SPI­DER-MAN: HOMECOMING

Will Tom Hol­land shine as the new Spidey? At least Garfield knew how to stick to windows.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - NICK DE SEMLYEN

DI­REC­TOR Jon Watts CAST Tom Hol­land, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zen­daya, Don­ald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr, Ja­cob Bat­alon

PLOT After the eu­pho­ria of his air­port tus­sle with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Hol­land) re­turns to his mun­dane New York life. He craves ex­cite­ment — and when he crosses paths with arms dealer the Vul­ture (Keaton), he gets it.

IN THE LATE 1980s, Mar­vel be­gan a run of comic books called Dam­age Con­trol, about the un­der­paid, over­worked schmoes charged with clean­ing up the mess made by su­per­hero bat­tles. This se­ries is rel­e­vant to Spi­der-man:

Homecoming for two reasons. Firstly, it in­spired the movie’s vil­lain, fly­ing crook the Vul­ture (Michael Keaton), who starts out as a bluecol­lar con­struc­tion guy sift­ing through the rub­ble left be­hind at the end of Avengers

Assem­ble. Se­condly, and more cru­cially, it seems to have set the vibe for the first Spi­der-film made with Mar­vel’s direct cre­ative in­put. This Peter Parker is per­pet­u­ally on the fringes of some­thing more ex­cit­ing — less a no­ble lad dis­cov­er­ing his in­ner hero than a dweeby kid des­per­ate to get into the party around the cor­ner. And, ditch­ing the angst and sludgy plot­ting of the last few films, Homecoming is eas­ily the best Spi­der-man film since Sam Raimi’s op­er­atic Spi­der-man 2.

In no small part this is due to it star­ring the best screen Spi­der-man so far. Nim­ble and shrimpy (though weirdly buff once he re­moves his shirt), Tom Hol­land’s Parker is hugely en­dear­ing from his first scene, shoot­ing a video di­ary of the air­port fight from Cap­tain Amer­ica:

Civil War on his phone. He’s barely in con­trol of his pow­ers and ap­peal­ingly lame. One scene in which he turns up at a party hop­ing to hook up with cool class­mate Liz (Laura Har­rier) feels like a su­per­hero Su­per­bad: it’s a re­fresh­ing spin on the comic-book-movie tem­plate, and nice to have a film this big not afraid to fre­quently keep things small.

The di­rec­tor, Jon Watts, is mak­ing the leap from a small film him­self: 2015’s nifty thriller

Cop Car. The light­ness of touch he demon­strated there is here in spades, with a ge­nius Fer­ris

Bueller’s Day Off joke and even the big ac­tion se­quences (the stand­out be­ing a Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment res­cue) pep­pered with sharp gags. The per­for­mances he gets out of the young cast are sweet and sparky. And just as Cop Car pit­ted kids against an adult evil­doer in Kevin Ba­con’s cor­rupt law­man, Watts works the same dy­namic here, as Peter butts heads with the in­tim­i­dat­ing Adrian Toomes, aka the Vul­ture.

This winged bas­tard, com­plete with a furry-col­lared bomber jacket mak­ing him look at least a lit­tle vul­ture-es­que, is far from Mar­vel’s most in­ter­est­ing vil­lain, though it’s nice to have a bad­die who’s just out to make some cash rather than drop cities on peo­ple’s heads. De­spite Keaton’s best ef­forts, and be­ing de­scribed by an­other char­ac­ter as “a psy­chopath dressed like a de­mon”, the hu­man bird of prey is only mildly com­pelling, and the duke-it-out, Cgi-heavy ac­tion fi­nale be­tween him and Parker drags some­what. But the Vul­ture does pro­vide the

movie with some cool sci-fi trim­mings: Toomes has adapted the Chi­tauri alien tech he’s found into a va­ri­ety of amaz­ing weapons. For­tu­nately, Peter has his own new tech, cour­tesy of a suit (two words: web grenades) gifted to him by his Avenger men­tor Tony Stark.

Much has been made of the in­jec­tion of MCU char­ac­ters into Spi­der-man’s un­til-now her­met­i­cally sealed world. The mak­ers of

Homecoming had a tricky tightrope to walk: over-mar­vel the pud­ding and it be­comes an­other Avengers movie, but un­derdo it and it’s just an­other Spidey re­boot. The bal­ance is pretty much spot-on, with the fa­mil­iar faces treated as sprin­kles on the ice cream sun­dae. Robert Downey Jr lit­er­ally phones in most of his per­for­mance, but in the best pos­si­ble way. And there is a re­cur­ring cameo from an­other su­per­hero which gets pro­gres­sively fun­nier as the film goes on. Peter Parker geeks out ev­ery time one of them swings into a scene. It’s likely you will, too.

VERDICT The char­ac­ters and sce­nar­ios are fa­mil­iar, but this is a loose, cool, funny remix that makes them feel fresh again. Plus, it’s mer­ci­fully short on life lessons from Aunt May.

Tom Hol­land’s pre­co­cious young Spidey shows off his best moves.

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