Friendly neighbourhood Spidey
At last, a film about everyone’s favourite wall-crawler that will get your spider-senses tingling as a young Peter Parker finds his own place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
After the disappointment of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 and the subsequently underwhelming reboot of the franchise in the form of the two Andrew Garfieldled Amazing Spider-Man movies, most fans’ spider-senses were tingling when Tom Holland made his debut as the webslinging superhero in last year’s Marvel epic, Captain America:
Civil War. With a solo movie for this new incarnation of Spider-Man being confirmed immediately after Holland stole the show (along with Cap’s shield) in 2016, the expectations for Spider-Man: Homecoming were understandably high. Fortunately, those expectations are largely met as Holland breathes new, youthful life into both Spidey and Peter Parker and shows that he is more than capable of carrying a whole film on his own. Holland strikes a balance with his Marty McFly-inspired performance, one that makes both his Spider-Man and Peter Parker equally great: it’s by far the best cinematic interpretation of both aspects of the character that a single actor has commited to the big screen so far.
Avoiding a retread of SpiderMan’s origin story by revisiting neither the radioactive spider bite nor the death of Uncle Ben, Homecoming wisely focuses on being a film about Peter Parker trying to balance teen life with superpowered heroics. It also weaves its new take on the teen hero very cleverly into the MCU, with a plot that hinges, in part, on the Chitauri invasion of the first Avengers movie and the events of Civil War, revisited here through a video diary, which offers an hilarious alternative version of the film’s central battle from Peter’s own point of view.
Likewise, any concerns people may have had as to whether Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man would either be an underwhelming cameo or be given excessive screen-time, will be pleased to know that the writers have struck the perfect balance: Tony Stark is on screen
Peter Parker must balance teen life with superpowered heroics
enough to help Spider-Man into the MCU in a manner that seems fitting for the MCU’s overarching narrative, while also being relevant to the story at hand and meaningful for both characters. As a result, the film feels more modest and self-contained than most superhero films, and maintains its own tone and identity from start to finish.
While Spider-Man: Homecoming is not completely free from the repetitive structural elements that can bedevil even the best of comic-book movies, these are kept to a minimum. This is largely thanks to the film embracing the self-referential opportunities offered by taking a ‘meta’ approach, not only to the MCU, but also to superhero films as a whole. Deadpool was a mischievously welcome spin on the superhero movie formula, and this knowing approach also seems particularly fitting for a teen-centric film such as
Homecoming, albeit it is not taken to such wildly exaggerated lengths as Deadpool’s constant violation of The Fourth Wall.™
The usual Marvel problem of underwhelming villains is solved by Michael Keaton, an excellent casting choice whose portrayal of theVulture is intense and unsettling, as well as opening up an interesting subtext about class and power in contemporary America. It’s a theme that the film picks up on visually, too, with the gleaming skyscrapers of Manhattan (including Avengers Tower) being seen almost exclusively in the distance: Peter’s NYC is firmly grounded on the other side of the East River, in Flushing and Forest Hills (where the low-rise suburban buildings pose problems of their own for would-be web-slingers).
The true strength of the film, however, is its vibe as a well-
crafted teen movie, which is not only unique in terms of the MCU, but also presents the audience with a young, diverse cast – this is very much the Queens of 2017 rather than 1962 – that works well together and feels both nuanced and relatable; so much so that it makes one wonder if the late John Hughes would have scored a credit on this film, had he not met such an untimely demise.
There is seemingly no stopping Marvel as they work their way through their properties and tie them all into the ever-expanding web of the MCU, and the result of the partial re-acquisition of the Spider-Man property puts the last three films from Sony to shame. Not only do Kevin Feige & Co. have a better grasp of what makes superhero films successful in general, they also have a much greater understanding of what makes Spider-Man one of the most beloved superheroes of all time – namely his relatability. By focusing on Peter Parker’s problems coming to terms with his superhero alter-ego after a brief stint with the Avengers, Spider
Man: Homecoming becomes an engaging coming-of-age story about a teenager who is trying to find his place in the world, not only as a human being, but also as a superhero; and it shows that Marvel are very much aware that with great power comes great responsibility.