- One of the funniest films of the year
- Superhero film meets Superbad style teen film – a mixture that’s refreshing and works wonderfully
- Thrilling, well-choreographed stunts and action scenes with exciting new features on the suit to make it all more fun
- Slightly predictable plot, but made up for with a villain who we can sympathise with
- We see far too much in the trailers – nothing is particularly surprising or different
- Lovable characters – from Aunt May and Ned to Iron Man and Spider-Man
- Holland is the best Spider-Man
- References and inclusions from the rest of the MCU are perfectly balanced
For decades, Spider-Man has been, along with Batman, one of the most recognisable superheroes on and off the big screen. More than just films, you can see him in comic books, T-shirts, videogames, mugs, footballs, bras – anything you can think of, there is undoubtedly Spider-Man associated merchandise. Yet despite this, the Spider-Man character hasn’t had a flat-out good film since Spider-Man 2 in 2004 (Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were universally seen to be far below par). So Sony’s seen how strong Marvel can make even an obscure comic like Guardians of the Galaxy into a huge surprise hit and given them a chance to give Spider-Man the good film he deserves. And boy do they deliver! This is the Spider-Man we wanted and needed.
Picking up with where we last saw him in Captain America: Civil War the film starts with Peter Parker/ Spider-Man (Tom Holland) making a video diary on his phone, showing his teenage, geeky excitement at being involved with the likes of Iron Man and getting his very own Stark-made Spidey suit. He then goes off to be a big superhero… by rescuing someone’s bicycle, stopping someone from getting into their own car, helping a Mexican lady with directions in return for a free churro and doing casual gymnastics… It’s only when foiling a bank robbery by men in Avengers masks that he runs into some alien weaponry picked up from the Chitauri invasion in the first Avengers movie (nice to link all these Marvel movies together). Peter tries to balance school-life with superhero-life, but his secret is soon discovered by his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). Soon the two of them discover Adrian Toomes/ Vulture (Michael Keaton) is the man responsible for selling the Chitauri weapons and make it their mission to stop him. However Spider-Man may be out of his depth, and before too long, Iron Man comes to help and take his suit away, leaving Spidey to prove his worth. Inevitably he manages to stop the Vulture and is given the suit back.
It’s all a fairly generic superhero-esque plot we’ve seen countless times before. This isn’t to say it’s boring; it’s perfectly enjoyable, but the actual plot itself doesn’t stand out, another superhero moving with a safe, predictable plot, not wishing to push boundaries. Moreover, another problem with this genre of movies, is the stakes rarely seem high, most problems overcome by just ‘believing in yourself’. And of course, as with nearly every blockbuster nowadays, it’s all in the trailers. Most plot points (up until about the last twenty minutes) are all in the trailers. Bar one little revelation, there’s hardly any surprise. If you’ve seen the trailers, then you watch this film for the spectacle and the enjoying ride, not the plot. Still, there are plenty of aspects of the film’s story to be admired. Firstly there’s no origin story at all. We’ve had two Spider-Man origin stories in the last fifteen years; it was wise to avoid a third. Here there is no mention of Uncle Ben, or the ‘great power, great responsibility’ mantra and only a fleeting reference to a radioactive spider.
Perhaps the best aspect to the story in this film is the parts that aren’t pure ‘superhero’ – the best parts are the superhero genre mixed with the teen comedy drama. It’s a Marvel superhero film mixed in with a Superbad type of film; it’s a mixture that works remarkably well, keeping everything very fresh and fitting in perfectly with the brand of comedy Marvel has become reputed for. Apart from maybe Kick-Ass and Sky High (a terrific, underrated superhero/ teen movie) this hasn’t quite been seen before, and certainly wasn’t seen much in the first Spider-Man in 2002, which gets rid of the school scene far too quickly. It helps us realise how young Peter Parker really is, making him different from other heroes, keeping him fresh, interesting and unique. More than this, because Holland plays Peter as such a lovable geek, we quickly identify with him and live out the childish fantasy of being a superhero; this is how it should be. I love the sombre, superhero films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier or The Dark Knight, but if you step back and look at it, there’s a reason so many little kids love superheroes. It’s that delightful childish excitement that’s so strong and infectious in Homecoming.
Much of this is down to energy though and the cast definitely deliver on energetic enthusiasm. Keaton’s Vulture is a villain who does everything for his family, who has genuine reasons for what he does and for whom you actually feel sympathy. Whilst he may not go down in the history books as an iconic superhero movie villain, he’s certainly an adequate opponent for Holland’s Spider-Man. Even the minor secondary characters like Ned, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), Michelle (Zendaya) and Liz (Laura Harrier) bring so much charisma to a film that would have been so much weaker without them. Each of them add so much to a film which relies on characters and humour as much as it does on superpowered action scenes. Batalon’s Ned in particular is a stand out performance, being one of the funniest and most-loved secondary characters in the MCU to date. A joint winner of this accolade would also be returning character, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) who we haven’t seen since Iron Man 3. As the reluctant quasi-babysitter to Spider-Man he brings a lot of laughs and a nice consistent connection to the rest of Marvel’s universe. Accompanying him are Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans), albeit briefly in some videos, and Pepper Potts in a small scene at the end. It’s wonderful to incorporate these characters as it really is a joy to see the rest of the universe Marvel has so carefully and diligently built around all its films. The universe feels rich and detailed, references never feeling forced or unnecessarily shoehorned in. Rest assured, despite these characters, this is definitely Spidey’s gig; Iron Man doesn’t steal the show. Of course the only person who really does steal the show is Spidey himself, Tom Holland. Notably the youngest to play Peter Parker, this certainly gives him an advantage as this feels like the most genuine Spider-Man yet. He feels as young as he should be; his cocky and slightly geeky, jokey demeanour suiting him. The childish excitement of being a superhero really does make a charming, charismatic lead and a lovable character we enjoy watching.
Holland’s youth is especially utilised well in the action scenes to bring something different. We’re often used to seeing superheroes who are well-versed in their powers, abilities and equipment. And if not, there’s usually a predictable Rocky-styled montage in which they learn all they need. There’s none of this here; Peter’s Spider-Man suit is new and we learn all the fun things it can do with him as he makes comedic mistake after mistake. All of this makes the action fun, exciting and even unpredictable. Of course the gymnastics incorporated into the swinging and fighting are second-to-none, as enjoyable to watch as they should be.
All in all this is a superb superhero movie, a great Marvel movie and an excellent Spider-Man movie. It ticks all the boxes imaginable – there’s even the original Spider-Man theme tune at the beginning as the Marvel logo shows (which is now a geeks absolute dream) and the final post-credits scene is the funniest, self-parodic one yet; it’s definitely worth the wait… or is it…? Sony should be happy they let Marvel make this film, because it’s a funny, wonderful ride and Spider-Man is more than welcome in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s hoping Holland’s Peter Parker will stick to hanging around with the Avengers for the time being – because we’re having to much fun swinging around with him to say goodbye. Three cheers for our friendly neighbourhood hero!