Should I Watch..? 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'
What's the big deal?
Spider-Man Homecoming (also known as Spider-Man: Homecoming) is a coming-of-age superhero movie released in 2017 and is the first full appearance of the Wall Crawler in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) after his debut in Captain America: Civil War. Based on the comics character of the same name, the film depicts a teenage Peter Parker eager to test his skills as a potential Avenger while battling the usual insecurities of high school as well as a vengeful new threat. The film stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya and Jacob Batalon. Having previously sold the rights to the character to Sony Pictures, Marvel made a deal in 2015 for the character to appear in the MCU. The film was a huge success with global earnings in excess of $880 million (the second highest total for any Spider-Man picture) as well as being critically lauded. The film is a third franchise-starter for the character after the original Spider-Man in 2002 and The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012.
What's it about?
Eight years after the Battle Of New York, Adrian Toomes has developed a lucrative but illegal operation dealing in salvaged and redeveloped Chitauri technology, selling dangerous alien technology to various criminals across the city. Meanwhile, teenager Peter Parker - fresh from working alongside the Avengers in Germany - is eagerly awaiting the next call-up from Tony Stark or his assistant Happy Hogan. But with no call forthcoming, he is resigned to returning to high school with his best friend Ned and unrequited love Liz.
Becoming more and more obsessed with his crime-fighting alter-ego, Parker finds he is unable to balance his schoolwork with his new suit from Stark Industries - which contains far more abilites than Parker ever assumed. Still unsure of his own abilities, he soon discovers Toomes' men and their operation. Resolving to bring him in himself, Parker quickly finds out that some things aren't as simple as they first appear...
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Adrian Toomes / Vulture
Robert Downey Jr
Tony Stark / Iron Man
Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers*
Release Date (UK)
5th July, 2017
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
Homecoming thankfully spares us yet another origin story and instead throws us head-first into an exciting and intelligent story, based in the mythology of the MCU as well as reinforcing the continuing narrative. Holland finally gives us a likeable and youthful Peter Parker following the slightly-too-old tenures of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. He injects the role with the trademark wit and insecurities the role demands and although his technologically advanced suit might not please purists, it gives the character new abilities and powers that we haven't seen as an audience before. It all helps to reinvigorate a character that had quickly gotten stale over the course of five previous films.
The film also manages another trick - although it's obviously Spidey's long overdue solo outing in the MCU, the film also works as a teenage coming-of-age story with Parker's hopeless attempts at pursuing Liz and awkward loneliness that typifies the teenage experience. Holland's supporting cast are fantastic led by Batalon's hilarious friend who accidentally discovers Parker secret and spends the rest of the film pleading to be a sidekick. Keaton really shines as the villainous Toomes, displaying genuine malice and resentment as well as making a previously hokey baddie into an actual threat. The film has plenty of links to the MCU including welcome returns of Favreau and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts as well as little flashes of comedy that make the film a difficult one to dislike.
- Kenneth Choi, who plays the school's Principal Morita, had previously appeared in the MCU as a member of Captain America's Howling Commandos - Jim Morita, the grandfather of Principal Morita. Photos of Choi in his earlier role are visible in the principal's office.
- Watts arranged for a John Hughes marathon for the cast to illustrate the tone that the director was looking for. Among the films shown was Ferris Bueller's Day Off which has a double reference in the film - Parker's pursuit of the white van mimics a scene in the film which is shown at a pool party. That's also why Spider-Man says "Good film!" as he runs past because Holland enjoyed the film.
- This is the first Spider-Man film that has his trademark web-wings as well as eye sockets which change shape, mirroring his look in the comics. It's also the first film that makes no mention of Parker's Spider-sense, Norman Osborn or his company OsCorp or even Uncle Ben.
What's not to like?
Maybe I've been preconditioned by so many previous films but there are certain things you expect from a Spider-Man movie, even ones as relentlessly breathless as this. As mentioned above, the film has no mention of many traditional elements associated with the character such as arch-rival Norman Osborn or his shady business empire Oscorp or Parker's life-saving Spidey-sense and barely a hint about tragic uncle Ben or even Mary-Jane Watson, Parker's on-off girlfriend throughout the years. It just feels like somethings either got ignored or dropped in favour of CG-enhanced action scenes or comedic banter.
I understand that this is a reboot, yet another attempt to make the defining cinematic outing for one of Marvel's biggest characters outside of Canada's angriest man, Wolverine. But the film introduces many new features that don't seem to fit right with the character. I liked the fact that Stark has developed a new suit for Parker but why is it now fitted with an instant-kill mode or more toys to fight crime than Batman's legendary cowl? I also don't recall Spider-Man having an in-built computer that apparently has a crush on him - it makes the character feel too similar to others (specifically Iron Man) whereas Spider-Man could have easily stood out on his own without diluting the classic tropes too much. Parker always represented the nerdy teen in all of us and this gives him an unwanted air of arrogance. Do they not remember Spider-Man 3 and the disastrous reception that received?
Should I watch it?
Although I was never the greatest fan of the character, his previous films has been largely surpassed by this excellent and entertaining addition to the ever-expanding MCU. Spider-Man Homecoming is crisp, exciting, energetic and an interesting film to watch, a long overdue welcome to the MCU for Marvel's biggest money-spinner if you'll excuse the pun. It isn't enough to fully repair the damage caused by Spider-Man 3 or the more divisive The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but there is enough here to suggest it could deliver an absolute smash.
Great For: people waiting patiently for a great Spider-Man picture, residents of Queens, New York, MCU convention visitors
Not So Great For: Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, Marvel who must wish they still had the rights
What else should I watch?
I'm being unfair to the earlier films. The original Spider-Man in 2002 brought the character back from those dreadful live-action made-for-TV exercises from the late Seventies and early Eighties thanks to decent effects, Tobey Maguire's baby-faced bewilderment at his new-found powers and Kirsten Dunst's star-making performance as MJ. Even better was Spider-Man 2 - the best of the earlier films - as it also included Alfred Molina's fantastic portrayal of Doctor Octopus (annoying renamed Doc Ock for the film) and J.K. Simmons in peerless form as shouty newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson - another classic trope of the character missing from this film.
Sadly, it couldn't last. Although not a complete disaster, Spider-Man 3 completely cocked up the whole character of Venom (another of Marvel's most popular characters shortly getting his own film with Tom Hardy in the role) while also reducing Peter Parker to a strutting peacock for some reason. The only way back was the first reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, which saw Andrew Garfield take over the role of the webslinger. While it's not a bad film, it suffers from having a weak villain in the form of The Lizard and a generally weak story. In an attempt to rectify this, the producers threw three baddies into the sequel but this over-complicated things so the efforts of Jamie Foxx as Electro, Paul Giamatti as Rhino (yeah, great casting that!) and Dane DeHaan as the Green Goblin couldn't save the series from a premature end.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox