage to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is appreciated); sprinkling in scene-stealing actors like Zendaya as Peter’s hilariously weird classmate Michelle and Donald Glover, who makes quite an impression in only about 10 minutes of screentime; and slyly working in Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity elements to remind us of the world in which Peter lives, one where the Sokovia Accords are taught in school and a teacher cracks of Captain America, “Pretty sure this guy’s a war criminal now.”
All in all, “Homecoming” is probably about 10 minutes too long, and the final action sequence drags on a bit, and it would be nice if Peter’s crush Liz had more of an identity than just “Peter’s crush Liz.” But “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is also a movie that understands Peter’s character arc, makes teenage angst sympathetic, and prioritizes diversity, with Asian-American, Latin-American, African-American, and Muslim-American characters all given attention and interiority. It’s the jolt of energy the Marvel Cinematic Universe needed.
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