From Sami Rami’s Spider-Man 3 to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, it’s a true sign as to the strength of the Spider-Man character that his franchise was able to survive three critically and publicly maligned films in a row.
Fortunately, Sony Pictures made the right call and decided to team up with Marvel Studios, resulting in Spider-Man’s delightful appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War.
But an extended cameo is one thing. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the real test as to whether audiences still feel a connection to the teenage wall-crawler. Has director Jon Watts managed to successfully bring such a beloved character into the age of Snapchat?
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Spending most of his time after school stopping minor crimes and helping old ladies, Peter hopes his dutiful behaviour will be enough to impress Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) into allowing him to become an Avenger.
However, Peter soon uncovers a criminal conspiracy led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton); a man who collects alien weaponry in order to sell to the highest bidder.
Along with his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), Peter must try to stop Toomes, whilst at the same time not revealing his crime fighting lifestyle to his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), or his school crush, Liz (Laura Harrier).
On occasion it seems the superhero universe has become increasing cynical, preferring to focus on the darker aspects of its super-powered individuals. Spider-Man: Homecoming, however, throws that approach out the window, instead wallowing in one singular aspect: Fun.
With jokes aplenty and a general sense of light-heartedness, Homecoming, for the most part, keeps the focus firmly on the trials and tribulations of teenagehood. Homework, school crushes, bullies and detention all play a part in our hero’s journey to become an Avenger.
Impressively, that sense of normalcy is threaded throughout the entire film. For example, in one simple scene, we see a bunch of teenage girls play Fuck, Marry, Kill over the Avengers. And that’s just one of many scenes that truly illustrates how normal people would react to the godlike individuals they find themselves surrounded by.
An awkward, yet sweet natured kid, Peter Parker is played to perfection by Tom Holland, as the actor takes what little he was given in Civil War, and effortlessly runs with it. In fact, all the actors, ranging from Tomei’s Aunt May to Jon Favreau’s return as Happy Hogan, are all welcome additions to the Spider-Man universe.
The approach taken with the main villain is also to be applauded. With no world-destroying stakes, the film is free to make its antagonist far more intimate. A misguided angry soul, Keaton’s performance ends up hemming closer to the emotional grief portrayed by Daniel Brühl’s Helmut Zemo in Civil War. I’d even go as far as to say that in the MCU’s 16 movies released so far, Keaton’s Vulture could comfortably settle in the top three.
The action, while plentiful, doesn’t quite reach the heights of previous Spider-Man entries. It would have been quite welcome to have a singular action sequence that aroused the senses to the same extent as the astounding train attack in Spider-Man 2. But arguably that could be said to be intentional, as the decision to keep Homecoming as grounded as possible leads to more personal challenges for Peter.
That said, the third act does leave much to be desired. While suitably action-packed and logically built up to, said ending is rather unoriginal and almost impossible to decipher through the dark blandness of the New York skies.
While not quite as engaging or as well structured as Spider-Man 2, Homecoming easily takes the silver medal when comparing the six 21st century cinematic portrayals of the web-slinger.
With a memorable lead and supporting cast, the newest entry in the Spider-Man canon fits quite snugly into previously established Marvel Cinematic lore; and will undoubtedly make audiences anticipate seeing the teenage web-head swing back into cinemas next year.