The theatrical release of Spider-Man: Homecoming defined Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and proved you can reboot a character three times and still find new, entertaining material in the initial premise. In fact, the film might the most successful threeboot of any comic book property. But now that it is available on home video formats (Blu-ray in the case of this review), does it still hold up?
For the most part, yes. Much of what made the film charming and delightful in theaters maintains its appeal on home video. Holland is still easily the best of the live action Spider-Men and Jacob Batalon is still a great addition as Ned. And while we’re talking performances, Michael Keaton is a revelation as Adrian Toomes. He’s the sort of complicated villain I imagine Marvel Studios always wants, but loses as they end up having too much fun with the hero. The success of the Vulture is a credit to both Keaton as a performer and the script’s smart use of Toomes as a character.
On a second viewing, the Vulture’s conflict with Tony Stark and the wider world is more readily apparent. In the wake of Avengers‘s Battle of New York, he got stomped on by Stark’s forceful personality and the US government. As we see Toomes in the film’s opening moments, he wants to be a decent guy who is good to his employees and provides for his family. The desire gets twisted almost immediately as the lure of alien tech turns him into a thief and a weapons manufacturer. As he so succinctly puts it as the opening sequence ends, “business is good.” Would he have become the Vulture if Stark and Damage Control had honored his contract or offered to make use of his men and equipment in the removal of the alien tech from Manhattan? That’s difficult to say. But the ambiguity there makes him far more interesting and complicated than Red Skull or Malekith. His initial grievance also makes him a very relatable antagonist.
And it’s a layer to the character that would not be in the film if it were separate from the MCU.
One thing that becomes clearer watching it again is how hard director Jon Watts and his teamed worked to make Peter and his schoolmates part of a living Marvel world in which a number of high-profile battles have already taken place. The bus to Washington D.C. is diverted because the highways are still being repaired from HYDRA’s takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Avengers are celebrities in their own right and Peter’s “internship” with Tony is dismissed by classmates as wishful thinking. After the bodega gets destroyed, Aunt May offers Peter safety advice that would almost sound like “stranger danger” except for it being in reference to high tech criminals. Then there’s the gym coach’s confusion about showing the kids a Captain America physical fitness video when he might be an enemy of the state.
Those things ground the film far better than most attempts to “ground” superheroes. Instead of being ashamed of superhero style events, the MCU presented in Spider-Man: Homecoming embraces them as a normal part of the background noise the kids at Midtown School of Science & Technology face everyday as they try to grow up. Aliens and gods are as real as homework and homecoming dances. The movie would be great if these were just throwaway pieces of set-dressing, but Spider-Man: Homecoming is very much about two people trying to navigate this weird world of Iron Men and Dark Elves.
But for all that brilliance in structure and theme, the movie is still too long. As I said in my first review, there is a sequence that could be cut out entirely: the ferry sequence. It’s a great piece of action, to be sure, but much of its role in the theme and plot could have been conveyed in the earlier Washington Monument scene. Instead of a rousing success, Peter could’ve leveled the monument while saving the decathlon team. In fact, everything the ferry sequence accomplishes — right down to Tony’s decision to take back the suit — might have more resonance as the people Peter saved are breathing characters we’re somewhat invested in.
The fact this armchair director’s note is still in my head suggests the Washington Monument and ferry sequences are too much of a double beat, presenting one of the few true missteps in the film. But a second viewing also reveals similar, if smaller, mistakes. Some points are hit too hard or repeated too often. Ned asking Peter questions about his abilities, for example, is fun because of Batalon’s performance. But it also eats a lot of screentime for the sake of one joke. A few of Ned’s questions could be cut while maintaining the character’s charm. That’s just one example of the film’s tendency to overplay small, funny moments. At the same time, the film still has enough fun and energy to get the viewer past those speedbumps as it heads toward one of the best twists in a MCU film to date.
The energy is also on display in the hour of bonus materials. Most are featurettes assembled from Electronic Press Kit footage and interviews, but manage to offer glimpses of a particularly fun set. Searching for Spider-Man and Jon Watts: Head of the Class in particular celebrate the lead actor and director in way that might seem cloying if not for the fact both delivered the goods and have genuine rapport in the on-set footage. Aftermath goes into some of the details about Damage Control that might be overlooked in a first viewing of the film. Its reliance in sit-down interviews make it a less engaging featurette despite the interesting information it conveys. Especially when compared to Searching for Spider-Man.
Curiously, the best of the special features come from the media sight-gags in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Rappin’ with Cap is an assembly of unused Captain America PSAs that are just as funny as the ones in the film. Chris Evans gets special marks for maintaining a straight face while apologizing for hosting a video students will watch because their parents do not want them to learn about human reproduction. The other is a deleted scene compilation of Midtown Science’s in-school TV news program. Angourie Rice and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. are hilarious as uncomfortable co-anchors Betty Brant and Jason Ionello, but the real jokes come from the technical mistakes that will be familiar to anyone who worked on a high school TV news program.
The set is rounded out with more deleted scenes, a brief but truly funny gag reel and “The Spidey Study Guide” — a pop up text track that plays with the film and points out some of the subtler MCU connections and easter eggs.
Spider-Man: Homecoming maintains its key qualities with its home video release. It’s still a funny and fresh take on Spider-Man even as it shares its overlong runtime with the previous Spider-Man cycles. The special features also offer a fun look at the film’s best asset: Tom Holland’s dedication to Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is available on disc and digital platforms now.
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