Genial Spidey a refreshing Marvel
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. (M, 133 MINS) DIRECTED BY JONWATTS
Were you surprised to hear that Marvel had tapped Taika Waititi on the shoulder to take the reins of the latest Thor instalment? Yeah, me too. But after a bit of thought and a typical reviewer’s case of 20/20 hindsight it seemed sensible with a whiff of inevitability about it.
Marvel have a brief but proud and wildly successful tradition now of picking directors based on their ability to establish a credible character out of incredible circumstances, and – maybe even more importantly – to tell a goddamn joke.
And by that criteria, Taika, with Eagle vs Shark, Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople on his showreel, was a prime candidate for Marvel ascension. Forget about the fact that he’s never made a film not set in New Zealand before, let alone Asgard. By Marvel’s algorithms, Taika is going to do just fine.
And compared to Spider-man: Homecoming helmer Jon Watts, Taika is wildly over-qualified.
Watts has exactly two other feature films on his brief CV. One is called Cop Car, and the other is called Clown.
I can’t say I saw anything in Cop Car that made me immediately think Watts would be anywhere within shouting distance of the shortlist of directors to be handed the keys of the latest instalment of one of the world’s most money-printing-est extant franchises. Which is what the Marvel slate currently is. Naturally, I was wrong. Watts and Marvel co-head honcho and creative overlord Kevin Feige have crafted a Spiderman reboot for the ages. And they’ve done it by taking the film back to its comic book origins.
It’s set in the present day – and also in Marvel’s present, post Civil War and years after The Avengers and The Battle of New York – but this Spidey is gratifyingly true to the kid-centric world of the comic-book character.
British actor Tom Holland ( The Impossible) is a convincingly adolescent Peter Parker, finding some pleasingly dorky and awkward moments for his still high-school aged hero. We were introduced to Holland’s Spidermen/Peter Parker in Civil War, and there was maybe an expectation that Spider-man: Homecoming would see the kid in the red and blue take his place on the starting team roster.
But no. Parker is told by Robert Downey Jr’s Ironman basically to go back to school and look after his grades and family for a while yet. Which seems like not the worst advice in the world for a kid still too unsure of himself to ask a girl on a date.
The villain of the piece is the Vulture, played, unimprovably, by Michael Keaton. He is perfect as he goes about sketching in the character’s back story as Adrian Toomes, a borderline gangster who just wants to carve himself out his own slice of the American dream and knows he’s going to have to get his hands a little dirty to do it.
Done out of a lucrative salvage business by Tony Stark’s possibly self-serving co-opting of the contract on all the left-over alien technology and weaponry after the busted Chitauri invasion that was the centre-piece of The Avengers, Toomes has a superhero-shaped chip on his shoulder and is in no mood to see his plans challenged by any lycraclad adolescent with a squeaky voice and sticky wrists. Spiderman: Homecoming progresses via a very acceptable amount of set pieces and CGI carnage.
This Spider-man spins its charm and its magic out of never stopping reminding us that Spidey – pretty much alone of the current crop of big screen superheros – was still a boy when he first became a legend. Captain America might tell us he’s just a kid-from-Brooklyn, but he was already a grown man before he donned the suit.
Peter Parker, especially as portrayed by Holland and directed by Watts, really is just a kid-from-Queens – with all the awkwardness, charm and embarrassment that implies. We get this film and we want it to win, because at its heart is a plucky, vulnerable kid who seems to be genuinely physically and emotionally in peril in a way which his elders and mentors never really are.
Spider-man: Homecoming is a throwback to a superhero age. At stake are friends, family and neighbourhoods, not entire galaxies. It’s refreshing, grounded, human and extraordinarily likeable. Bravo. – Graeme Tuckett
British actor Tom Holland is a convincingly adolescent Peter Parker in Spiderman: Homecoming.