SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING gets 7.5/10 Thwipping Marvel-ous

Director Jon Watts
Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr

7.5/10

Spider-Man was welcomed back into the fold of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with his appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016). The third on-screen iteration of the popular comic book character (fourth if you count the 1977 made-for-TV movie) Spider-Man: Homecoming marks Tom Holland’s first full film as the web-slinger, and the first Spider-Man film of the MCU.

Living in Queens with his Aunt May (Marisa Tormei), trying to juggle school, home, friends, love-life, and work – in many ways Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is just your normal teenage boy. At least he would be if he wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider and given super-powers. Now he’s interning for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, learning to be a superhero. Yet when Spider-Man stumbles on a team of criminals selling the advanced technology left in the wake of various superhero battles, he finds it difficult to get Stark, or his middleman Happy Hogan (John Favreau), to take him seriously. Left with little choice Spider-Man has to prove himself the hero, by trying to take down the leader of the syndicate. However that technically enhanced winged scavenger, known as The Vulture (Michael Keaton), might have other plans.

Spider-Man: Homecoming gets Spider-Man right, by keeping it’s scale small. He’s not a god, or a monster, or a billionaire sitting atop a skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan. He’s the hero for the little guy, the man in the street. Now, for the comic book fans among you, I know Spider-Man has been imbued with cosmic powers, crossed dimensions to form an army of Spider-Men, made a deal with the devil (literally), and been the CEO of a multi-national tech company… etcetera. That may lie in the distant future. For now this is Peter Parker, a high-school kid, coming to terms with the great powers and great responsibilities that he faces. He’s not yet amazing, nor spectacular, but rather just your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Despite the changed demographic make-up of Parker’s friends and frenemies in school (a much needed update reflective of the changes in America since the character’s 1960s origins) this is a traditional Spidey story. Homecoming rejects the usual superhero origin tale, favouring instead that of someone growing into their responsibilities, and working out their place in the world. For Parker this is struggling to do the right thing, gaining the respect of the more established superheros, and balancing the professional and the personal (although in this case the professional involves trying not to get killed by a crazed arms dealer cosplaying as a high-tech bird). All standard grist for a Spidey story, and something Homecoming handles well.

Holland makes for an excellent young Peter Parker. Quick-witted and quick with a quip, he’s capable of giving a believably acrobatic performance. Most crucially he’s capable of projecting the self doubt that Peter often feels, without making it seem false or self indulgent (cue Tobey Maguire Spider-Man 3 cry-face gif). Keaton acts as a great foil to the upcoming hero. Toomes is in many ways an opposite to Parker (older, more experienced, tactically minded, and obviously willing to break the law), but they also share a similar blue-collar background and work ethic (albeit in opposing fields). This leads to an interesting dynamic between the two, which both Holland and Keaton play off well. Add to the mix Robert Downey Jnr (reprising Tony Stark’s relatively inept mentoring of the young hero), Favreau, Tomei, and newcomer Jacob Batalon and you have a rich cast for Holland to develop Paker’s relationships.

A few pacing issues, and a bit of a lacklustre final fight aside, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a welcome return to form for everyone’s favourite web-head. It’s a film that understands its subject mater and playfully re-invigorates it without re-inventing it. A film that not only revitalises the character franchise, but also adds a much needed “view from the street” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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