STARRING: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Chernus
Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.
After getting a taste of fighting alongside and against the members of the Avengers, several months have past and Peter Parker is still trying to fall back into his normal daily routine whilst also trying to prove himself worthy of becoming the new member of the Avengers. Whilst mentor Tony Stark watches from afar, a new villain emerges in the Vulture, who threatens everything that Peter holds most important.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the third incarnation of the character on the big screen in the last fifteen years but this time Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios have teamed up for this particular version, introducing Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in last years Captain America: Civil War. We’ve already had Peter Parker’s origin story told, twice, on the big screen and here they decide to avoid retelling that side as instead we’re thrown several months after the events of Civil War following Peter trying to prove himself to Tony Stark to become a member of the Avengers and feels that he’s ready for the big scale missions outside of his neighbourhood. Meanwhile a villain known as the Vulture is operating unchallenged by the Avengers or the authorities until Spider-Man chases his associates and places Peter in a position that this villain may be more than he can handle.
Spider-Man is one of the biggest comic book characters to ever exist and when it comes to the big screen outings for the character, some would state that the films have progressively gotten worse with each instalment and that Sony couldn’t find the right balance between Parker the High School student and Parker as the heroic Spider-Man. What I will credit this film for is playing up the High School setting and actually having it embodied in Parker’s character progression here as we see how his obsession to become an Avenger, to being apart of something bigger than himself affect not only his education but his social skills as well. When Peter tackles Toomes’ associates as they rob an ATM machine, we see how the character sometimes is out of his depth, particularly as Toomes’ associates have weaponised Chitauri technology having scavenged it from the battle of New York and when he comes up against Toomes in the Vulture suit, you immediately feel the dread for Peter as he comes up against him. For me this portrayal of Peter Parker is the one that stands for me as being the best as Tom Holland perfectly balances the characters awkwardness when it comes to interacting with his crush Liz, his fun side as he interacts with various villains and also having someone that’s having fun about being a superhero. He also has moments of real vulnerability here and anyone that feared about Holland’s abilities to carry a solo film will be put to rest here with his performance. Every heroes journey can only be as good as its villain and with Adrian Toomes as Vulture, he is certainly one of the best to come into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a long time. Vulture isn’t someone that’s out for ultimate power, taking over the world or even world destruction, he’s a blue-collar worker that is stripped of his livelihood as after the battle of New York, his salvage company is put out of business by the U.S Department of Damage Control that’s created by Tony Stark and the government. It plays into a subtext of class warfare as Toomes’ group modifies the Chitauri technology and sell the weapons on the black market to set their families up for life that the so-called class elite of Stark and company have robbed them of. Michael Keaton is menacing as Toomes and at times intense as hell, particularly in one scene where he gives a monologue in a car that is personally my favourite scene in the film and it helps that the character has been given depth and a sense of moral self-righteousness in his motivations. The supporting cast are solid in this film, particular Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan getting more screentime than I expected as he’s the go-between for Peter and Stark, acting as a reluctant uncle that’s been made to look after his nephew. Many people were worried from the trailers that this film was going to be Iron Man featuring Spider-man but Robert Downey Jr. is in it much less than I thought he would be and even when he is, if you remember how he interacted with the kid in Iron Man 3, he plays it down less harshly with Peter here than he did with the kid then but still carries that Stark dickhead level of charm when interacting with him. Jacob Batalon is joyous as Peter’s best friend Ned and Zendaya I thought was really good as smart and awkwardly deadpan Michelle.
While I had a lot of fun with Spider-Man: Homecoming, I felt that there was a few characters that were underused and about the tone of the overall film. The tone of the overall film felt somewhat, safe, too safe to be exact. While there’s certain moments when they attempt to make an impact about how a kid caught up over his head in the superhero world is one battle away from his death (highlighted by Ned to Peter revisiting the ATM robbery scene), it’s quickly brushed aside by a light-hearted joke or two before we move on and it felt like the film done that a bit too much for my liking. As for characters underrused, I felt that Laura Harrier’s popular senior student Liz existed for Peter’s journey and wasn’t given much depth as a character. In the final act sequence I feel that the camerawork was off as for a few minutes I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on and some of the CGI work in that sequence just looked a bit off to me.
It’s surprising that even though this is the third incarnation in a decade and a half, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels incredible fresh focusing on how Peter Parker balances his High School life with his superhero life and it helps that the main villain gives the MCU some class warfare subtext rather than focus on a villain that either wants to rule or end the world. Tom Holland is terrific as Peter Parker and just as equally memorable in this film is Michael Keaton’s villainous portrayal of the Vulture. Sure the film may feel safe, even by Marvel standards, but it’s a fun entry in the MCU and it’s interesting to see where Peter Parker’s journey is going to be like moving forward. 8/10