Thursday, 6 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Movie Review

Spider-Man’s fortunes have been rather mixed when it comes to cinema. After two very successful instalments in the early 2000s the Sam Raimi led Spider-Man series ground to a halt following the poor reception to the third film and subsequent executive meddling in trying to make Spider-Man 4, leading to Raimi and lead actor Tobey Maguire departing. Sony obviously didn’t want to lose financially from the web-slinger so a reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, was developed under director Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield as Spidey. After that film did OK Sony got dollar signs in their eyes from the success of The Avengers and decided to set up a cinematic universe of their own with Spider-Man. The result – the abysmal The Amazing Spider-Man 2, packed with an overabundance of plot threads, too many villains and lots of mood whiplash as well as unsubtle plugs to future instalments. After it critically and financially underperformed the franchise was in lingo – until, lo and behold, in stepped Marvel Studios who offered Sony the chance to help them with the films in exchange for letting Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And so Captain America: Civil War came around and in the frame was a new Peter Parker, this time played by Tom Holland, and he managed to absolutely steal the show in the brief amount of screentime he had, showing that the character has a new life.



The expectations are therefore on for Homecoming, as it’s the real test to whether this new Peter Parker can carry a film (mostly) on his own. The film’s pretty much a direct follow on from Civil War, where Peter, fresh from the epic airport scene from that movie, is raring and eager to go for another mission with the Avengers and his new mentor of sorts Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., of course). But Stark’s unwilling to get Peter into danger again and doesn’t respond to him, leading Peter to believe that he’s being babied by Stark. Frustrated and bored with his school life, he decides to prove his worth by taking down Adrian Toomes/The Vulture (Michael Keaton), the leader of a gang who steals relics from previous Avengers battles in order to sell them onto criminals.


One thing that’s very refreshing about this Spider-Man is how much smaller and better contained it feels than some of the franchise’s most notorious entries, which is no mean feat given that there actually is a lot in the film – there’s plenty of characters, including a fair few villains (though Toomes is really the only big antagonist), a good number of mini-plots, a lot relating to Peter’s time in school, and many callbacks to previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The fact that the movie doesn’t feel horribly bloated as it perhaps ought to is a testament to the skills of the writers as Homecoming is a very tightly written film all round. There are a few characters that do feel extraneous – Donald Glover has a glorified cameo, for instance, and Zendaya Coleman’s Michelle should have been scrapped (more on that in a bit) – but for the most part everybody feels naturally placed in the film, showing how well the film’s written. Homecoming is also well written with its humour, a staple of the Marvel movies, and though there are perhaps less massive laughs than previous entries (the biggest came from the post-credits scene which I won’t ruin for you) there are plenty of humorous moments – of particular standout are the interactions between Peter and the voice in his suit which he names Karen (voiced by Jennifer Connelly), who have an almost mother and son relationship together and leads to some big laughs. As with previous Marvel films the action is also good – setpieces such as Spider-Man rescuing people from an elevator in the collapsing Washington monument and his work fighting goons on a Staten Island ferry are greatly enjoyable to watch and do have some tenseness to them even if you know that everyone’s going to be OK.


Tom Holland may have stolen the show from his brief appearance in Civil War but here he shows that he’s capable of carrying a film on his own – he brings through not just the fun, witty and somewhat cocky side of the webslinger but also a more vulnerable side. The main conflict is him wanting to prove himself to Tony Stark in spite of still being young and a little inexperienced and Holland manages to capture all angles of this conflict, through the bold hearted resolve, frustration and self-doubt. He’s helped along by Downey Jr’s return as Stark, who has the new angle of being protective following the recklessness of putting Peter into danger in Civil War. Iron Man is a role that Downey Jr. could play in his sleep but thankfully he doesn’t overpower the film, only being around for about 10 minutes or so of screentime. This is a boon to Homecoming as he provides strong support but doesn’t overturn what is still a Spider-Man movie. Keaton is also solid as Toomes, having a genuine sense of menace as well as a darkly charming demeanour, and though his villainous schemes aren’t on any massive scale – he’s essentially an arms dealer that just so happens to fly around in a costume – Vulture is still a decently done villain. The rest of the supporting cast do a fine job – Jacob Batalon stands out as Peter’s big hearted and comical best friend Ned Leeds and as mentioned Karen is a hilarious compliment in Spider-Man's suit – with the exception of the much talked about Zendaya Coleman as Michelle. The character is dour and passive aggressive, with Coleman giving an appropriately sulky and gloomy performance, being incredibly irritating and making it even more bitter when (SPOILERS) it turns out she’s meant to be MJ Watson (END SPOILERS). This brings down what’s overall a good cast of characters and makes you wish she was cut.

Nonetheless Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Spider-Man film that we’ve been waiting for ages to get, a fun action-packed romp that’s lower key than many of the other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but is much better for it. Tom Holland has really proved his worth with the character and is now comfortably the best actor to play the webhead over the character’s cinematic lifespan. This is easily the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2 all the way back in 2004 and it proves that finally the character’s life on screen has been given an injection of brand new life. Let’s hope his future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is as fruitful…

and let’s hope that Sony doesn’t bungle their individual upcoming attempts of expanding the Spider-Man franchise – the fact that you cast Tom Hardy as Venom means I’ll forgive them for now, but they’d better not mess this one up.


Spider-Man: Homecoming – directed by Jon Watts, story by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, screenplay by Watts, Goldstein, Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya Coleman, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. A Marvel Studios production, a Columbia Pictures film

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