For the third time in 15 years, Sony have launched a new cinematic Spider-Man. And this time they have Marvel – and Tony Stark – along for the ride. It has one of the worst posters of all time, but how does the film stack up?
Back in 2002, Sam Raimi brought a long-gestating Spider-Man film to a waiting world, and followed it up with a fantastic sequel just 2 years later. These films (along with X-Men and X2) basically set up the modern superhero film landscape. They set the standard for superhero films that could match action blockbusters for explosive excitement and drama. Remember, “comic book” films were a bit all over the place in the 90s – even if you take out the outright bombs like Batman and Robin, films like The Phantom, Judge Dredd, and Batman Forever feel like they are from totally different eras to movies that came out just a few years later. This batch of films also put a certain template in place – we didn’t need every aspect of a superhero story explaining to us (although we still got loads of origin stories) so we could get to the action a lot quicker. And perhaps most importantly of all, Marvel realised there was real money in their comic book properties!
Things went off the rails for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man when he ended up overstuffing Spider-Man 3, seemingly coming under pressure from the studio to include extra characters to build a “Spider-Man Universe”. After a promising reboot, Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffered from a similar “too many cooks” problem and badly underperformed at the box office. And so we end up with Tom Holland as our new friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, having been introduced in Captain America: Civil War.
In the aftermath of The Avenger’s, Adrian Toombes (Michael Keaton) is salvaging the wreckage of the Chitaurian technology that came through the worm hole before the Avengers saved the day. His team is quickly shut down by a government official though, and his chance to make a honest buck is taken away by the bureaucracy of “the system”. He does have one trailer left that was still loaded with alien technology, and Toombes decides that he will sell on for a huge profit rather than hand it over to the authorities, especially when his partner works out how to weaponise this alien tech.
Fast forward 8 years, and after the events of Civil War (which we see recorded home-video style by Peter Parker) Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau taking time off from remaking classic Disney animation to make a welcome return) drive young Peter back to his home. To his delight, Stark allows him to keep the suit, but insists that “we’ll call you” when the next mission comes around. Parker goes back to his normal high school life, making some homemade web fluid in chemistry class, before leaving as soon as the bell rings to go to his Stark Industries Internship. In reality, Parker is donning his Spider-Man suit and patrolling his local area. Despite his efforts though, he isn’t having the best of luck, stopping a man breaking into his own car and recovering a bicycle that probably isn’t actually stolen. He does successfully give directions to a nice woman who buys him a churro, a fact he mentions in one of his many unreturned calls to Happy Hogan. Parker is desperate for a chance to prove himself, but with Stark ignoring his calls he seems to be getting nowhere.
One night while sneaking back into his room however, Parker’s secret identity is discovered by his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who thinks it is the coolest thing in the world. Ned wants Peter to reveal his identity to the world, especially when Spider-Men stops an ATM robbery that causes a bodega to be destroyed by a strange weapon. Peter knows that he must keeps Spider-Man a secret, but when he overhears that Liz (Laura Harrier), a girl he likes, finds Spider-Man attractive, he decides to go to a party to introduce “his friend Spider-Man”. As he is about to make his grand entrance though, he sees an explosion in the distance, similar to the one that destroyed the bodega in the bank robbery. He interrupts an attempted arms deal, gives chase and nearly catches the people selling these dangerous weapons before he is attacked by the Vulture (the now mechanically-enhanced Toombes). Spider-Man is rescued by Iron Man, who tells him to stay away from the serious trouble that this could bring. But will Peter Parker heed the advice and be happy being just the friendly, local Spider-Man? Or will he go after Vulture and his crew of arms dealers? And what type of destruction will provoking him bring on New York?
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a very fun film. There are plenty of laughs and loadsof physical comedy, as Spider-Man performs a Norman Wisdom amount of prat falls. This isn’t a humourous character in a serious situation (as Andrew Garfield’s incarnation sometimes felt), the humour fits the tone of the film. Although some familiar plot points are touched upon, we don’t get another retelling of the Uncle Ben origin story, which I was dreading. There is literally one line of dialogue relating to “everything Aunt May has been through” but that is all we get. The issues of Peter having to choose between being a normal teenager and his Spider-Man duties are handled a lot simpler here – there’s no over-wrought emotional choices to be made, he wants to go and have fun, but just wants to do the right thing a little bit more. Similarly, Toombs bad guy is simply an honest, working class guy (he is literally wearing a blue collar in his first scene) who is screwed by the system. No crazed plans for world domination, just a man who crosses a line and starts to sell things illegally to provide for his family. There are similarities to Marvel’s Netflix series in the small scale that Homecoming works on, although the rights issues probably mean that I read too much into a possible reference to them from Tony Stark. Keeping this small scale could set Spider-Man apart from the rest of the MCU.
The supporting cast is very good as well, Donald Glover (his very brief character mentions a nephew…), Hannibal Burgess (Captain America’s “friend” the gym teacher), and Martin Starr all bring nice touches to the film. And this Peter Parker acts (mostly) like a 15 year old, and his high school friends are a nice mix (Tony Revolori from The Grand Budapest Hotel is obviously great as a re-imagined Flash) that don’t overstay their welcome and become to annoying – although that is something that they might need to be careful about in the sequel. And it will be interesting to see where the recently announced Tom Hardy Venom film would fit in this universe, Homecoming’s violence is almost cartoonish at times.
There are a few slight issues with the film. For all the controversy about her age, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is not really featured very prominently, and the story seems slightly uneven in terms of timing. What looks like the main point of the film in the trailer (when Iron Man confronts Peter Parker and takes away his suit, meaning that Peter has to prove himself as worthy of being Spider-Man) actually occurs quite late on in the film. And although we’re not at Jared Leto/Suicide Squad proportions, the trailers do suggest Robert Downey Jr is in the film a lot more that he actually is. Stark Industries play a big role, but Jon Favreau takes the brunt of the interaction. Also, although I loved the music in the film, maybe a more modern soundtrack would have been more appropriate, and there are some strange musical cues in the final battle. There are a few other issues that I won’t discuss because of spoilers, but a couple of things seem needlessly shoehorned in, possibly another issue related to too many writers meshing their stories together.
Still, those issues really are just nit-picking. There’s a lot of fun to be had, and I look forward to seeing more of this version of Spider-Man. Who knew that simply making good films was actually the best way to start a franchise?
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts also made a hidden gem called Cop Car with Kevin Bacon, which is no longer on Netflix but can be bought right here.
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