After the promise of his crowd pleasing extended cameo in the skirmish between the Avengers, it seemed the world was ready for yet another filmic outing from the friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man. He is after all one of the most enduring superhero characters ever created. Sadly, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a very uneven, and mostly underwhelming experience. To be even more controversial (going against the grain) I'd go as far to suggest that - on first impression - that it fails to surpass Sam Raimi's arachnid trilogy (yes, not just the beloved second instalment!). Granted, it's better than Marc Webb's undercooked efforts, but that's the epitome of damning with faint praise.
I understand the direction that Marvel and Director Jon Watts wanted to go with in this latest celluloid version of the webslinger: that of a fledging Spidey yet to grasp the extent of his powers, desperately seeking the approval that he craves from a surrogate father figure, not yet knowing his place in the world, or who he wants to be. After all, these tropes also apply to the classic high school coming of age drama, which is also what this film aspires to be - there are even a few subtle references to 80s favourite Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The high school tribulations such as having a crush on the popular girl are very familiar, and played out very sweetly - John Hughes-esque - in this instance (much more so than in any of the previous films so far). It is refreshing that Marvel did not do yet another unnecessary origin story - no Osborns or Curt Conners in sight for a change. However, this approach has also created some troublesome flaws in logic, inconsistencies, and issues that are difficult to ignore (even for someone as unfussy and forgiving as myself!).
The main gripe I have is that this is clearly not the same Spider-man that appeared in Captain America: Civil War. In the latter, he was much more assured and confident in his abilities, but the character we see in Homecoming appears to have dramatically (inexplicably) regressed? The young Spidey's apparent ineptitude appears to have been deliberately mined for slapstick purposes. Something else that has already been well observed from those that have seen the movie is an over-reliance on the Stark created suit. Although rather cool and 21st century to begin with - not to mention another great source for humour - the suit and gadgets detracts a little from what makes Spider-man stand out in own right, chipping away the essence of the character (despite it being a reference to the Iron Spider armour narrative from the comics). I get the tech heavy suit is also used as a bit of a plot device in order for Peter Parker to eventually find himself, but it grates all the same.
Although it is unlikely that a high school kid could make his own super strength web shooters, the character is supposed to be a genius science whizz, so I can just about buy that. But even within the borders of a fictional world where enhanced beings co-exist with humans, and extraterrestrial battles have taken place in New York; a team of, essentially, blue collar maintenance/construction workers (or contractors in USA speak) being able to comprehend and utilise Alien (Chitauri) tech to build highly sophisticated, otherworldly weaponry stretches the boundaries of plausibility much more - in the same way that Independence Day was ridiculed for humans easily able to commandeer a spacecraft, and planting a software virus to bring down their defences, or asking a group of non astronauts to go on a dangerous mission into space after a mere crash course (Armageddon).
It's not exactly a catastrophe on the scale of the Fantastic Four reboot: Homecoming does have some cool/great moments but - in addition to the aforementioned flaws - it ultimately fails to hold together as a cohesive whole. Possibly, it might be a case of too many cooks? The latter's screenplay has (inc. the director Jon Watts) six contributors. It feels like there was one writer for the humour, one for drama, one for action etc. etc. Compare that with exceptional work of The Russo Brothers, who have collaborated with the same writing duo of Chris Markus and Stephen McFeely in all of their Marvel output thus far (including the upcoming Infinity War). A Hollywood paradigm is that its never a good sign when there are multiple writers on a script, and this seems to be true in the case of Homecoming.
As alluded above, Spider-Man: Homecoming does have a fair amount of decent stuff. Chiefly, Tom Holland is aptly fresh faced and awkwardly amiable as Peter Parker. Again, he doesn't quite seem to be the same character from his Civil War cameo; it feels like the director encouraged Holland to play Parker/Spidey as a super hyper overexcitable kid but dialled all the way up to twelve. As Parker's mentor, Robert Downey Jnr's involvement is not as prominent as you may have feared (or had hoped?), and displays his trademark charm and quick wit when he is onscreen - I love the "don't do anything I wouldn't (or would) do" pep talk he dispenses to Peter. An actor who is no stranger to superheroes, Michael Keaton also excels as 'bad guy' arms dealer Adrian Toomes - a menacing presence throughout the movie. In a character trajectory reminiscent of Breaking Bad's Walter White, Toomes' motivations begin with relatively good intentions but the waters become inevitably muddied as time goes by. The scenes that Parker and Toomes share together are electrifying - nerve shredding with uneasy tension, and easily among the clear standout moments in the film. Not to mention(but in a really good way). Keaton's performance serves as a reminder of just how strong a presence he has, and his career renaissance is akin to John Travolta's mid nineties Pulp Fiction inspired revival.more than a little reminiscent of the tense Norman Osborne dinner scene in Raimi's Spider-man
Whilst the film is peppered with web-inspired action beats, the results are a decidedly mixed bag (I'm actually struggling to recall them as I write). The finale is laboured, whilst the Ferry set piece appears to be plagiarised from the (much superior) sequence from Raimi's Spider-Man 2 (except with a different outcome). The only time that Homecoming feels like a Spider-Man film, and which also serves as the most fulfilling moment in the movie, is in the vertigo inducing Washington Monument rescue sequence. Its a superb, pulse racing set piece beginning with Peter's realisation of imminent danger to the crowd pleasing payoff - the kind that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach. If only there were more moments like this, but alas this is not quite the all conquering homecoming of a superhero I had anticipated.