A criticism I have of previous Spider-Man films, especially the Raimi trilogy, is that they have often felt too overblown and over-dramatic, resulting in unholy amounts of cheesiness e.g. Mary-Jane being the damsel-in-distress (three times), Emo-Peter from Spider-Man 3, the ENTIRETY of Spider-Man 1. The Webb films aren't without their flaws too; characters are poorly developed and too many plot points are crammed in too quickly. In the end, the only thing audiences cared about in the Webb films was the fantastic relationship between Peter and Gwen, meaning that the rest felt like unneccessary filler. Spider-Man: Homecoming may only be the start of a new franchise so it has yet to develop its own fully-rounded reputation, but if future Spidey films are able to be like Homecoming or even better, then we may receive the best adaption of the wall-crawler to ever grace the big-screen.
Whereas previous Spidey films have felt overblown, Homecoming strips everything back to its bare basics and yet makes it interesting. We all know the formula; Peter must balance his high-school life with his superhero life whilst attempting to woo his crush and stop an evil, usually animal-inspired, bad guy. But where this film succeeds over the others is that it feels fresh. We don't get another origin story like we did in The Amazing Spider-Man, instead focusing on Peter trying to prove himself to Tony Stark. This is already a good move on the film's part as it keeps the audience invested as this is something we haven't seen in previous Spidey films, and the fact that this film is linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe just emphasizes its scale and possibilities; This universe has already been established so audiences can immediately connect and find familiarity in the film's tone and events, therefore increasing their, and my, enjoyment of it. Even those who aren't familiar with this MCU can still enjoy the film, partly due to the casts' fantastic performances. Tom Holland is a wonderful Spider-Man; he is able to capture the great youthful energy the character is known for in his performance whilst also being reserved and believably intelligent, and not a caricature of the "nerd" stereotype. That was a problem with previous performances of the wall-crawler; Whilst all have been great, Tobey Maguire never really captured the wit of Spider-Man, whilst Andrew Garfield was, at times, too witty to be believed as the "nerdy" character. Holland is the perfect balance of both without turning in an inconsistent performance. Is he the best Spider-Man to take to the screen? I really don't know yet as I still have a soft spot for Garfield, but given a few years, I'm sure Holland will rise to the top of my list due to just how well he captures all aspects of the character.
Holland was fanatastic, obviously, but there's one performance in the film that I think might overshadow his due to how good it was. I am talking of Michael Keaton's Vulture. When I first heard the Vulture was going to be the film's villain, I was skeptical as the Vulture never struck me as one of the more interesting villains in Spidey's rogue-gallery. But due to how charismatic and downright unsettling Keaton is in his perfomance, he turns the Vulture into an extremely intimidating yet sympathetic character, again a balance I feel villains in Spidey films haven't really achieved successfully until now. Keaton's pointed brow and beady eyes, along with his rough yet elegant way of speaking, makes you fear weather or not he's going to snap whenever he is challenged by those threatening him, and I don't just mean by Spider-Man. You immediately understand why the Vulture does what he does and you'd have a hard time arguing against his case given the unfortunate circumstances the character finds himself in. Had the film been shot from his perspective, he could have easily been the hero of the film, but this is Spidey's film, and Spider-Man fights against those who break the law, no matter what the motivation. May I remind you that this is an MCU film, where villains are usually generic, boring obstacles for the hero to overcome, so it is extremely refreshing to see this much thought and attention put into the villain, especially since he really doesn't get that much screentime. Keaton manages to deliver a hell of an impression though and the fact that his characters is such a normal guy just adds to the overall fear factor of his character.
Unfortunately, the film's action, whilst visually appealing, is not as memorable as previous Spidey films. I won't spoil much but the ferry fight scene that was featured in all the trailers is quite a short sequence so its dramatic effect is somewhat lost on the audience. Take the train fight scene from Spider-Man 2; the reason why this is such a good fight scene is that we see everything in painstaking detail and the risk is extremely high, which is even more impressive considering everything takes place aboard a speeding train. As Spidey and Doc Ock battle it out, there are several moments where we see the public in the train at risk. We see all walks of life on the train, from the elderly to the young, which puts the pressure on Spidey to not only stop Doc Ock, but also stop the train from crashing and killing all these people. In the ferry fight scene in Homecoming, Spidey and Vulture don't even get close to each other whilst battling. There is no sense of contact as they hardly even share the same shot throughout the entire fight. The people on the ferry aren't focused on as much either, so the risk doesn't feel as high or as important to Spidey and the audience as it should. So when he does have to hold the ferry together after it is ripped in half, we aren't caring for the danger as much as we should be. Spidey doesn't even seem to be struggling that much when he's trying to hold the ferry together. Yeah, me makes a few groans but recovers from it extremely quickly. Spidey stopping the train in Spider-Man 2 is much more effective as we see Peter genuinely struggling to stop the train. His suit rips and the webs attaching him to the walls beside the train are focused on in great detail so the audience can truly be on the edge of their seat once they start to see the webs snapping. It's a situation that is way beyond Peter and it almost kills him because of this. It is all handled brilliantly and Homecoming fails to do that when its big action-piece does arrive. Also, the final fight of Homecoming left a lot to be desired. Again, I won't spoil much, but the lighting is very dark and murky. It's not easy to make out what is going on and the whole thing just becomes a blur and not enjoyable to look at.
So is this perfect Spider-Man film? I'm not sure. Whilst that trademark MCU comedy is there and the cast is wonderful (particularly Holland and Keaton), the action is somewhat lacklustre, its themes aren't that deep or thought-provoking, and the film does fall down somewhat during its climax. However, this doesn't stop it from having a hugely improved sense of pace compared to recent installments and it doesn't get too carried away with its characters and plotlines, instead taking time to carefully craft each one so that the audience can get fully invested and enjoy the overall experience more. I still think Spider-Man 2 is my favourite Spidey film just due to how closely it sticks to the essence of the character and how much it got what I believe to be important to these films right. However, Homecoming is definitely second on my list as Holland is arguably the best Spidey yet and I'll take Vulture over Doc Ock due to how genuinely unsettling Keaton is. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing what Marvel have planned for the web-slinger in the future.