TL;DR – A brilliant relaunch of a much-loved character, which tells an origin story without telling an origin story
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
P.S. – There is a Mid and Post Credit scene.
So here we are with our first big standalone Spider-Man feature now that he is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before we go on, we should probably take a moment and talk about how amazing it is that we actually got Homecoming at all. Indeed a lot had to fall into place to make this work. I’ve not seen companies work like this, and as well as this since, well maybe since Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Props have to be given to both Sony and Marvel to being able to put aside their differences and making this work, because that would not have been an easy set of negotiations, but they have made the integration almost seamless. So let us begin as we swing into the world of high school proms, alien weapons, explosions, and award conversations about life changes when you become a teenager.
To set the scene, it is in the aftermath of the first Avengers and people are cleaning up after the incident, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) finally has a break that his family needs after being contracted to clean up and salvage the alien wreaks around Central Station, only to have everything pulled out from underneath him as Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) corporation, along with the government, create the Department of Damage Control which takes over the salvage operation and leaves Adrian, out of work and out of pocket. Thankfully for him, one of his crew pockets a Chitauri power cell on the way out and with some of the salvage already recovered before the government stepped in, he decides to set up an ‘alternative business opportunity’. It’s now four years later and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is being escorted to Germany by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and we see, in wonderful mobile phone camera footage, a different perspective on the airport fight in Captain America Civil War. Only to be whisked back to the Bronx, and back to his former life. At school he is trying to pretend everything is normal, but Peter also wants to be more than this, he wants to do great things, but no one is letting him.
This is a great setup because it gives us an understanding of just about all the personal motivations that push the story, and you can sympathise with all of them. Adrian just wants to do right for his family but is forced into criminality after getting screwed over by people in suits, who had a hand in causing all the mess to begin with. Peter wants to be a hero, he’s lived a hard life and he wants to give back to the world and make it a better place. On the other hand, Tony is trying to face his own demons as well as those who don’t trust his decision, but also he’s never been a parent, nor did he have the best relationship with his own father, so he’s not very good with this. This set up is also good because at no point did I mention being bitten by a spider, and Uncle Ben getting killed. As I said back in my Batman v Superman review, when something is as popular as Batman or Spider-Man in this case, you don’t have to waste time shoehorning in the same origin story that we have seen over and over again. So in Spider-Man we already know that what happened to Peter occurred before Civil War, and in Homecoming we have only one line of dialogue about it, confirming that yes Peter was bitten by a spider. That’s all that was needed and it is a good move because it means you don’t have to waste your first act, you can jump straight into your story.
What I liked about the story is that it develops organically, well as organically as a story about flying monsters and people with superhuman strength can be. You can see the cause and effect and each step, and it feels justified. Tony Stark inadvertently screwed over Adrain’s life, so he builds stuff out of the rubble that he finds and he is careful to do it quietly so not to rouse people’s suspicion. Peter is out and about because Tony isn’t really talking to him, which stems from Tony’s issues with communication, but because he was out there, he stumbles across these new weapons, but because no one takes him seriously Peter feels the need to take these guys on alone. Each step of the story reinforces itself, and this takes a lot of work to get right, especially as it builds to the conclusion. Also interestingly Homecoming is the first film that directly deals with the aftermath of Civil War, as Doctor Strange was set, before Civil War, or after it, or, actually I still don’t know where exactly it fits into the MCU you can let me know where you think it is in the comments below, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was set out in space. So we get to see the fallout in the world and it’s, well not much actually, other than Captain America (Chris Evans) is a war criminal, or not, people don’t really know. Now you could say that this is a cop out, but the reality is the people on the street probably don’t know what’s going on really.
[SPOILERS] While I enjoyed the story, the one thing that I think I connected to more than anything else was the characters and their performance. Now back in my Civil War review, I said that I loved Tom Holland’s performance as Spider-Man, and that I think he might be my favourite Spider-Man so far. Well, there is one thing that Homecoming confirmed and that is that my gut reaction to Civil War was completely right. Tom brings a real energy to the role, an energy we haven’t really seen in the MCU before, in any of the leads, a sheer unbridled joyful optimism. The world hasn’t beaten him down into a cynical pulp like Tony, nor has he had to live through the horrors that tempered Steve, I don’t know, maybe it’s just me getting old but it was nice to see someone be just excited at all of life’s possibilities. On the flip side, we have Adrian who has had it tough in life, and he’s worked his way to the top and you see that in Michael Keaton’s performance. Now I’m sure there will be many comparisons drawn between his performance here as Vulture and his character in Birdman, especially given some of Birdman’s themes. But in any case, Michael Keaton knows how to command a scene. The standout has to be when Vulture and Spider-Man meet, in one moment he shows his amazing range, and I felt concern for Spider-Man’s life even though rationally I knew that he had to survive. I also liked the group of kids from Peter’s school that makes up a lot of the supporting cast. Now Jacob Batalon who plays Ned, could have just been the comic relief, but he brings so much heart to the role you just can’t help but get caught up in the excitement. I liked Tony Revolori’s take on what a modern bully is with Eugene “Flash” Thompson, less of a traditional jock, though he’s still a complete ass. Also I kind of dug Zendaya performance as Michelle’s with her slightly snarky attitude, she finds that line so it doesn’t become cruel or obnoxious. Indeed Spider-Man shows how easy it is to cast a diverse and interesting cast of characters if you just put a bit of work into it. Now of course Robert Downey Jr was great as Iron Man, it would be a shock if that was not the case, but it was just nice to see some of these characters we haven’t seen in a while, Jon Favreau is wonderful as the exasperated Happy, who you can completely sympathise with, and Gwyneth Paltrow is there for a moment but what a moment it was. Oh and we can’t forget Marisa Tomei as May Parker, who has some of the best lines in the movie [End of SPOILERS]
From a technical perspective, all the different components worked really well. The visual effects were all top notch, look you come to expect this from a Marvel film, but it’s important because given your main character is in a red suit swinging across the centre of the screen, if that looks fake then the film can fall apart. You can see this shine in the fight sequences, because there is a very fluid feel to the action that reflects Spider-Man’s more aerobatic style of combat. As well as the visual effects, the film never felt like it was rushing or dragging, finding the right pace to keep you engaged and the cinematography was brilliant at times, with everything being wonderfully lit. You see all of this come together with the director and editor knowing just when it was just right to have that big long wide shot in the middle of a chase scene. I also really enjoyed Michael Giacchino score, especially around some of the more intense moments where he uses strings to highlight the unease. Though I will say there are a couple of scenes that I would not what to see in 3D given I got a bit of vertigo from the heights from just the 2D alone.
While I really liked the film, there were a couple of things that didn’t quite jell for me, though they are only minor things. Homecoming kind of dipped its toes into the politics around class and exploitation, and while it was great to see it in a blockbuster film, I think it could have been developed a little bit more. Also, there were some characters that felt more ‘I’m just here because I’ll be important in the sequel’. Donald Glover’s character is a good example of this, it felt really weird to waste such a great actor on what seems like a really small unimportant role, which is until you look up who he is and suddenly it makes sense. As I said there were only small issues, but they were there.
So do we recommend Spider-Man Homecoming, of course we do for all the praise we mentioned above. However, there is one more thing that clinched it for me, throughout the whole film I had a smile on my face because it was just so joyful. They set the tone for the film from the opening credits which has an orchestral version of the classic Spider-Man theme on full blast. You know this Marvel train keeps on ploughing ahead with nothing seemingly stopping it, and as we get closer to the next Avenger’s film it is amazing to see how far we’ve come, and how I am completely not ready for this to come to an end.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Spider-Man: Homecoming
Directed by – Jon Watts
Screenplay by – Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Story By – Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley
Based on – Spider-Man by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Music by – Michael Giacchino
Cinematography by – Salvatore Totino
Edited by – Dan Lebental & Debbie Berman
Starring – Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Jennifer Connelly, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Donald Glover, Michael Mando, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Chernus, Jim Morita, Tyne Daly, Hannibal Buress, Isabella Amara, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., J. J. Totah, Abraham Attah, Tiffany Espensen, Angourie Rice, Michael Barbieri & Ethan Dizon with Kerry Condon, Gwyneth Paltrow & Chris Evans
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13