It’s crazy to think that just 15 years ago Spiderman leapt onto our screens with the Sam Raimi classic. In the time since that seminal film, superhero movies have grown and expanded to be more than just a villain of the week style of storytelling. Now, years after Spiderman 4 was canned and the second (unsuccessful) Spiderman franchise left to the wayside, Spiderman is back. And while there will be those who swear by the Raimi films (not number three though), Homecoming is not only one of the best Spidey stories put to film, it’s also one of the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe’s best too.
Homecoming starts just after the events of the very first Avengers film, with Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) charged with the clean up of the attack on New York City. However, when a new task force comes along and pushes him out of the lucrative deal, Toomes and some of his team decide to take what they found and use it to make new and better weapons to sell. Years pass and we see, through the use of a video blog from a mobile phone camera, how Peter Parker got to be where he was during the battle in Civil War (hope you have been watching all the MCU movies now). Once that job is complete, and he isn’t promoted to being a member of the Avengers, he now sits by his phone waiting for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) or Happy (Jon Favreau) to call him. Being a major superhero next to Captain America and Black Widow and then having to go to school? Teenage problems, AMIRITE?
Skipping the preamble of how Parker became Spiderman is just one of the many confident things this film does. Relegating the origin story to a single line of dialogue frees us up to experience Parker’s world more vividly. There are so many new and interesting characters in this film and yet the time was there to allow them all to have one big laugh or heartfelt moment. Major shout outs must be given to Jacob Batalon’s Ned and Zendaya’s Michelle, who both play comedic parts that I can’t wait to see more of in the eventual sequel. It’s very hard to make mundane school life as exciting as death defying stunts on major landmarks, but this film and the work of all on board kept both halves of this film fresh and entertaining.
Thankfully though, this film knows when to focus on our star, and Tom Holland just inhabits this character flawlessly. Everyone kind of cringed at Tobey Maguire supposedly being a teenager, but here Tom really looks the part. He shows the youthfulness of Garfield and the emotional backbone of Maguire merged into one. It took 3 attempts but this is Spiderman. His struggle with not having a purpose and trying to do good is an interesting take for the character, and having Iron Man acting as a surrogate father (in place of the Uncle Ben plot – which seems all but avoided in this incarnation of the character) allows RDJ to do some of his best work in the MCU.
It must be noted though, that this film feels the most attached to those that came before, and I couldn’t imagine those who aren’t up to date with the MCU having much fun. It feels like the 8th episode of a series. While the connections to the larger game Marvel have planned are enjoyable and exciting, I can’t help but wonder if the film could survive without those bigger elements. To steal a line from the movie, ‘if you are nothing without the suit, you shouldn’t have it’, seems applicable to the SONY/Marvel relationship at large. Now they have planted the MCU seed, let’s see SONY leave the nest next time.
What this film does, and probably does better than any MCU movie to date, is create a memorable and lasting villain in Adrian Toomes AKA The Vulture. Keaton relishes this role and he owns every scene he is in. Opening the film with his backstory first was a fantastic way to show us that this is no mere third act villain (which is my biggest gripe with the series thus far), nor is he a quip machine to offer jokes. The Vulture’s first appearance in the same scene as Spiderman is terrifying, and as the film goes on, Keaton is given even more great material to chew on. There’s a scene involving Vulture and Spiderman that I considered to be MCU’s best dialogue driven scene, but this scene was topped just 5 minutes later. Director Jon Watts has solidified himself as a keen character based director, one that doesn’t need to punctuate every scene with a joke, and this has been lacking in a lot of MCU films.
Spiderman Homecoming proves there is still life in the web crawler, and it’s down to snappy writing (which there are 6 credited writers), great direction and some better than needed to be performances. With one of the most interesting villains in the MCU and some of the most engaging character work in superhero films in general, this has run up the list of MCU films and has become a true flag waving example of two different studios working together to make a good product. Spiderman has indeed found his home, and I can’t wait to revisit it again.
Score – 90%