Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – Film Review
With Homecoming, has it really been 15 years (and five films) since Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man film accelerated the modern superhero film genre kickstarted by X-Men into the movie stratosphere?
We’ve had three films starring Tobey Maguire and directed by Raimi (the one with Doc Ock as the villain was the best, the third was abysmal) while the next two efforts in 2012 and 2014 (starring Andrew Garfield) are unfortunately best described as forgettable.
The latest reboot, starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker, sees Sony’s superhero join the Marvel Cinematic universe (MCU) following a brief appearance during Captain America: Civil War.
Most casual fans of Marvel films won’t be entirely bothered by the reasons why Spider-Man or the X-Men haven’t been introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe before now and the film even spares us from having to sit through yet another origin story for Spider-Man involving the tragic Uncle Ben.
Assuming that most people will know that Spider-Man gets his powers from a radioactive spider and his motivation from Uncle Ben, Tom Holland’s teen hero gets less of the intense angst that earlier Spider-Man plots were weighed down by and can spend more time being the ”friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” that anyone who is familiar with arguably Marvel’s most famous hero will know about.
Holland (who was previously in The Impossible and Wolf Hall) is actually a teenager, which helps, and he has to go through the usual teen angst with a much lighter touch – he seems to channel Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly while paying homage to classic 80s teen films including, specifically, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The Homecoming dance, an American high-school institution, even has an 80s theme to hammer home the musical and style cues that seem to be popular in films for people of a certain age (and their children!).
There’s also a decent diverse supporting cast around Peter Parker, with best friend Ned, would-be girlfriend Liz, smart-alec class-mate Michelle, and school bully “Flash” Thompson enhancing the ‘high-school comedy’ side of the film. We also have a youthful and well-rounded Aunt May played by Marisa Tomei and a foreshadowing cameo by Donald Glover in a couple of scenes.
Spider-Man: Homecoming has a fine villain in Vulture
One high point for this film is the villain – and Marvel films are more guilty than most of making unmemorable villains but this time they have recruited a fine actor – Michael Keaton – himself a former Batman from the 1980s.
His villain – Vulture – is not only well rounded, but he has a genuine grievance against the elitism of the Avengers and Keaton delivers a superb performance including some funny but also chilling moments during a brilliant plot twist.
The set piece action sequences are compact and build well towards the inevitable tense high stakes finale but by the time you get there you don’t realise just how long the film was but the ending remains a satisfying way to end the Homecoming film as Holland effortlessly switches to serious acting when things get really heavy – literally.
Half a dozen writers worked on the script but for once the plot and characterisation is actually better for it with, with Robert Downey Jr’s larger-than-cameo appearance as Avenger Tony Stark acting as a laconic ‘moral compass’ for Spider-Man.
Stark is the man who creates Spider-Man’s iconic outfit, loaded with gadgets – most of which Parker can’t work out initially – but also hands him the best piece of advice since Uncle Ben’s oft-repeated and tired “With great power comes great responsibility” line.
“If you’re nothing without the suit then you shouldn’t have it.” says Stark, as he tries to teach Spider-Man a lesson he himself has already learned as Iron Man as Peter Parker desperately tries to prove himself worthy of a place in the Avengers.
And it’s a lesson well worth learning for Spider-Man in a film with plenty of heart, meaty plot lines and a worthy villain.
It’s just a pity that they seem to have chosen to buff up some of the language and references to secure the 12A certificate as it’s otherwise a fairly mild film which young comic-book fans would love to see .
Spider-Man: Homecoming is filled with funny moments as you’d expect from recent Marvel efforts and the plot remains easy to follow.
If you’re a Marvel fan do pay attention as you’ll recognise dozens of MCU references liberally sprinkled throughout.
Oh yes, there’s the usual end credits easter eggs – one half way through and one ironic one at the end. Stick around for both, the last one may leave you with a smile on your face.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (12A; moderate fantasy violence, threat, sex references, obscured strong language; 133 minutes)
Summary: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is a superhero fantasy action adventure in which a high-schooler with super powers attempts to prove himself worthy of a position on the ‘Avengers’ team by foiling an arms dealer.
Rating: ***** (Another fun action joyride of a film)