Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – Review

Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Donald Glover

The Overview
Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Holland), with the help of his mentor Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture (Keaton), emerges. (Source: IMDb)

The Good
To many, and specifically those who do not pore over movie and comic book news sites on the internet, the announcement of another Spider-Man movie was met with a sense of exasperation. Of course to superhero movie fans, there was something different about this Spider-Man movie in that something of a “joint-custody” agreement between Sony and Marvel had finally been reached, and the web-slinging hero could return to his rightful place in the MCU. The tantalising double-meaning of the subtitle “Homecoming” hinted not just at Spidey’s return to Marvel, but a return to the true nature of the character, which many felt was lacking in the latter part of Sam Raimi’s trilogy and the Amazing Spider-Man films. 

If this shared ownership of Spider-Man between Marvel and Sony was a relationship status on Facebook, it would read “it’s complicated” and indeed there is still much negotiating about how long Marvel have this character for. As it stands at the moment there is an agreement for three “appearances” (we’ve had one in Civil War‘ already and the other two are likely to be parts 1 and 2 of Infinity War), plus three “standalone” Spidey films. See, I wasn’t joking when I said it was a little complicated. But the big question of course here is, is Homecoming the Spider-Man film we all wanted and deserved? The short answer is a resounding, yes!  

There’s no denying that Spider-Man was a complete scene-stealer in Civil War, immediately silencing the naysayers who weren’t sure how his appearance would fit in to an already well established group of superheroes. The opening to Homecoming immediately cements its place in the MCU with a fun “home video” style sequence made by Parker himself as he heads off to make his surprise appearance in the airport fight scene from Civil War. It’s great to briefly see this amazing scene from a different perspective, and also the perspective of an over-excited teenager, because let’s face it, that was all of us when we were watching that scene!

Tom Holland nailed both Spider-Man and Peter Parker in Civil War, and it is great to see him very much front and centre and completely owning this character. With previous incarnations, the actors were arguably only able to nail one aspect effectively; Tobey Maguire was a great Parker but a not-so-great Spidey, and Andrew Garfield was a great Spidey but a not-so-great Peter Parker. Fact is, Holland is able to perfectly portray both sides to the character, and it is great to finally see a Spider-Man that is the right age (and therefore believable as a high school student!), and one which encapsulates the beloved Spider-Man of the comics. He is a wise-cracking, over-excited, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and it is so great to finally see that on screen.

The title and much of the marketing, yes even those terrible posters, hinted strongly about placing Spider-Man firmly within the dual role of a high school kid and a superhero, and the decision not to make this an origin story is also an incredibly welcome one. Following his big battle appearance in Civil War, we now get to see Peter Parker struggling to come back down to the drudgery of school after the giddy heights of fighting Giant-Man and stealing Captain America’s shield!

One of my major concerns was that Iron Man was going to be front and centre and this would be the Robert Downey Jr. show, featuring Spider-Man. However that is not the case at all, with Stark’s reliable assistant Happy (a welcome return for Jon Favreau) perhaps having even more screen-time than Iron Man does. His inclusion is necessary, particularly as it gives the opportunity for an interesting “father figure” dynamic between Stark and Parker, but the fact he is used sparingly is great, and keeps Spider-Man in the spotlight, which is the way it should be.

Perhaps the thing I was looking forward to most about this film was Michael Keaton as the Vulture. He has been on something of a resurgence over the last few years, and seeing someone of this calibre in the MCU is undoubtedly exciting. Previous villains (unless you’re Loki, the Winter Soldier, or Zemo) in the MCU have been a little on the generic side, forgettable and with wafer-thin motives. Happily, Keaton’s Vulture is one that can join the great villains of the MCU! Imposing, psychotic, unhinged, yet weirdly likeable, Keaton brings tremendous gravitas to this role, and most importantly his motives are believable and genuine. There’s a jaw-dropping twist involving his character in the latter stages of the film and Keaton plays this to absolute perfection.

The supporting cast of kids is also great with the stand-outs being Zendaya as the sassy Michelle, and Jacob Batalon as Parker’s “man in the chair” and best friend, Ned. She doesn’t have a huge role, but Zendaya is wonderful and she is definitely one to watch, and the acerbic delivery of her character results in some of the film’s biggest laughs. Batalon is simply delightful as Ned, and the chemistry he and Holland have as best buddies is honest and convincing.   

The Bad
Unlike previous Spider-Man films, there thankfully isn’t too much to report here! The final battle had been built up to be something really spectacular and whilst it gets tantalisingly close to that point, it actually ends up being rather anti-climactic which is a shame, especially considering some of the bombshells delivered in the run-up to it.

Perhaps due to the director’s inexperience of directing action movies, but the action scenes really aren’t too spectacular and the effects are a little ropey at times. The shots of Spidey swinging from building to building aren’t as great as perhaps they could be, and aside from a fun centrepiece action sequence in Washington, there is nothing particularly memorable about the action scenes.

Whilst Tom Holland is undoubtedly great and is rightfully at the centre of this film, there are very few scenes and conversations that don’t involve him, so it did start to get a little samey after a while. Not a criticism of Holland and his performance at all, but perhaps a little more development of the other characters would have created a bit more balance. It was also crying out for more of Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May as her and Holland seemed to have a really unique and wonderful relationship and it was a shame to see this only briefly. Also a scene where someone wasn’t somehow in awe of how beautiful Tomei is would’ve been appreciated; she is stunning, obviously, but surely there was more to this character than just being the “unusually attractive Aunt”. 

The Verdict
I saw this movie and you should too. It isn’t perfect, but damn is it a lot of fun, and there’s plenty of things that will please the fans, and hopefully also convince the doubters that “another” Spider-Man movie does have a purpose! It is great to see more of Holland and with more of a chance to shine, there is no doubt that he is born to play this character. With a great supporting cast, just the right amount of Iron Man, and a fantastic villain, this is a solid crowd-pleaser of a film and a fitting “homecoming” for this character in the MCU. Still of the opinion that Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man film, Homecoming doesn’t quite reach those heights, but boy does it come very close! 

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