Super Spidey is back to his best
Just five years on from the pop culture phenomenon’s first cinematic reboot in The Amazing Spider-Man, the webslinger returns with another Brit – Tom Holland – under the mask.
Yes, the Londoner popped up in scenestealing form in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, but this is his first solo adventure as the character fully integrates himself into the Marvel Cinematic Universe following a deal between the comic book giants and Sony, whose planned Amazing series came to an abrupt halt with flaw-filled film number two.
Thankfully Homecoming isn’t just a return to form for Spidey, it’s on a par with his previous finest big screen outing – 2004’s Spider-Man 2.
But while the debate over which blockbuster is better could easily fall on either side of the fence, there’s little doubt in my mind that Holland can now lay claim to being the best cinematic Spider-Man – and Peter Parker.
His excitable, charming and, at times, immature lead is the perfect combination of twitchy teen – Holland belying the fact he’s actually 21 – and wannabe superhero, whether undergoing an unflattering costume change, carrying out mundane tasks or soaring through the skies to save the day.
He’s aided by a stunning screenplay – created by a six-strong writing crew – that spares us a third take on Spidey’s origin story and plants Peter back in high school.
Director Jon Watts (Cop Car) quoted the John Hughes comedies of the eighties as an inspiration for the school-set drama and banter and it’s easy to see the comparison as, from Peter’s buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) and eccentric classmate Michelle (Zendaya) to the object of his affections, Liz (Laura Harrier), there are enough laughs and awkward and tender moments to fill a non-comic book movie teen coming-of-age tale.
This is a Spider-Man that has to deal with academic decathlons and homecoming dances as much as butting heads with the latest baddie in town.
And what a villain Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes – aka winged menace Vulture – makes. The former Batman is manic and foultempered, but with very grounded, selfless motivations in what is Marvel’s best non-Loki cinematic antagonist to date.
The Vulture-Spidey smackdowns thrill as they take to the air, but the apex of their faceoffs is a terrific awkward, tense car ride.
Watts’ dizzying camera work adds scale and peril to an impressive Washington Monument sequence and a cracking Staten Island ferry confrontation shares similarities to Spider-Man 2’s standout runaway train set-piece.
Throw in a thankfully not overused Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) in a straight-talking fatherfigure role, a welcome return for Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan and nods and winks to previous Spidey films and cartoons, and you’ll Marvel at how fresh a third big screen web-head in 15 years can be.
Tunnel visionTom Holland’s webslinger gets set for heroics