After the lacklustre Amazing Spider-Man films, there were doubts as to yet another film reboot of the character was needed. However, when stage and film actor Tom Holland became the biggest talking point of Captain America: Civil War, these concerns turned into anticipation for his first solo film in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Taking place a few months after the events in Civil War, Peter Parker is struggling to balance school with his life as Spider-Man. However, when a new villain named Vulture (Michael Keaton) comes onto the scene, Peter becomes determined to stop him, despite gentle dissuasion from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr).
The main premise of the film revolves around a social misfit who is struggling to fit in, whether it is at school or among a group of superheroes. However, while The Amazing Spider-Man films feel like a straight reboot of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, Homecoming brings a much-needed new perspective on the character.
In the latest installment of the MCU, director Jon Watts takes the action back to school, incorporating the makings of classic teen comedy with a superhero twist. In essence, he reminds audiences that Peter Parker is not like other superheroes – he’s a socially awkward teenager who doesn’t really know much of the world, yet he was just been personally recruited by Tony Stark to fight against Captain America. This brings about a sense of privilege, as Peter jumps at the chance to prove himself but his evident eagerness only reflects his impatience and immaturity.
Things only escalate when the Vulture comes onto the scene, as Peter steps up to become more than just a local superhero. but is continuously denied a chance to shine due to his age and inexperience by both Stark and his bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau), causing an endless cycle of cause and effect. While this feels formulaic at times, these obstacles push Peter to be more than a kid in a suit, shaping him to be a more mature hero.
Despite the pressures of playing such a well-loved superhero in a high-profile cinematic universe, Holland shines as Peter Parker. His infectious enthusiasm and endearing awkwardness make him a convincing teenager, who chooses to face up to his new responsibilities head-on rather than shy away. His performance in Homecoming shows that his short-but-sweet appearance in Civil War is no fluke, and he displays complexity in his portrayal as Peter matures during the film, teasing audiences as to what is to come.
Acting as more of a mentor than the hero, yet with the same level of arrogance, Downey Jr’s withered portrayal as Tony Stark highlights his seniority within the Avengers and the emotional side-effects of the events in Civil War. While his hesitation to bring Peter into the Avengers can either construed as concern or reluctance, but the fact that he continues to watch over his young protegé shows that he has a deeper role to Peter’s involvement in the MCU.
Last seen in The Founder as Ray Kroc, Keaton is having a whale of a time as the delightfully malicious and calculating Adrian Toomes and his alter-ego the Vulture. Even though he makes a lucrative career by developing and selling weapons inspired by salvaged space tech, Toomes is, in MCU terms, relatively normal. He doesn’t want to rule the universe or take over Earth – instead, he is just a guy who is driven by frustration and a need to survive, without resorting to overexaggerated visions of grandeur.
The refreshingly diverse supporting cast provides most of the film’s comedy, especially Filipino-American actor Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned, singer Zendaya as the snarky Michelle, and The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori as jock Flash Thompson. Driven by common teen comedy elements, the screenplay is sharp, relatable and surprisingly well-thought-out, while the action sequences are thrilling and full of technical detail, easily bringing them on the same level as the acclaimed train chase in Spiderman 2.
It has been over a decade since the last half-decent Spider-Man film, so to bring him back onto the big screen was a gamble. But in the hands of Marvel Studios, it is one that will definitely pay off.
Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is funny, action-packed and really smart, with Holland being the best Spidey to date.
Director: Jon Watts
Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori
Runtime: 133 minutes