Spider-Man: Homecoming

Posted: July 22, 2017 in Film reviews
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Directed by Jon Watts. Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Robert Downy Jr.

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I’m sure Deadpool would have a witty remark about teenage boys and sticky fluid to mention here but thankfully I am more mature.

After helping one set of Avengers against the other, Peter Parker (Holland) is eager for Spider-Man to become a fully-fledged Avenger, but Tony Stark (Downy Jr) feels that he’s too young and inexperienced, and suggests that he concentrates on being a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man for now.

Undeterred Peter neglects his studies and social activities to concentrate of crimefighting, included within this he quits his school’s academic decathlon team, despite having a major crush on one of his fellow students, Liz (Laura Harrier). His decision to leave opens up a space for Flash (Tony Revolori) a smug bully who has a dismissive opinion of Peter.

Whilst patrolling the streets of New York Spider-Man comes across a group of criminals selling high tech weapons retrieved from some of the Avengers’ major battles during the last eight years. The group is led by a man named Adrian Toomes (Keaton) a salvage expert who feels he was cheated out of a fortune when he wasn’t allowed to salvage alien technology after the Chitauri invasion of the first Avengers movie. Toomes has a high tech set of mechanical wings and an alter ego as The Vulture.

As Spider-Man tries to bring down the Vulture, he also has to contend with his best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) discovering his secret identity, and has to confront the possibility that, as Stark says, he isn’t ready to be a fully-fledged hero.

 

The word Homecoming in the title has something of a dual meaning. Ostensibly it relates to the Homecoming dance at Peter Parkers high school, an event that resonates in the background throughout the film, but it also refers to Spidey coming home. The character is owned by Sony these days, and so until now hasn’t been able to play a part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually quite liked the last two Spider-Man films, and for me Andrew Garfield made for a better Peter than Tobey Maguire, but the absence of Spider-Man from the Avengers films has left a noticeable gap, and although the introduction of Spidey to the MCU seems a little complex (with Sony retaining some ownership and effectively loaning the character out) it is great to see him return.

Of course people wondered if we really needed a third version of Spider-Man in just fifteen years (and the second version in just the last five) but Homecoming answers that question very easily. Obviously we did, and I think most people understood that once we saw Spider-Man cameo in Captain America: Civil War.

The makers of Homecoming have delivered a film that is at once simplistic, yet also one that goes out of its way to differentiate itself from the previous two incarnations of the character. Sure, Holland is playing younger than his years, but the high school scenes feel more realistic than they did with either Maguire or Garfield, and it’s nice to see the character return to his roots as a very young man who winds up with a heck of a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.

The decision to play the film like a high school comedy means it is by necessity a touch lighter than many recent Marvel offerings, but this is no bad thing. This is Spider-Man if John Hughes had made it.

In a clever touch that does something new, whilst remaining faithful to the character, the film manages to ignore Peter’s angst over the loss of Uncle Ben, whilst retaining the idea at the core of the character that with great power comes great responsibility. This time rather that Peter wrestling with his failure to capture the criminal who would then go on to kill his uncle, he instead has to deal with the fact that he puts people’s lives at risk by getting ahead of himself and running before he can walk (or maybe that should be web swinging before he can walk?)

Holland is very good, both as the geeky high school student, and as the wise cracking superhero, managing to portray the weight on Peter’s shoulder without allowing the film to dip too deeply into angst, and Peter and Spidey are in safe hands. It’s especially encouraging that the young man can act toe to toe with heavy hitter like Downey Jr and Keaton without looking overwhelmed.

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“You wanna get nuts? Let’s get…oops wrong film.”

As the villain of the piece Keaton does a good job of imbuing the blue collar Vulture with a genuine sense of menace—there is a reason he remains my favourite Bruce Wayne because he’s the only actor to really hint that a man who dresses up as a bat to fight crime might have a few screws loose, and though Vulture clearly isn’t mad, he lets enough of a hint of malevolence out to prove a worthy adversary, but pitting Spider-Man against Vulture is another canny move by the producers, because he isn’t one of Spidey’s more powerful foes, best to leave them for when Spider-Man is a bit more experienced (judging by the end credits sequence it’s easy to guess who his next enemy might be).

 

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“What do you mean you wish you’d been on Captain America’s side?”

Downey Jr has Tony Stark’s personality down to a tee now, and it continues to be impressive that he can make Stark so arrogantly snarky, whilst also making him empathetic and likeable, and he and Holland had a nice chemistry as mentor and mentee. I had feared that Stark and Iron Man might overshadow Spidey, but thankfully this isn’t the case. It’s also nice to see Paltrow back as Pepper and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan.

There’s a nice sense of diversity about Peter’s peer group, and whilst Flash’s shift from jock lunkhead to smug rich kid takes a little getting used to, it’s a believable change. As Ned, Batalon is a genuine find as Peter’s wingman/man in a chair.

It is a shame that the female characters aren’t as well served as the boys in this, and it seems to be about Peter having multiple father-ish figures in his life in Stark, Happy and even Toomes, and as such Marisa Tomei as Aunt May feels short-changed, similarly Harrier barely gets to rise above the level of love interest. The only bright spot, although she doesn’t get much to do, is Zendaya as Michelle, another of Peter’s friends. She’s wonderfully sparky and owns every second of her limited screen time and one presumes/hopes she’ll have a bigger part to play in any sequel.

There are some nice set-pieces; the Staten Island ferry bit is good, but for me the Washington Monument set piece is the best. The final showdown between Vulture and Spidey is to be lauded for not going down the route of a city destroying conflagration (Marvel seem to have learned their lesson somewhat on this) but is let down by the night-time setting which swathes much of the fight in darkness and means you struggle at times to see what’s going on. I’m also not sold on Peter’s suit featuring an AI, although it does seem like the sort of thing Tony Stark would build in there.

A somewhat flawed but still hugely enjoyable outing for the character, and proof that Holland’s scene stealing cameo in Civil War wasn’t some flash in the pan. Hopefully this version of Spidey will be around for a long time to come because he’s great.

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Comments
  1. Neil says:

    The suit AI seemed to be a way around having Spidey talking to himself for large parts of the film!

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