UK Release Date: 5th July 2017
Runtime: 133 minutes
Director: Jon Watts
Writer: Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Zendaya, Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Bokeem Woodbine
Synopsis: Spider-Man must battle villainous scavenger the Vulture in order to prove himself worthy of joining the Avengers.
As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, every few years Sony will try to reboot the Spider-Man franchise. This time around, the studio has tucked its tail between its legs and finally allowed Spidey to become a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with British actor Tom Holland donning the uniform. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a bright, punchy adventure that produces a fun take on the character from Holland, but lacks in anything approaching edge or intrigue and feels like the epitome of the Marvel formula. It’s superheroism by the numbers which, in the year of inventive fare like Logan and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, just isn’t enough.
Peter Parker (Holland) is readjusting to high school life with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) after helping Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) during the events of Captain America: Civil War. He targets petty crooks in the neighbourhood and eventually finds himself crossing paths with the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who scavenges alien tech left behind after superhero skirmishes – along with ally Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine). As the danger surrounding Peter grows, high school worries like crush Liz (Laura Harrier) and brash classmate Flash (Tony Revolori) seem to become less important.
There’s plenty to like in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is every bit as breezy and easygoing as any other entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Relatively unknown director Jon Watts is as unshowy as Marvel seems to want from its filmmakers and Holland, who was so emotionally devastating in The Impossible, is perhaps the best Peter Parker we have seen on the big screen to date. The quips come thick and fast and there’s a colourful feel to the high school scenes, which provide a stark contrast to the more generic gloom of the third act superhero sequences.
This is absolutely a better Peter Parker film than it is a Spider-Man film. The scenes in which Holland is forced to get to grips with high school issues, involving brilliant comic relief best friend Ned and fun, but under-written, love interest Liz, are written with a fizz and an energy that makes them genuinely entertaining. The John Hughes homages are mostly welcome – although the film bizarrely feels the need to heavily signpost its most explicit nod to the past – and there are all the ingredients here for a solid high school movie with plenty of fun teen drama. Unfortunately, this is Spider-Man: Homecoming rather than just Homecoming and, therefore, superhero action has to happen.
Homecoming leans very heavily on Marvel cliché with its superhero-focused segments and, as a result, these feel considerably less inventive than the high school scenes. Most of these issues centre around the sporadic appearances of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark at his most condescending and Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes – yet another example of Marvel’s problem with squandering potentially great villains. Toomes, with his blue collar sensibilities and desire to profit from the mess superheroes leave behind, has real intrigue when the film starts, but he soon becomes a generic baddie who wants to smash stuff in a big old CGI super-suit. There’s the carcass of an interesting villain, but this Vulture has already had its bones picked dry.
It’s frustrating that Spider-Man: Homecoming falters in so many ways given the array of things it has in its favour. Strong central performances aren’t enough to shake the feeling that this is just another Marvel film. In shearing the death of Uncle Ben and the traditional origin arc for the superhero from its story, it ends up feeling like an origin movie without the origin, and therefore somewhat lacking in the purpose that would’ve had it representing more than just a cog in Kevin Feige’s machine.
Pop or Poop?
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a perfectly solid Marvel movie, but it’s one that cleaves too closely to formula to boast any individual invention. Tom Holland makes for a very engaging lead and the colourful supporting cast helps flesh out the world, but there’s a sad dearth of imagination surrounding Michael Keaton’s villain.
Thankfully, there’s just enough of the webslinging we love and some great high school comedy to keep this one from getting caught up in its own franchise web.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.