Director: Jon Watts
Runtime: 133 minutes
Before I begin the meat of this review, I must say that Spider-Man has never been one of my favourite superheroes. I have never read a single Spider-Man comic, and I have always seen his cinematic ventures to be, well… average. Both the Raimi trilogy and the ‘Amazing’ reboots were enjoyable but never really took my fancy. I liked them just fine, they just never really gave me anything that ‘wowed’ me. To me, there were far more interesting superhero films, and far more interesting superheroes, to invest my time in.
My partner would wholly disagree with me on this point. I was dragged excitedly to the cinema with a man who collects Spidey comics, who frames his favourite cover art – who viewed an original copy of Amazing Fantasy 15 with the wonderment of someone who had laid eyes on the original manuscript of the Bible. I was ready to like this film. Not love this film, but find it… fine. It definitely surpassed expectation.
So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. While I am hoping I don’t need to do too long of a blurb of who Spider-Man is (bitten by a radioactive spider, gets super sticky powers and essentially does whatever a spider can… except lay eggs), the film’s plot is surprisingly simplistic. Teenage Peter Parker, after being called in as backup for Iron Man’s side of Civil War, is excited to be on his way towards membership of the Avengers. While waiting for his mentor, Tony Stark, to call him in for another mission, Peter discovers an underground alien-weapons dealer is troubling his local neighbourhood. Torn between high-school commitments and friendly neighbourhood superhero duty, Peter must prove himself to Stark while trying to get his high-school crush to notice him.
The superhero aspects of this film are impeccably executed. Everything you want from a ‘Marvel’ (in quotations because, while Sony made this film, it is clear Marvel had more than a finger in its creation) film is in there – witty quips, exciting fight sequences, and decent character development. However, it succeeds where most Marvel fares falter – in its villain. Michael Keaton plays Vulture, a literal bird-man who uses his tech-wings to steal alien technology for resale. The film opens on Vulture’s origin story as a contractor who is pushed out of his contract cleaning up the Battle of New York (as seen in the Avengers) by corporate big-wigs. Keaton becomes a highlight of the film, matching a blue-collar work ethic with a villainy that is all too relatable. He becomes the perfect contrast to street-level Spider-Man, and any scene they share is an absolute gem.
The film also excels in its hero. This film made me see why so many people have an attachment to Spider-Man. Marvel excels in showing how every hero is different, and Spider-Man has been handled with a subtlety and elegance that I would not have expected walking into the cinema. From the get-go we are shown how much of a teenager he is – creating cute video diaries of his adventure with the Avengers in Civil War. Tom Holland seems to never lose sight of what has made this hero so beloved. Despite being one of the most popular superheroes of all time, Holland makes us root for Spidey as the underdog. He is flawed and relatable, and when we see him get genuinely hurt, Holland brings out a performance that makes the audience share his pain.
As for the other aspects of the film, it is, like its predecessors, just fine. The high-school drama is cliché but never slips into annoying territory, the visuals are what you would expect from any Marvel flick, and the supporting characters are interesting enough that you enjoy spending your time with them. But really, Spider-Man: Homecoming excels in its hero and villain, and this is what pulls the rest of the film together. What might have been an average movie with the wrong lead turns out to be an excellent vehicle for Holland’s budding talent and Keaton’s experienced charm. If you want to have fun for a couple of hours, and see a ‘blockbuster’ film at its most enjoyable, definitely give Homecoming a chance. You’ll be humming the tune in no time.