Spider-Man Homecoming - Review: 3rd Time is Lucky!
“Haven’t we seen this one already?”. One of the biggest criticisms points in this modern wave of superhero movies (Marvel or otherwise) is that audiences are really growing tired of origin stories. Less a factor of quality and more the quantity of debuting hero films following a similar format of slowly discovering their identity and abilities in time to overcome a disposable villain in a large CG set piece. Yet this very stigma has seen the MCU become increasingly creative in how it approaches its opening chapters like Ant Man’s Pym to Lang baton passing or the flashback origins stories of their Netflix shows. This 3rd time is lucky as Spiderman embodies that origins fatigue because nobody wants to see Uncle Ben pop his loafers all over again. Yet Homecoming’s biggest strength is its refreshing shakeup approach on an origin story. Rather than recreating the motions the emphasis is on embodying the themes as a young (and finally young looking) Peter learns the responsibilities of his abilities rather than someone spelling them out in a catch phrase all while being really entertaining in the process.
After swinging with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland – The Impossible) is desperate for new excitement as he steps up his hero game but when he tangles scavenging arms dealer The Vulture (Michael Keaton – Batman, Birdman), has this spider climbed too far too fast?
Now the film’s tone will be a marmite, make-or-break, factor for anyone watching it in the way it’s predominantly comical and satirical over more serious superhero antics. In fact, through the first act especially, Spiderman: Homecoming feels most akin to 2010s Kick-Ass: embodied by an early montage of Peter’s problematic heroic efforts. Throughout the film, this creates countless great laughs from the physical comedy of Peter’s inept web slinging vs. the more familiar and polished acrobatics of Garfield & Maguire, to the heavy amounts of well-placed satire around the central character his abilities. Case and point, the notion of Spidey always being able to web-sling everywhere gets a thorough debunking when he’s frequently not surrounded by skyscrapers and hilariously finds transport alternatives. I continually enjoyed this as a refreshing approach on well-trodden material but for those that would rather watch Blade & Watchmen than Guardians of the Galaxy may receive as this too silly or even childish, so be mindful that this film expects you to smile a lot. That’s not to say the film can’t be meaningful and emotional. Such moments are kept sparse but impactful as a consequence and one particular final act moment shows just how good an actor Tom Holland can be.
Director Jon Watts is determined to make this a believable high school Spider-Man movie so the lighter approach feels very in keeping with that to form the most well-rounded representation of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. On the streets, he’s out of his depth aspiring to be an Avenger and taking on real villains. In school, he’s equally clueless as a sophomore trying to mix with cooler seniors and get the illusive popular girl. Unlike previous efforts, the transitions between these worlds are seamless as despite some bigger set pieces, the film keeps Spider-Man as a street level hero, akin to his fellow New Yorkers, The Defenders. What’s more, there’s so much to love among the high-school scenes. Chief of which is newcomer Jacob Batalon as Peter’s ridiculously lovable best science bro, Ned. From his huge gormless grins to poor secret keeping skills and excellent chemistry with Tom Holland his every appearance gives you something to enjoy. Then there’s Toni Revoli’s (The Grand Budapest Hotel) new take on Peter’s traditional tormentor Flash Thompson. In apt reflection of modern bullying, Flash never so much as throws a punch Peter’s way, instead resorting to humiliation and verbal taunting. Finally, Zendaya’s (K.C. Undercover) Michelle’s use as a witty oddball provides many unexpected laughs. Hopefully, they’ll keep Peter within these halls for at least one sequel before sending him to the Daily Bugle, camera in hand.
<insert tired “hero only as good as his villain joke>. It’s fair to say antagonists have been a weakness of the MCUs film endeavours with few real success stories.... but Michael Keaton’s Vulture is definitely one of them. First up, it’s Michael fuckin' Keaton. His acting chops are bigger his robo-wings and crucially he’s gets to spread them with good solid dialogue that plays into his intensity. The opening minutes keep his motivation simple and effective, driven into crime out of financial necessity and the changing world post-Chitari invasion. While he is forced into a few villain troupes that feel out of his character, this Birdman is a fine character addition. His visual CG presence looks rather cool too with his jerry rigged gear and beaming green eyes. The Spider-Man/Vulture conflicts do want for more creativity though. While the nature of their characters makes a straight up fight more impractical the fights can get a little monotone, elevated only by their surroundings.
While I found this film hugely fun, this Spider’s web does fray in places. While so much of the high-school antics at great things feel a little forced between Peter and romantic interest Liz (Laura Harrier – One Life to Live). Yes, they are following the likes of Garfield & Stone but sadly, Harrier gives by little to invest in. The use of Shocker as henchmen villain was underwhelming, especially the way he’s defeated in a “that’s it” moment. Finally, for all its enjoyable goofing around, there are a couple moments where you’ll wish it took itself more seriously.
Contrary to much trolling belief, I won't consider this film "Iron Man 4". Despite has heavy trailer presence, Tony Spark/Iron Man is sparsely used in this film to keep the focus on its title star. More importantly, he succeeds in his purpose as a mentor-like figure..... which considering his playboy billionaire origins is an interesting full circle. Fellow MCU party crashers like Happy Hogan are kept as framing devices rather than stealing any thunder. Even some Spider-Man staples like Aunt May get thankfully sparing treatment rather than having to over sell their importance, building on existing fan base knowledge from the past film outings. Many good seeds are planted for future allies and villains. A certain neck tattoo seems like a sequel casting call. While Donald Glover’s character (and his mentioned nephew) point towards some other possible appearances throughout what will likely be a Spider-Man trilogy.
The action impresses without being overly escalated, the laughs come faster and harder than impact webbing (interrogation mode may break you) all spun around what’s fair to call the greatest ever live action incarnation of our beloved friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. It’s the MCUs most fun film since the first Guardians and its best since Civil War. Stay to the for a perfect end credits scene and get excited because Spider-Man.... he’s home.