After a trilogy, a failed reboot and Sony lending the Spider-Man cinematic rights back to Marvel, we are having our screens graced with the third Spider-Man in 10 years. This time, with Tom Holland (Peter Parker) and writer/director Jon Watts at the helm. Despite being the third attempt at our favourite superhero in a decade, Spider-Man: Homecoming does offer something different; a Spider-Man film tied in with the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe…
As we know, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man appeared in 2016’s, Captain America: Civil War for just a little more than a cameo. In a brilliant sequence during the opening act of Homecoming we get a look at a ‘behind the scenes’ type of video diary from Spider-Man as he’s being introduced into the Marvel world. It, however, not only serves as a hilarious head nod to the cinematic universe, but as a great introduction to our new Peter Parker. We get (in my opinion) the first glimpse of how a teenager (in this case 15 year old) would react in this situation; fighting with and against the heroes he’s heard about on TV. We see Peter’s awe and excitement to just be a part of this world, something not captured by any previous Spider-Man film. I think this is largely aided by the casting of Tom Holland. In the two previous iterations of this character we’ve had Tobey Maguire, who by Spider-Man 3, was playing the teenager at the age of 31 and Andrew Garfield who was 28 in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). Tom Holland, however, was cast at just 19, and began shooting for ‘Civil War’ that same week. This contributes massively to his portrayal of the character as he is not trying to capture the essence of a kid, but instead… is one.
On top of this, we get to see Peter Parker in high school for the most part of this film. It isn’t shown as a unnecessary aspect of the film that has only been added to appease comic book fans, but was central to the movie. We get to see the character in different situations and facing dilemmas that are reflective of a genuine high school student. This more grounded approach to the character provides a new perspective to Spider-Man that we haven’t seen before, such as; we get to see how Spider-Man hunts down bad guys when he’s in the suburban parts of New York where there are no skyscrapers to swing from and this provides for some entertaining scenes.
The supporting cast to this film is also great; Zendaya and Jacob Batalon the standouts from Peter’s compatriots. The main villain of this film, The Vulture, is played by Michael Keaton and serves as probably the best antagonist that the MCU has had since Loki. Keaton’s intentions and motivations are clear and although his approach is that of villainy, you connect with him and do sympathise with his reasoning. Most importantly, though, is Robert Downey Jr’s, Tony Stark, who we already know from ‘Civil War’ is acting as Peter’s mentor in to this dangerous world. Thankfully, Stark doesn’t take over the film and is used sparingly, but effectively throughout. We saw more of Jon Favreau’s, Happy Hogan, in this film also who was charged with being Peter’s babysitter, providing some funny scenes.
Albeit not for me, I can see a criticism that hardcore Spider-Man fans may have with this film. That is, his suit. Obviously, with Tony Stark being the suit’s designer, it comes with dozens more ‘bells and whistles’ than any other Spider-Man suit before it. For some this may take away from Spider-Man’s relatable, neighbourhood nature but due to the way it’s used and the total approach that Jon Watts has taken with the character, it doesn’t hinder his accessibility.
Overall, I think this is the best Spider-Man film to date. It is surprisingly coherent despite the 6 screenwriters that worked on it and has genuine, personal stakes. The film doesn’t have a convoluted plot that has Spider-Man saving the world, but instead has the more cordial story of a kid who just wants to help out. Also, having not really grown up on Tobey Maguire’s portrayal, I don’t have the nostalgia towards Spider-Man 1 and 2 and so cannot criticise the film on whether it has that same emotional resonance. I think this film most captures the essence of Peter Parker and what Stan Lee intended all those decades ago. There is also a satisfaction to see Spider-Man as a key character in the MCU, with characters like Iron Man being more than just an easter egg.
Don’t miss this one!
P.S. If you’re planning on suffering through the credits for an extra scene… be warned, although hilarious and attending to a running gag in the film, it has no tease for any future marvel films! Still, I would say, worth the wait.