Spider-Man: Homecoming Review
Sixth time lucky
Even burdened by the weight of sheer overkill, Spider-Man: Homecoming still manages to tell a fresh new story, with decent characters and a fluid integration into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.The sixth solo Spider-Man film in 15 years, Homecoming isn't necessarily about getting it right (there were many great moments in Raimi's trilogy, not least of which is arguably the definitive interpretation of the seminal Doctor Octopus, and Andrew Garfield made for a great Peter Parker in the first reboot) but more about integrating one of the most popular characters from the Marvel Comics Universe into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first in a planned trilogy which, Harry Potter style, is supposed to feature a different high school year with each successive instalment, Homecoming follows on from the webslinger's fantastic introduction in last year's Captain America: Civil War. Although it's a shame they didn't get the rights to the character beforehand, so he could have played a more integral part like in the comics, it paved the way for this year's solo feature.Rather than just continue the story where Civil War left off (which, it also does), Spider-Man: Homecoming is rich with franchise lore, retrofitting half of the MCU - all the way back to the first Avengers movie (or, if you want to be picky, Iron Man 2) - and planting the seeds that would grow into both Spider-Man and his nemesis, The Vulture. The benefit to this is that not only does the new movie immediately feel a part of the grander pantheon, but also the villain feels suitably rich in terms of backstory, moulded from the very same wreckage that was left behind after the Chitari invasion. With Parker bumbling along like the nerd he always was in the comics - but seldom portrayed so on the big screen (Garfield was far too charming for that side of the character) - and trying to find his footing and/or webbing, Homecoming feels like a welcome coming-of-age movie, with a twist.
Holland is a great Parker AND a great Spider-Man, which is a rare accomplishment (arguably Maguire had one, whilst Garfield had the other), and without the burden of yet another origin tale - the spider-bite is barely paid lip-service - Homecoming gives him the room to shine both in the classroom and on the rooftops. As he struggles with coming back to normality after the events of Civil War, frequently shunned by his supposed mentor Tony Stark, we instead get to see Holland's Parker trying to juggle home, school and extra-curricular life, desperate to be of some importance to 'the mighty Avengers', and prepared to let everything else slide just for the opportunity to do so.
Opposite him, Keaton's beleaguered clean-up crew chief - facing redundancy as a shady government groups sweep New York for alien artefacts - decides to become a twisted Robin Hood-of-sorts, stealing alien tech from these government spooks and ret-conning it to make devastating weaponry to sell on the black market, the profits of which go to his hard-working crew so that they can support their family during tough times. It's a strange but welcome take on a villainous character - whether in the MCU or even just the Spider-Man series, villains have generally been mad-as-a-bag-of-nails psychos who've been bitten by a lizard (or electricity) and ultimately need to be put out of their own misery. Keaton's Vulture (who, thankfully, is never really referred to as such), is surprisingly sympathetic - at one point suggesting he's just the flipside of Stark, who similarly built his fortune on trading in weapons. And his twists and character development certainly give the final act some added tension.
Whilst the echoes of five previous Spider-Man movies will take a while to die down, this is a great little homecoming
Homecoming handles romance differently too, with Peter's awkwardness - and reluctance to boost his star with a couple of helpful Spider-Man fly-bys - making for quite a genuine teenage progression; nothing like the kind of traditional Hollywood meet-cute that we normally get (even in the previous Spider-Man movies). Hell, even his side-kick doesn't outstay his welcome, and who doesn't have all the time in the world for the hottest aunt in the world, Marisa Tomei, or a slew of cameos from the grander MCU entourage?
At times feeling like Spider-Man by way of what-Iron-Man-would-have-been-like-as-a-teen (particularly with the witty suit-girl banter), Homecoming certainly benefits from the boost of its added star power (a little Downey Jr. goes a long way, and it's nice to get a hint of the state of play post-Civil War) but it also doesn't rely upon it, instead forging its own path as a fun, fast-paced and well-executed solo outing.
For good or bad, it is an undeniably quintessential Marvel Cinematic Universe chapter - struck from the same mold as the rest - and likely the sequel(s) will be too, but thankfully it's also got its own identity, and whilst the echoes of five previous Spider-Man movies will take a while to die down, hopefully it won't be long before audiences feel that this is the version of their friendly neighbourhood webslinger that really fits. In the meantime, as a nod to its return to the MCU, this is a great little homecoming.
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