Spider Man. Spider Man. Does what ever a spider can. Well….that’s only when he’s given the right on-screen treatment. It’s hard to believe that in the last decade there have been three different interpretations of the web-slinger. Ranging from the Sam Raimi films back in the early 2000’s (One of them, Spider Man 2, being hailed as one of the greatest superhero films of all time) to Marc Webb’s reboots (one of them, The Amazing Spider Man 2, being hailed as one of the worst superhero films of all time). To put it short, Spider Man’s onscreen efforts are a bit of a mixed bag largely due to studio interference and issues surrounding the rights of the character. So it came as no surprise that fans were delighted to hear that Spidey would be taking his place within the Marvel cinematic universe alongside other fellow Avengers such as Iron Man and Captain America.
This overwhelmingly positive reaction was due to the fact that the studio had demonstrated their skill at treating these characters and honouring the source material from which they originated. Flash forward to April 2016 with the release of Captain America: Civil War which featured the conflict between Cap and Iron Man but more importantly also featured the introduction of the webslinger himself. This time it wasn’t Tobey Maguire (great performance as Peter Parker but only an okay performance as Spidey) or Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield (fantastic performance as the superhero but questionable performance as Peter) but young Brit newcomer Tom Holland (known for starring in films such as The Impossible and How I Live Now). In Civil War, Holland was a revelation, his interpretation of the character was a lot younger but a lot more smart arsed and youthful than the previous two portrayals despite only featuring in the film for less than half an hour. He left quite the impact and fans and myself included were intrigued to see what was in store for Spider Man in his solo film Spider Man: Homecoming which the filmmakers involved have stated is more of a hybrid between 80’s John Hughes coming of age stories and a superhero film.
With all this said, how does this film compare with the other instalments. To put it short, it’s the best Spider-Man has ever been since Spider Man 2 and that film was released 13 years ago. The film picks up after the events of Civil War with Holland’s Peter Parker adjusting back to his normal life back in Queens. However, his heart is not set on Algebra quizzes and the Homecoming dance but rather on when will he be recruited to the Avengers. And this is where the film shines. The movie could easily fall under the trappings of relying on the audience’s awareness of what took place in previous films but it manages to subvert this by not relying on referencing another Avenger’s film every couple of minutes. This is displayed brilliantly in the film’s opening sequence told in the form of a vlog by Peter. It’s really unique and brings the audience up to speed with what is going on. This is something which also should be emphasised: the film is very unique with regards to the narrative. In a world dominated by superhero origin stories and reboots (just like Webb’s previous instalments), Homecoming decides not to retell the story of how Spider Man got his powers and gives us a version of the character who has had to deal with his newfound abilities for less than a year.
Holland shines as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man. He brings a balance of naivety and youthfulness. He perfectly captures the insecurity of being a teenager along with the confidence, charisma and humour of the friendly neighbourhood vigilante. Whether it’s taking down a bunch of masked goons robbing a bank or swinging through the American suburbs (in a perfect homage to a well known Hughes classic) this is easily the best I have seen from Spider-Man.
Also unique about this film is the way in which it focuses on how the actions of the Avengers in previous films have provided a background for Spider Man’s world. Thanks to a major upgrade from Mr Stark (Downey Jnr in the role he was born to play) we get to see more of what Spider Man has to offer with new variations of web shooting (web grenade, taser web, rapid fire web etc) It reminded me of some of the really good Spider-Man video games of the past and the moments in which you were able to upgrade your attacks and abilities. Which brings me to the action scenes of the film. All of them, including the stand out Staten Island Ferry sequence are directed with a great amount of vibrant colours and energy. I was both on the edge of my seat and immensely satisfied to see the web slinger swing his way through the Queen’s neighbourhood.
There’s also great work on display here from the supporting players in particular Michael Keaton’s villainous Vulture. Now this is an area where Marvel have struggled in the past with their inclusion of bland and uninteresting villains such as YellowJacket in Ant-Man, Malekith in Thor: The Dark World and The Sovereigns in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (which came out less than two months ago). However, Keaton’s character is a standout simply because he is not a one-note bad-guy. He is both sincere and intimidating but I also completely understood where this character was coming from. The film cleverly weaves a backstory for him through the use of a flashback sequence amidst the aftermath of all the mayhem and destruction caused by the Avengers back in 2012. Homecoming also takes an incredibly interesting turn with his character that I did not see coming in the slightest. Also great in this film is Robert Downey Jnr. as Tony Stark who is given the chance here to adopt more of a father figure/ mentor role to Peter and his appearances are brief but are included at just the right time as well as Jacob Batalon as Peter Parker’s best friend Ned, who was responsible for a large amount of the laughs in my screening.
If I were to have any issues with Homecoming it would have to be that at times the narrative isn’t told in an organised manner. At times the film tends to jump between subplots whether it’s his relationship with his crush Liz (which I didn’t really care that much about to be honest) or his investigation of the advanced weaponry of the Vulture and his goons, to Peter attempting to keep his secret from Marisa Tomei’s younger and more attractive version of Aunt May, to Peter’s attempts to make it to his high school’s decathlon. As you can probably tell, it gets a bit messy at times. Also there are some side characters such as The Shocker and Donald Glover’s Aaron Davis who are introduced and then forgotten about later on in the film. It reminded me a little bit of the way in which secondary characters were treated in the other Spider Man films such as Venom and The Rhino.
But that is only a nitpick. Spider-Man: Homecoming met my expectations and at times it even surpassed them. Jon Watts and the rest of the filmmaking team have crafted something very unique here. A high-school superhero flick in which the stakes are on a minuscule level. But while for the most part the film is a light-hearted and comedic summer blockbuster, there are some very powerful dramatic moments ranging from a heated exchange between Peter and Tony about “responsibility” and a sequence towards the end of the film in which Spider Man is at his lowest low where Tom Holland’s performance blew me away He is easily the best interpretation of the character so far and I cannot wait to see what is in store for this version of the character in sequels. This is one the best films within the Marvel canon and proves, once again, that they know exactly what they are doing with their characters. Also be sure to stay after the credits for one of the most unconventional and best Marvel post credit sequences. Sean Moriarty