When the credits rolled it all made perfect sense. The film had six screenwriters. Six. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is two films. The first story is an incredibly engaging story of class warfare; an examination of how the assembly of the Avengers created an even greater economic divide between the ruling class and the common people. The second story tries to play it smart. It forgoes the origin story, it ignores Uncle Ben’s lore, yet it is the coming of age/teen angst/generic internal struggle. The film tries so hard but the two narratives never fully fuse together.
The film looks great. Salvatore Totino’s cinematography is sharp and shot with authority. Michael Giacchino delivers the best score of the MCU and director Jon Watts does a very good job juggling a film that acts as a slight follow up to CIVIL WAR whilst staying true to who Peter Parker is.
Tom Holland is great as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, but he and the film are overshadowed by the command performance of Michael Keaton. Keaton completely owns the film. He ranks at the top tier of Marvel’s cinematic villains, joining the likes of Jeff Bridges’ Iron Mongerer and James Spacer’s Ultron.
The problem is Keaton is too good a villain in the film. Not only is his storyline of a salt of the earth scrapper turned big bad supremely rich, he outweighs an untested Spider-Man. It’s apparent in their first altercation, and by the final showdown when Spider-Man doesn’t have his Tony Stark super suit it is literally a showdown that is near impossible to accept.
Keaton doesn’t pull any punches. He’s cashing in on his star power with a big paycheck from Marvel, and good for him, he’s more than earned it with his phenomenal filmography. He doesn’t go through the motions with his performance, he’s frightening yet he’s a sympathetic man pushed to the brink to provide the life that his family deserves. The best scene of the film is a brief car ride, where Keaton figures out the true identity of Spider-Man that is cued up to Traffic’s THE LOW SPARK OF HIGH-HEELED BOYS. That scene is more than worth the price of admission alone.
Marvel makes solids films. They always have. You know exactly what you’re going to get. They may change the ethnicity of a character, they may try and sex up a character (heyyyy Aunt May), but they always serve a conventional fan service. They have yet to strike the balance of giving the diehard herd of fanboys what they want while at the same time formulating an emotionally dynamic story for those who after sitting through nine years of the Marvel machine expect a little bit more.