Continuing to bring back some of my old reviews here, today looks at Sony’s third attempt at making the perfect movie Spider-Man, this time in collaboration with Marvel Studios; it’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
RELEASED: 7th July 2016
DISTRIBUTED BY: Sony
DIRECTED BY: Jon Watts
WRITTEN BY: John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Jonathan Goldstein, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers & Jon Watts
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige & Amy Pascal
STARRING: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, Logan Marshall-Green, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael Chernus, Donald Glover & Robert Downey Jr.
The main problem with Spider-Man: Homecoming is that the casual viewer may falsely believe that Sony was wholly responsible for making this film, what with their company names being plastered all over the opening and closing credits. Which, frankly, is a shame, because this film was made by Marvel Studios, and financed by Sony; and it would truly be a terrible thing if Sony got the credit for what is, to date, one of Marvel Studios’ best films.
In terms of story, the film is surprising on several levels. Firstly, it’s generally understood that the more writers you pump into a film, the messier it gets. That, paired with the fact that the whole storyline is seemingly stuffed into the above trailer, could give cause for concern. But I can assure you that you don’t need to worry about either of those factors.
The film follows Peter Parker, the ‘Spider-Man from YouTube’, as he returns to everyday life several months after teaming up with his mentor, Tony Stark / Iron Man, to stop the renegade heroes in Captain America: Civil War. Armed with a new suit and a strong desire to join the Avengers, Peter struggles with the problems of high-school and attempts to try and impress Tony by taking on the Vulture and his gang of arms dealers.
While some may complain that Peter’s desire to be a superhero seems to come more from his adoration of Tony Stark than the guilt felt from failing his now deceased Uncle Ben (who only gets an indirect, unnamed mention), the film, for the most part, captures Spider-Man better than any film before it. The wit, the physicality, the youth and the crazy ideas embedded in the suit that riff off the early 60s comic-books. It’s all perfect. Even more importantly however, it captures Peter Parker better than any film before. While Toby Macguire and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parkers leaned heavily into the angst of being a teenager and the despair at the death of a loved one (whether that be the aforementioned Uncle Ben or his long-deceased parents), Holland’s Peter actually looks and acts like a genuine teenager.
Throughout the movie, he cycles through being hot-headed, fun-loving, socially awkward, and truly terrified in one particular scene that will make a lot of classic comic-book fans happy. He acts like a teenager actually would if he was thrust into this zany world of Norse Gods and giant green rage monsters. He’s still young, and he’s not perfect. He tries, he fails, he tries again. And although he may very rarely succeed (seriously, this Spider-Man is not the best super-hero, but it’s what the story’s aiming for and it works) his true heroism comes from his determination and his strong moral compass. Even though he is hopelessly outgunned by the Vulture, he’ll still stop to lecture him about the fact that “selling weapons to bad guys is wrong”.
But while the writing behind Peter’s character is fantastic, and Tom Holland’s performance is phenominal, it would of course be pointless without the rest of the cast alongside him. Not only does Homecoming give us the most age-appropriate Spider-Man and supporting cast, but also the most human. The film scraps the focuses of Spidey films gone by: Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy and Mary-Jane Watson, in favour of hybrid characters, who are, for all intents and purposes, new and diverse, but with a hint of some classic characters like Liz Allan, Flash Thompson, Ned Leeds and Betty Brant mixed in.
Each of the young actors playing these characters really hold their own, and make Peter’s high-school scenes seem like the most natural parts of the movie. His awkward interactions with Liz (Laura Harrier) highlight what it’s like to be a teenager and strengthen the struggles of being a super-hero. The deadpan humour from Michelle (Zendaya) brings a different, but welcome slice of comedy. And Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) is a great foil to Peter; he’s such a wonderful arsehole. However, it’s the banter between Peter and his best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) that really humanises Peter. Their interactions ground Peter in his social circle, highlighting his nerdy tendencies and giving him someone to lean on that, for once, isn’t the obligatory girlfriend. Plus, he, like everyone else, gets a lot of opportunities to bring the laughs.
The comedy in the film should also be noted as a highlight of the MCU. While I’m sure there are other films that may have the odd joke that is better than anything in here, it’s the timing and pacing that makes this film a cut above the rest. Guardians Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange got stuck with the usual Marvel trope of trying too hard to be funny – sticking jokes where they don’t belong. But in Homecoming? Everything fits right into place and does so with it’s own natural voice, not unlike the best Marvel films, the second and third Captain Americas.
Like the humour, the scale is also just right. The film is heavily embedded in the MCU, but gives us a far different perspective to the Iron Mans and the Thors that we’ve become so familiar with. It shows how these Avengers and aliens and Gods affect everyday working class people. It’s because of this that the Vulture feels like one of the few genuine Marvel villains; on top of a superb performance by Michael Keaton, the character doesn’t want to rule the world and isn’t at all crazy. He’s just a small business owner, who wants to look after his family. And when it comes to his clashes with Spider-Man, his professional outlook presents a intimidating threat to the overzealous and excitable Spider-Man, who is far more at home dealing with bank robbers and bike thieves.
Unfortunately, there are a few small issues I could take with this film. Namely, the following: The music (and I’m talking the actual soundtrack my Michael Giacchino), with the exception of the fanfare that covers the Marvel logo, is pretty forgettable. I could hum some tunes from Avengers Assemble and Iron Man 3 at you if you asked, but when it comes to this? I got nothing. And (at the time of writing) I just saw it last night.
Also, in regards to up top, when I said Spider-Man was a pretty useless super-hero in this movie, it would have been nice to actually see him hold his own at least a little bit against the Vulture. I understand that there are several movies to up his experience level, but going forward, without a lot of training, it’s going to be kind of hard to believe this kid can hold his own against super-villains, let alone the aliens he’ll be facing in Avengers: Infinity War. But eh, that’s a problem for another day.
All-in-all, I give it:
For being one of the best Marvel films, a real fun movie and potentially the best Spider-Man film. Don’t hold me to that though.
Oh and one more thing. Stay to the very end of the credits; the post-credit scene is hilarious.