The teenage years are an important part of a person’s life. Not only are we growing physically, we are growing mentally and socially, as well. There are a few characters within comic books that touch on the idea of “what if our hero was also a teenager”” To me, these can be some of the best stories of the medium, leading me to wonder if they’ll beat the villain and how they’ll handle the everyday things of being a teenager.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a superhero film that finally tackles this kind of story throughout the movie. Peter Parker, who was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War and played by Tom Holland, is a 15-year-old kid who has to deal with not only being Spider-Man but also things like school and friends.
Besides Holland’s Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Homecoming has a rather large cast when you look at not only the adults but also the kids that fill out Peter’s school. The person most important in Peter’s life is his Aunt May, who is portrayed by Marisa Tomei. She’s smart and protective, and all she cares about is Peter’s well-being. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark, in more of a mentor role than in a fist-punching one. Also returning from the Iron Man films is Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, who is now more of a middleman between the Avengers and Peter.
Rounding out the adult half of the cast is the antagonists for Spider-Man. There’s Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes who runs a group of exotic gun runners. Within his group are Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, and Micheal Chernus who respectively play Herman Schultz, Jackson Brice, and Phineas Mason. Donald Glover also has a small role as Aaron Davis, a man who tries to buy weapons from the group.
The younger cast is mostly seen with Peter Parker, though once or twice they’ll run into Spider-Man. Peter’s best friend Ned is played by Jacob Batalon, while his love interest Liz is played by Laura Harrier. Liz’s best friend is Angourie Rice’s Betty Brant, who does the school’s news report with Jason Ionello, who is played by Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.
There is one student that does seem to have it out for Peter and that is Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson, constantly calling Peter mean names and being on the Decathlon with Peter, Liz, and Ned. Rounding out the Decathlon team are Zendaya as Michelle Jones, Isabella Amara as Sally, Abraham Attah as Abraham, Tiffany Espensen as Cindy, and Michael Barbieri as Charles.
Coming of Age
Spider-Man: Homecoming is very much a coming of age story. Peter not only has to figure out what it means to be himself but also what it means to be Spider-Man. No one has all the answers at the age of 15 and when you add being a superhero into the mix, things are bound to go wrong. Not only does he live a duel life but he tries his best to keep it from everyone. From trying to be an Avenger and developing a romance with Liz, it’s tough to compartmentalize his identities.
The duality between Peter and his superhero alter ego, Spider-Man, is what ends up causing Peter the most issues. Hiding who he is and if he should use Spider-Man to get people to like him is a believable action for someone so young. This is a notion that the previous Spider-Man franchises have yet to touch on and allows Spider-Man: Homecoming to set itself apart from what has come before.
Adrian Tooms is believable and sympathetic in his motivations which make him a highlight to me, and having the great Michael Keaton is always a plus. It’s this performance and his connection and interaction with both Peter and Tony that turns this film from good to great.
The interactions with Happy Hogan occurred too often for me. The scenes were usually played for laughs but were always dismissive of Peter. While I understand the idea behind it — adults not giving younger people enough credit — the humor didn’t hit home for me. One interaction that constantly did though was with the suit’s AI. The communication errors with Peter learning what it can do always hit home.
Overall, the story of Spider-Man: Homecoming hits that coming of age feel that John Hughes hit regularly in the 1980’s. There is even a direct reference to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with it playing in the background while doing homage to it. The movie is enjoyable for all ages. There are characters that parents will connect with and others that the children will, and that makes it a movie that I can recommend to all members of the family, even if you are not fans of the MCU or other comic book movies.