Spider-Man has always been one of Marvel’s shining lights – and yet in cinematic form has been left somewhat self-contained, in his own mini-universe, fighting localised crimes on his own terms. Yet as we witnessed during a brief cameo in Civil War – this wise-cracking superhero comes to life when able to interact with other gifted individuals, and it’s what makes this latest reboot so enticing, as we watch on Spidey is finally able to bounce off other familiar faces, and the results are nothing short of a triumph.
Director Jon Watts has been fortunate in that he doesn’t have the burden of presenting an origin story, able to get right into the thick of the action as we meet Peter Parker (Tom Holland) moments after his exploits with the Avengers from the preceding endeavour. Keeping his identity a secret from his auntie May (Marisa Tomei) is a challenge, made all the more harder when his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) discovers who his classmate really is. Peter is desperate to be called into action again, wishing his phone would ring and either Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) or Happy (Jon Favreau) will be needing his assistance.
In the meantime he is intent on keeping the local neighbourhood safe, which is when he stumbles across the winged maniac Adrian Toomes (Vulture) played by Michael Keaton, selling illegal, unfathomably powerful weapons on the black market. So Spider-Man, in spite of his instructions to stay well clear, makes it his mission to lend a hand, all the while trying to navigate his way around his high-school life, with homecoming on the horizon. And he hasn’t even got a date.
Spider-Man: Homecoming Video Review
Partly what makes this latest venture for Spider-Man so successful is how the eponymous protagonist represents us. Not only in how flawed he is as a superhero, constantly making mistakes, crashing in to things and causing all sorts of mayhem, but in how he perceives the other Avengers; wide-eyed, like a fan – as excited in their presence as we all are sat in the cinema. To make the character younger has also been a shrewd move by the studio, enhancing Peter’s naivety, and yet adding to his blissful sense of courage, the ability to act now and think about the repercussions later, throwing himself into the heart of danger just to get brownie points from a certain Mr. Stark. Holland excels in the role, and while not quite as geeky as Tobey Maguire’s rendition, this newfound sense of confidence enriches the material, in line with the witty nature of the film.
But, as we all know, a superhero is nothing without a strong adversary to lock horns with, and Keaton is inspired casting in this instance. Props to Marvel and Sony for convincing the actor to put on another bird costume, and props to the actor for bringing such a dark intensity to the part. His introduction is essential too, as we meet him before the opening titles have rolled, as we learn what we’re up against before the scene has even been set. To then watch on as the Vulture mercilessly kills someone early on again lets us know what’s in store, as we appreciate rather swiftly that this is a villain that has no remorse, and they’re the most frightening kind. The stakes are not particularly high however, and yet impressively it doesn’t prove to be a problem. This is not Captain American vying to save the world, it’s more low-key, but this suits the Spider-Man leg of the franchise.
It’s the aforementioned comedic relief which allows this film to prosper – in what is effectively a high-school teen comedy with a superhero twist, and tonally Watts has done a remarkable job. Comparable in that regard to Ant-Man, this is a riotous production that will have you laughing from start to finish, and yet in spite of the humour, peppered persistently throughout this title, it doesn’t once compromise on the severity of the narrative implications. In some ways Homecoming not only feels like Spider-Man’s audition to be considered a genuine Avenger, but also whether the character deserves to have a big role in the future of the MCU – and on this showing, it’s fair to say he’s passed with flying colours. On both counts.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is released on July 5th.