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

Fortean Times - - Reviews / Films - Leyla Mikkelsen & David Sut­ton

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.

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