After a triumphant return to the Marvel fold in Captain America: Civil War, it comes as a very welcome sight to see Spider-Man get his own Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie at last. The casual moviegoer would be forgiven for feeling a little fatigue at the prospect of yet another Spider-Man reboot, but as the fan community can attest to, we finally have a definitive onscreen version of the wallcrawler.
Tom Holland’s brief but sensational cameo in Civil War showcased a younger version of Peter Parker – a student tackling high school whilst dealing with the responsibility of being a superhero in an era of Avengers and other worldly threats. I’ll always be a fan of Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man. Its sequel is also one of the best examples of modern superhero storytelling in the genre. We’ll glance over the terrible third movie.
Then there’s Andrew Garfield’s iteration. Those two Amazing Spider-Man films had their fair share of problems but Garfield was great as a wise-cracking webslinger, echoing the tone of the comic books more. Tom Holland is the best of both worlds – an everyday kid who is easy to champion, who has the mannerisms and quips of Spider-Man down to a fine art already and who balances the humour and drama of the character perfectly. In short, he’s the best Spider-Man we’ve ever had.
The film starts with a very clever look at the events of Civil War through the eyes (or rather vlog) of Peter Parker as he’s experiencing them. It’s fantastic, funny and completely nails the character in the opening minutes of the film. After helping out Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. – Avengers), Tony Stark leaves Peter under the watchful eye of Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau – Chef) as Peter readies himself for another mission. But it doesn’t come, and months pass. Peter has assimilated back to his normal routine of school and homework whilst being a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, thwarting local crimes.
The success of a great superhero movie can always be measured by the impact of its villain, and in Michael Keaton (Spotlight) Spider-Man: Homecoming has a real trump card to play. Keaton, who will always be the definitive Batman (for my generation at least), excels as The Vulture – a character that is set-up perfectly in the first 5 minutes of the film. Contracted to clean up the city after the devastating attack on New York (the first Avengers movie), the government pull rank and take over all salvage operations, leaving Adrian Toomes (Keaton) seriously out of pocket and in financial despair. Salvaging bits of alien tech left scattered across the city, Toomes and his team of mechanics start a lucrative black-market business, customising what he finds into weapons for sale.
Before long, Spider-Man comes face-to-face with this new form of weaponry on the streets and brings the news to Stark, who doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. So eager to prove himself, Peter goes it alone in order to bring the culprits to justice, which means facing off against Toomes who has customised a flying suit to become The Vulture.
The film sets itself up in a very quick, clean and efficient way, meaning that the main story has plenty of time to shine without needless exposition. We all know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man so thankfully that’s only mentioned in passing. The whole tone of the film is akin to a John Hughes teen movie, with high school drama having an equally important a role to play against the superhero element of the narrative. There’s even a nice Ferris Bueller in-joke thrown into the mix for good measure!
Director Jon Watts (who I sincerely hope returns for the sequel) delivers a wonderful visual style that makes the film feel timeless. This is very much a Peter Parker movie and that’s why it works so well. But when the action happens, the spectacle is simply breathtaking. A particular highlight is a frantic sequence that takes place in Washington D.C. Then there’s the surprise element – Spider-Man: Homecoming has some brilliant plot devices, with one in particular gaining a rapturous round of applause from the press screening audience. It also teases a lot of characters in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery which raises anticipation for the sequels. It’s a film that delivers on every level.
Then there’s the cast. Tom Holland is perfect as both Peter and Spider-Man and brings a fresh-faced energy to the role. He handles every aspect of the film with a maturity far beyond his years and is an utter joy to watch. Robert Downey Jr. is his usual excellent self and is thankfully used much more sparingly than the ad campaign would have you believe. Jon Favreau is always watchable and has a great dynamic with Holland. Marisa Tomei isn’t in the film much but whenever she is, she lights up the screen. Michael Keaton is sensational as The Vulture and delivers a menacing, controlled but empathetic villain that has plenty of layers to explore.
The high-school element of the film is so important to the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming and the young cast that surround Tom Holland are uniformly excellent. Jacob Batalon is hilarious as Ned, Peter’s best friend. Laura Harrier is perfect as Peter’s first crush Liz, while Zendaya steals her scenes as Michelle. Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel) brings a nice change of pace to the role of high-school show-off Flash Thompson and it’s always great to see Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys) appear in movies – she plays Betty Brant here which sparks a nice nod to where this franchise could be heading.
The film has lots of added extras including 10 Deleted & Extended Scenes, a Cast Gag Reel, The Spidey Study Guide – A Pop-Up Factoid Track featurette, Unseen Alternate Captain America PSAs, Aftermath – Filmmakers bridge the gap from the Battle of New York featurette, A Tangled Web – Spider-Man’s integration into the Marvel Cinematic Universe featurette and more.
Spectacular, amazing, astonishing, sensational – just add any Spider-Man comic book superlative to describe this movie. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best superhero film of the year – simply stunning, marvellous and magnificent in every department. A wonderful mix of fun, excitement, action and spectacle, it has in abundance the essence which makes a timeless superhero movie. Fingers crossed the alliance between Sony and Marvel continues because we want to see many more films in this series, and most importantly, Tom Holland appear in Venom. The prospect of him squaring up against Tom Hardy (Dunkirk) is the stuff of fanboy & fangirl dreams.
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Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Hannibal Buress, Donald Glover, Kenneth Choi, Angourie Rice, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Chernus, Michael Mando, Logan Marshall-Green, Jennifer Connelly, Gwyneth Paltrow Director: Jon Watts Writer: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers Released By: Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios Certificate: 12 Duration: 133 mins Release Date: 20th November 2017