Spider-Man: Homecoming Review
When the announcement was made that we would be getting a new Spider-Man, the general reaction was 'Seriously? Again?'. Many grew up with the Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy of the early 2000s, with more than a few people still counting Spider-Man 2 amongst the best of superhero movies, even if the final part left a lot to be desired. Then Sony attempted to reboot it in an effort to both keep hold of the character rights and compete with the media monolith of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with results that were generally considered failures but have great central performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. We all knew the Spider-Man story inside and out by this point, why did we have to see it yet again? What new spin could be brought to it at this point? Some hope was restored when we found out that Sony and Marvel would be making a deal on the character and he would be getting a featured appearance in Captain America: Civil War, but it would all come down to the solo movie. Thankfully Spider-Man: Homecoming not only puts any fears aside, but it more than surpasses what has gone before and brings us what could be the definitive onscreen Spider-Man.
Months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is trying to balance both school and superheroics without too much success. Frustrated and feeling like he’s ready to do more with his powers he jumps at the opportunity to take out superweapon arms dealer The Vulture (Michael Keaton). Things quickly get complicated as Peter tries to not only impress reluctant mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) but also win the affections of classmate Liz (Laura Harrier).
Being the third actor in 15 years to be playing an iconic role isn’t easy unless, that is, you’re making Bond films and your name is Roger Moore. Whilst Toby Maguire had a moral earnestness and Andrew Garfield had an award indie-kid charm, and both of those things work perfectly well, Tom Holland is perfect as Peter Parker because he embodies all of the qualities of a teen superhero so effortlessly. He is enthusiastic, he’s goofy, he believes in doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing, and he makes mistakes. He is still a kid and still has a lot to learn. We don’t get the third act light in the sky threatening to destroy the world here because Peter simply isn’t ready for that yet. That teen energy is imbedded in the film itself, and it bounces along with humour and a brilliant sense of fun that rarely lets up but when it does it is always with sincerity and an understanding of who these characters are at their core. It lets the movie stand out both amongst its moralising predecessors and the other Marvel movies. Sometimes you just have to revel in the fun.
The quote that everyone associates with Spider-Man is that “with great power comes great responsibility” and whilst that line is never said, nor do we get any outright mention of Peter’s Uncle Be - although his death is implied - the movie is very much about Peter gaining that sense of responsibility, not only to his powers but also his life. At first he believes that his day-to-day life is just waiting for the call to return to the big leagues after his participation in Captain America: Civil War’s superhero brawl, and it is this frustration that drives a lot of his character, but he comes to learn the value in being that friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man we all know and love. Although I do put some blame on Tony Stark here. You really shouldn’t turn a kid with superpowers loose with a vague promise of future Avengershood. I’m just saying a little more communication would have gone a long way. I also understand you’re new to this mentor thing, but keep your daddy issues in your own movies please. However, that definitely isn’t anything against Robert Downey Jr.’s performance and him and Holland work great together.
There has been a problem with weak villains in the solo hero Marvel movie outings, and this is another area where the movie surpasses expectation. Michael Keaton knocks it out of the park as Adrian Toomes, AKA The Vulture. The character is a deviation from the incarnation from the comics, but what we have here; a construction worker turning to a life of crime and stealing alien technology from old Avengers battles to make weapons for other criminals, fits really nicely into the world that has been created by the MCU and even fleshes things out a little more about the effect of those massive movie fight scenes on the day-to-day average guys. His motives also reflect very genuine and real-life reasons that people turn to a life of crime; getting screwed over by higher ups and wanting to take a piece of the pie for himself by force. He remains believable as both a character and as a legitimate threat to Peter throughout.
The rest of the supporting cast are great, particularly Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend and fellow loser Ned who learns his secret. Zendaya downright steals every scene she’s in as the sardonic Michelle; a classmate of Peter’s who constantly has her nose in a book. Marisa Tomei is also wonderful, but a little underused and the movie really wore out the 'Aunt May is hot now' joke. There will be some for whom the teen vibe will be a bit much and maybe obnoxious, but for me Spider-Man: Homecoming was a fun and funny breath of fresh-air that just let itself be fun and enjoyable.