Spider-Man Homecoming marks the third attempt Sony has made to produce a sustainable Spider-Man franchise, the first being the slightly goofy Sam Rami series with Toby Maguire as your friendly neighbourhood web-slinger back in the 2000’s and the second being that god awful Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield. So surely that means that tales of the Wall Crawler are getting stale. With that in mind enter Spider-Man Homecoming a film that finds itself in a strange position, not only as it follows closely after The Amazing Spider-Man, but it is also the first cross studio collaboration between Marvel and another studio to produce a superhero film. So does this mean that third times the charm for the wonderful web-slinger or does the studio red tape leave Homecoming all tangled up.
Set after the events of Captain America Civil War we meet up with Peter Parker being dropped back off at his home in Queens by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Stark promises that he will call Peter when new missions arise, but in the mean time he should get on with his life, with school friends and crushes. However, when Peter tries to investigate a strange weapons dealer with a terrifying winged suit, Peter’s lives teeter on the brink of destruction.
I was a little hesitant about Spider-Man: Homecoming. I mean, don’t get me wrong I was excited about seeing it, though this excitement was tempered by Spidey’s last outing with Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as a trailer that seemed to give away all the main story beats. So going in I had some doubts. However, I can say wholeheartedly that Spider-Man; Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie since Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 2.
Even though the trailer did give most of the story away, the movie still feels fresh, the journey to the plot points is something that I fully enjoyed, as there were some great moments of action, comedy and tension. Homecoming is a masterful piece of character exploration and story telling. It blends aspects of the coming of age story and the superhero film together to create something both fantastical and relatable. It is about Peter Parker, a teenager with problems at home, at school and at work and his struggle to balance them. Oh and he is also a superhero.
Many critics have pointed this out, but I think that the simple feat of being able to balance Peter Parker with Spider-Man in this way needs to be addressed and commended, for without a strong connection with Peter Parker, his exploits as Spider-Man come out neutered. Director Jon Watts, Tom Holland, who play Spider Man, and the numerous writers do a terrific job paralleling Peter’s mundane teenage struggles with the more fantastical problems he faces as Spiderman.
Going beyond the film’s genre blending, which lets be frank has been one of Marvel’s strengths when you think about the difference between Captain America: The First Avenger and Winter Soldier, I think it is also important to address the structure of Spider-Man: Homecoming’s story. We’ve already had two origin movies from other film series, so Homecoming does something really interesting, it is an origins movie without the Spider-Man origin. That’s right, gone is the radio active spider, gone is Uncle Ben, and those immortal words “with great power comes great responsibility”. We know how Spider-Man got his powers and we know that he can use them, so we don’t need to see that again. What we do need however is to be fully introduced to this Peter Parker, his friends and his world and this film delivers. We see Peter interact with people he knows, his reactions when they are endangered and his eagerness to help and do the right thing, even though that causes even more trouble. It is clear that this film in its focus wants to examine Peter Parker fully and not just place him in a fight against some supervillain without any rhyme or reason, and I think that it succeeds.
As a character study, this film relies on its cast of characters; they need to be believable, engaging and, except the villains, likeable. Tom Holland, from TVs Wolf Hall, dons the red and blue tights this time around, and he carries this film. There is a youthful nervous energy to him that is instantly endearing. He sells both sides of Peter Parker; in the comics Parker is shy and retiring, while Spider-Man always has his one liners. Other actors who have played Peter/Spider-Man have only been able to do one or the other; Toby Maguire was an earnest Peter Parker, while Andrew Garfield was a witty Spider-Man. However, I think Holland realises that these are not separate things, rather Peter uses Spider-Man’s suit as a way to project a confidence to be more outspoken and thus he creates a more well-rounded hero.
The rest of the cast are also great of course; Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr are going to be entertaining as Happy and Tony Stark, but it is the rest of the high school kids that really sell the world in which Peter lives on a day to day basis. His friend Ned played by Jacod Batalon is charmingly nerdy, Tony Revolori as Eugene “Flash” Tompson will be the perfect foil to Parker in future movies a wonderful blend of a punchable bully and pathetic/sympathetic loser, while Zendaya will be a very different and very refreshing MJ. However, it is the villains that really steal the show with Bokeem Woodbine a truely terrifying presence, from the second season of Fargo, as The Shocker, and Michael Chernus as Phineas Mason a comedy foil and mechanic behind all of the gang’s weaponry. Though one must never, ever forget Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, the super-weapons dealer with a psychopathic streak and a surprisingly reasonable motivation, especially in regards to the current economic climate, who steals every scene he is in.
Now the film isn’t perfect, the trailers gave most of the plot points away, though the journey between these is entertaining enough to forget about the destination, and there is a compulsive need to defuse the more emotional scenes with humour. Though these are mainly general problems with the whole Marvel franchise, as well as the very obvious conservative bent to the relationship between villain and hero. But I will leave that point for another article at another time.
Despite these problems Spider-Man: Homecoming is a great ride with a wonderful sense fun and that is what I had watching it. It is a vibrant exploration of teenage life with a great cast of colourful characters and an awareness that lends very nicely to the numerous jokes and one liners, though maybe don’t stay to the post-credits scene as that can leave a smug aftertaste in the mouth.
You Can Watch Spider-Man Homecoming in Cinemas now