Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon and Michael Keaton
Release Date: Jul 5
When Marvel announced that Spider-Man would be joining the MCU, you could be forgiven for wondering if yet another reboot of Spider-Man was necessary. With two previous film series revolving around Peter Parker in the past fifteen years (played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield respectively), is yet another incarnation of Spider-Man really necessary?
It may not be necessary… but it is definitely a lot of fun.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a teen coming-of-age narrative merged with a superhero film and it works. Director Jon Watts has added a breath of fresh air to the MCU through a film filled with youthful energy.
Contrary to other Marvel offerings in recent years, Homecoming takes the drama down in scale in terms of scope and makes it more personal. For once it is not the world/galaxy that is in danger. Instead, our hero is trying to prove that he can do more than be a ‘friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man’, by, um, saving his neighbourhood.
The global/cosmic risks have been lowered, sure. But the stakes are nonetheless even more intense because the personal impact on the hero is heightened. No cities are lifted into the air, no planets are blown up and the story is more engaging for it.
In fact, I would argue that this makes Peter Parker the most relatable of the Avengers thus far. Awkwardly trying to get a handle on his superpowers, he is no all-powerful Thor. And while Captain America was transformed by serum and instantly adapted to his new physical prowess, Peter Parker is clearly still trying to get the hang of both his new abilities and identity. He is simultaneously trying to stop bank robberies, prove himself to Tony Stark and make it to the scholastic decathlon on time.
He is the every-man of the superhero world.
Tom Holland was introduced as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War and his cameo was the perfect introduction. Holland played him as enthusiastic, excitable and frankly just glad to be there – that youthful exuberance permeates Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The young star is utterly charming and endearing, playing Parker with enthusiasm and delight. Showing impressive range, Holland balances his comedic scenes and action sequences with powerful moments of emotional vulnerability that will likely be utilized further in the inevitable sequels. He completely takes the role as his own.
I would also like to congratulate Marvel on presenting us with a Peter Parker who actually looks like a teenager (sorry Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, you were fooling no-one).
It is not just Homecoming’s hero that is brilliantly realised though, but also its villain. The Vulture (Michael Keaton) is easily the best Marvel villain that has appeared since Thor’s brother Loki. He has personality, charisma and a relatable back-story. The narrower plot focus of Homecoming provides more room to explore the characterisation of Vulture, which both increases the tension and adds a further intensity to the film as a whole.
Vulture isn’t a generic alien threat bent on destroying the world/galaxy for no other reason than a simplistic thirst for power. Instead, he is an emotionally complex, realistic character who, in a different light, could easily have been painted as a ballsy anti-hero. Casting Superhero film veteran Keaton was inspired (particularly considering his recent turn as the satire-infused Birdman) and he plays this role with the perfect mix of menace, theatricality and pathos.
Keaton and Holland carry the film well but are also joined by an excellent supporting cast. Parker’s best friend Ned is a scene-stealer, played with warmth and impressive comedic timing by Jacob Batalon. The comedic elements of Homecoming are one of its strongest characteristics, and it plays to that strength with finesse. It is genuinely, consistently funny.
The merging of teen drama with a superhero narrative leaves a generous space for comedy, and Homecoming takes full advantage of this. Parker is both desperate to prove himself, while also confident that he knows best – a mixture of insecurity and self assurance that encapsulates teen years, a scenario that is easily relatable for anyone watching.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is not without its flaws however. It works best at a personal level and the attempts to integrate it into the wider Avengers’ universe are not always effective (with the exception of a brilliant opening sequence that introduces Parker beautifully). It is at its best when utilising the teen coming-of-age narrative and keeping its focus on the stand-alone nature of the film.
However, it still has value as a youthful injection into the MCU. Spider-Man: Homecoming feels fresh and exciting, and while may not be perfect, it is a lot of fun and a great addition to the Marvel franchise.
Written by Amy Clarkin