VOD film review: Spider-Man: Homecoming
James R | On 01, Apr 2018
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr.
“Who am I? You sure you wanna know?” asked Tobey Maguire back in 2002, when Spider-Man first landed on our cinema screens. Only 15 years later, and Peter Parker is back in his third incarnation and his seventh feature film outing, after a soft reboot in Captain America: Civil War. If you’re the kind of person who doubts whether we really need another Spider-Man movie, Homecoming is for you.
The effort Marvel puts into its crossover links is the weakest point of most MCU movies, but Sony’s web-spinning blockbuster benefits hugely from it: taking Civil War’s introduction as its jumping-off point, it leaps into a story that’s thankfully free from the usual origins rules, leaving Spider free to have fun, pure and simple. This version of Peter (Tom Holland) is still endearing nerdy, living with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) while balancing academic decathlon duties with dreams of becoming an Avenger. Tony Stark, though, warns him that he’s not ready to be on the big boys’ team – and so, naturally, Peter does everything he can to fight crime alone anyway.
It’s a fantastically fresh approach to the character, giving him a hero complex but with a mentor far from the Uncle Ben days of old: Stark as a teacher matches Parker’s fast-talking quips and immaturity (Tony spends half his time chatting up Tomei’s Aunt May). It also means that Jon Favreau’s Happy gets a welcome bout of screen-time, as he’s assigned to be Peter’s minder and keep him out of trouble – a duty they both despise equally.
Of course, a chance to prove himself lands in Peter’s lap almost immediately, as construction worker Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) finds his company (assigned to clean-up duty follow The Avengers’ Battle of New York) dismissed, leaving everyone unemployed. And so he takes revenge by stealing Chitauri machine parts, weaponising them and selling them on. Keaton plays him with the right amount of blue collar sincerity, making him as much a regular guy driven to extremes as an arms dealer with a grudge – he’s a family man, just trying to make ends meet for his daughter, and he’s got a protective streak as wide as his wolfish grin. (After Birdman and Spotlight, it’s a pleasure to see Keaton relaxing and enjoying himself.)
But for all the adulting going on, Homecoming succeeds by agreeing with Iron Man: as its title suggests, this forgets about trying to be an adult blockbuster and focuses solely on being a teenager, as Peter and his friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), spend their time playing with random electronics they find – putting them firmly in the path of Adrian’s “Vulture”. Much of the film is made up by their bromantic banter, with Batalon’s desire to be a hero’s sidekick matched only by Parker’s enthusiasm to be a hero in the first place.
Holland is perfectly cast, bringing a constant level of youthful energy to the screen, running around in way that’s more childlike – and, by extension, more vulnerable to actual peril – than any other Spider-Man to date. He’s as emotionally invested in the well-being of his favourite sandwich shop owner as he is concerned about his friends’ safety – and that genuine, earnest streak drives some superb action set pieces, particularly one involving a school trip to Washington DC. And yet nothing compares to his terror at having to impress the father of his classroom crush, Liz (a charismatic Laura Harrier), something that the film uses to inspired effect, as it fuses together the prom of the title with a traditional third act climax.
Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley’s script (co-written with Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers) is full of such witty flourishes and an unabashed love of John Hughes, which keep the tone light but the adolescent stakes high. Watts’ camera, meanwhile, races after our lead with a grounded, intimate rush that adds a wonderful, immediate quality to every sequence, whether Spider-Man’s jumping between buildings or trying to hold a boat together. The result is a breeze that blows by completely effortlessly. Whether you’re a Spidey fan or not, this is an infectious, primary-coloured reminder that superhero movies can simply be fun. You won’t just be convinced of the worth for a new Spider-Man film: you’ll want another one.