Aida Vucic | 07/07/2017
Following on from the mammoth success of DC’s Wonder Woman, Marvel tries its hand once again at the friendly neighbourhood superhero. It’s been a killer year for superheroes, and Spider-Man: Homecoming continues the trend, serving up action and an abundance of laughs that will almost make you forget the infighting and gloom of Captain America: Civil War.
Our beloved Peter Parker returns, younger than we’ve previously seen him and arguably with the best casting yet, as Tom Holland continues his run as the titular character. This is certainly a different tale than the earlier instalments that focused on Peter’s unfortunate past. Picking up from the first sighting of Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, we meet Peter Parker through the lens of his own iPhone camera. He’s a fast talking, wide-eyed, 15-year-old high school student, who’s eager to join the ranks of the Avengers after being plucked from obscurity by a certain Stark. Alas, Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) refuses to let him join until he passes his training wheels course, instead putting restrictions on his suit and keeping him under the watchful eye of Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Peter’s bound to the superhero tasks of providing elderly women with directions and stopping push bike robberies. He pines away like a forgotten puppy, quitting all of his extra-curricular school activities and barely experiencing the joys of adolescence while he waits for that call from Tony about a mission that will never come. When a series of alien-powered weapons hit the streets, along with a mysterious metallic birdsuit wearing villain, Peter sees his shot to do something real.
The film has the typical makings of a superhero film (hero + villain + love interest = superhero film), yet it differs from standard Marvel fare by shedding the dark shadow that has accompanied this genre and creating a more light-hearted, fun and playful story. Even the now standard third act CGI villain has been toned down to a mere mortal man, capitalising on the alien technology that has accompanied the arrival of the Avengers to engineer high powered weapons as a means of earning an income and supporting his family. Not to disparage the alien villains before, but at last in this film we’re met with a villain we’re more familiar with; human nature. This storyline also makes for a more sustainable tale, which, with any luck, means no more rebooting and we can actually have this Spider-Man around for a while!
Holland gives a spectacular performance as the wiry (yet surprisingly buff when his shirt comes off) superhero, and retains the humour that so enamoured his character to us in Civil War. Director Jon Watts serves up some spectacular action scenes too. The Washington Monument sequence is just as tense and threatening as a city dropping from the sky, and watching Spider-Man try to web together a splitting Ferry in the middle of a harbour is as immersive and entertaining as any bigger scale action sequence. Watts realises that the audience is tired of watching superhumans punch each other repeatedly as cities fall from the heavens, and instead gives us a look at how exactly someone with spider powers can save the world, one crime-stopping adventure at a time. Having Spidey work out how to turn a plane that is about to crash, or how to use a web grenade, is way more interesting than all the CGI-driven world-ending hyper battles seen in recent times. It’s a trend that was probably started with Civil War, but here it’s taken to the nth degree and really hammers home how enjoyable a superhero movie can be when you dial it back a bit.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel film if there wasn’t a cameo appearance from another Avenger, and Spider-Man: Homecoming is no exception. Ironman and Captain American both make appearances, with the former adding an absent father figure dynamic while the latter is used primarily for comedic effect. While this would typically feel as though we’re being force fed Marvel propaganda, here their appearances (particularly Tony’s) don’t distract from the tale. That’s more than can be said for Stan Lee’s cameo, which once again makes the case to retire his filmic presence. Luckily, it’s a minor part of a film that, for the vast majority of its runtime, is hugely enjoyable.
DC may have got some early runs on the board this year, but Marvel strikes back with a funny, low-key and utterly enjoyable take on our friendly neighbourhood Spider.