Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton & Robert Downey Jr.
Synopsis: Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.
Rating: 12A Duration: 133 minutes Release date: 5 July (UK)
Spider-Man, along with X-Men and Blade is a name synonymous with kick-starting the current comic-book film craze that we are currently a part of. While Blade has not been seen since the forgettable Blade: Trinity, the X-Men and Spider-Man films have carried on as best they can trying to keep afoot with their cousins at Marvel Studios. In the time since Raimi completed his trilogy and Marc Webb tried to make Spider-Man amazing, Marvel have had consecutive hits leaving everyone else to play catch up. Well, Spider-Man is now a part of the wider Marvel Universe and has had a much-needed refresh in the process.
Both Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man told the story of how Peter Parker (Tom Holland) became Spider-Man and had varying degrees of success in doing so. Luckily, Spider-Man: Homecoming saves us the ordeal of having to go through it all again. This time, we are thrust straight into Peter’s life as a superhero and wannabe Avenger with the beginning nicely showing us the airport battle from Captain America: Civil War but from Peter’s point of view via his smart phone. He’s excited and in true teenager style, won’t shut up about his first big fight. We then move soberly into Peter’s life as a high-school student and quickly learn the two sides of his soon to be very complicated life.
With his origin story all but removed, barring a quick verbal scene between Peter and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) the film is free of its training wheels and can go full throttle into the meat and bones of Peter Parker’s life. Director Jon Watts has nailed the distinction between the dual identity that Peter suffers from and hits the message home that, try as he might, Peter Parker and Spider-Man cannot be everywhere at once and that he is always going to have to let someone down. The thing that really carries weight is that this character can be anyone of us and seeing Peter having to battle daily woes like public transport and work/school commitments as well as super-powered criminals that has always set Spider-Man apart from the other heroes. That mirror image is brought to life in this film by Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. Seemingly perfect, to Peter at least, and brimming with the usual confidence, Tony Stark must provide our hero with a few harsh lessons before he becomes the person he desperately wants to be.
Tom Holland has got the balance of super-intelligent and super-awkward teen just right and has done what Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield could not, and found a balance between being the outsider and the sharp-tongued hero. His exuberance and innocence drive the film and firmly help put the film into the bracket of teen-comedy-superhero drama (a genre I’ve just created). It’s hard not to fall in love with this new version of Spider-Man and the desire to be seen as a John Hughes film with a superhero in it. What’s even more endearing is Peter’s collection of friends. Best friend Ned nearly steals the show and acts as a conduit between the audience and everything happening here. Love interest Liz (Laura Harrier) is smart and determined and is never allowed to fall into the damsel in distress bracket so often seen in other films of its ilk. Former Batman and Birdman Michael Keaton is finally given the chance to play the bad guy and his Adrian Toomes/Vulture works because he’s an opportunist with a grudge, not a villain aiming to blow up the city and is all the more sinister because of it.
At 133 minutes long Spider-Man: Homecoming could afford to lose 20 minutes and director Watts is almost as exuberant as his protagonist. Elements of the film feel rushed and parts come across as Watts running around screaming “look how great being Spider-Man is!”. Some of the computer imagery seems to have taken a back step, especially early on and the final battle is all a little been there, seen that. But, credit where it’s due. Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film since Spider-Man 2 and is the version of the character fans have been itching to see all along. It’s also completely free of cynicism or politics and is happy to show us more grounded heroics without skimping on the fun.