‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ review

Synopsis

A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.

Review

There’s no denying there has been a few on screen Spider-Men in the last 15 years. Somehow the character seems to suffer from fan-reboot-fatigue more than any other hero on the silver screen. So colour us confused when Andrew Garfield left the building and Tom Holland appeared in Captain America: Civil War.

Sony Pictures has taken the brunt of fan anger over the problems of Spidey movies past. With ex-studio head Amy Pascal teaming with Marvel’s own Kevin Feige to make this film its safe to say expectations where high for Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Luckily for fans this film is a huge success. Though not without its faults on the whole director Jon Watts has crafted an honest, heartwarming action-adventure that should usher in a great new cinematic era for the character.

For starters Tom Holland is perfectly cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. What we saw of him in Civil War was only the tip of the iceberg. Finally we have a big screen Spidey who is closer in age to the comics than ever before and it shows. Holland brings a youthful energy to the film which really sets the scene better than Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield.

His brand of comedy perfectly fits the tone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without betraying the origins of the Peter Parker or Spider-Man characters. His interactions with Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) make them feel like the typical high school outsiders.

Interestingly this film decides to focus a little less on the romantic side of the character. Though Liz exists as a romantic foil for Peter it’s less important to his journey in the film and more an aspect of his teenager troubles. In the context of Spider-Man: Homecoming it fits perfectly.

The screenwriters have crafted a modern coming-of-age movie. Tweaking the backgrounds of several characters from the comics they have been able to create a truly modern cast of characters. The young adult audience the movie is aimed at are going to find themselves truly represented in this movie.

Sidekick Ned gets the most exposure. It’s through his eyes that we experience what its like to know Spider-Man. Batalon’s comedic interactions with Tom Holland are brilliant. The two bounce jokes off each other really well and drop pop culture references like Joss Whedon wrote the script.

Romantic interest Liz (Laura Harrier) feels slightly undercooked. There’s a balance between underplaying the romance and having a love interest who solely moves the plot forwards. The relationship between Liz and Peter actually works well with a little unrequited teenage lust and some embarrassment thrown in. The subplot is only let down by Liz’s lack of dimensions. She’s a fairly simple character with few lines but that’s not to say she isn’t memorable. There’s a glaringly obvious plot twist with her character which does help add some depth to the films main plot however.

The other female teen, Michelle, is a whole other kettle of fish. Played by Zendaya her character is much more of a comedic foil. She turns up all over the school with plenty of acerbic one liners to offend her peers. What little we get of her character adds to some of the standout moments of the film. It all comes crashing down a little in the final moments of the film when she exclaims that her friends call her ‘MJ’.

We’re yet to find out if this is a twist on the Mary-Jane character or if this was just an in joke to make us all think. Either way it caused quite a few gasps from the audience and not in a good way.

Marisa Tomei is a great Aunt May. We saw a glimpse of her in Civil War and now we get to see a bit more of her character. Her role in Homecoming isn’t a starring turn. It’s more of a glorified cameo though her presence throughout the film is strong.

The relationship between Peter and May feels more like mother and son. All credit to Holland and Tomei for clearly bonding as actors. We’re not given a timeline as to how long Peter has been living with May at this stage or as to when Uncle Ben was murdered.

The fact this version of May is younger than in previous films becomes a running joke throughout. Though never to the point of objectifying her character. She also brings a good few laughs to the film by herself along with a great level of warmth. Even in her handful scenes the characters maternal instinct is palpable on screen. There’s a feel of real depth to the relationship between May, Peter and even with Ned.

Making the character younger certainly works perfectly with this depiction of Spider-Man and the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.

On the topic of Uncle Ben: he isn’t mentioned by name in the film even once. There’s a passing reference to the adversity Aunt May has faced in the past but that is all. It’s hugely freeing to not have him haunting the film like a ghost.

If there’s one fault that us reviewers constantly point to in Marvel films it’s the forgettable villains. The Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton) is however not one of them. Building up a backstory that’s tied to the Avengers is an interesting and new twist for the franchise. It links the film to the rest of Marvel almost as if it was always part of the plan. It also gives way to perhaps the most well thought out consequence to the various large scale battle that have taken place over the years.

Building up the blackmarket economy around the alien technology seems like a really obvious plot… now that we’ve all seen it. It feels like a plot we should have seen much earlier in the cinematic universe. Although Toomes descent from above to below the law happens a little quickly it’s forgotten about equally as fast.

Am I right in thinking the damage control company setup by Stark are getting their own sitcom post Spider-Man: Homecoming?

There’s a multitude of second string villains in the film including not one but two Shockers. They bring a lot of nods to the comics but not a huge amount of anything else to the film. Spider-Man films have always been great at  filling themselves with easter eggs. So are the mainstream MCU movies so put those two together and Spider-Man: Homecoming is exploding with references.

With all the pros there had to be a couple of cons. The biggest for me was the suit. It looks great and plays great on film. It’s only when Peter and Ned unlock the suits full potential that it causes issues. Stark has loaded the suit with its own A.I. (Karen – Jennifer Connelly) and all the bells and whistles of an Iron Man suit. It makes sense that Stark would do this, it’s completely within his personality, but it takes away from Peter becoming a true hero.

Instead of seeing him continue to struggle with his power it is suddenly increased tenfold. Power is given to him rather than earned. It does give way to some good comedic exchanges between Peter and Karen. But on the whole it cheapens the Spider-Man character but underwriting his intelligence and giving his power over to Tony Stark. Perhaps an analogy for Sony giving creative control over to Marvel?

Though Spider-Man: Homecoming is a consistently well made film there are moments where it feels the heart is missing. I’ve been critical of other recent Marvel films for the same reason. Though these films are well directed, well acted, well written and yes well marketed they never diversify from a formula. There’s no doubt the formula is successful. But there may come a time where it become too predictable?

Back to the positives however and composer Michael Giacchino has put together yet another brilliant score. From the opening callback to the classic Spidey themes he moves on to creative a really rousing score. His music brings a really complementary levity to the soundscape of contemporary Queens. It’s well worth a listen after you have seen the film.

Verdict

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a triumphant return to the big screen after the missteps of the past. It celebrates the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe never letting it overcome the narrative. Excellent casting and strong direction make this one of the most memorable movies in both the Spidey and Marvel franchises.

7/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas worldwide now. Checkout our video playlist in the player below:

Neil Vagg

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG

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