True to its colourful, comic origins, Homecoming is the Spider-Man flick we have waited for since 2004's Spider Man 2.
Talk about a franchise that just refuses to get washed down the plughole.
Spider-Man: Homecoming represents the third cinematic portrayal of the character of Peter Parker over the short span of seventeen years. Call it a cynical cash-grab if you must, but there’s clearly an enduring likeability to Spider-Man that keeps him crawling back onto our screens, even in spite of dwindling interest and the creeping sense of franchise fatigue that plagued the Garfield films. I was one of many that enjoyed the web-crawler’s extended cameo appearance in last year’s superb Captain America: Civil War, but remained apprehensive over the notion of a new solo flick, even though behind the scenes negotiations with Sony meant that this one could proudly fly its Marvel colours.
Luckily, Homecoming is a joy, brimming with enthusiasm, energy and zest towards the Spider-Man character. Tom Holland is the latest actor to fill the shoes of Peter Parker, depicted in this film as a high school sophomore, and he absolutely carries the film; bouncing from scene-to-scene with striking comedic prowess and an underlying vulnerability that makes him an utterly compelling character in the way that most Marvel heroes simply aren’t. He’s joined by a great, if partially underused supporting cast, with the standouts being his geeky friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), the preppy snob Flash (Tony Revolori) and in a surprise cameo, Chris Evans as Captain America, who appears briefly throughout the film in a series of cheesy motivational videos that had the whole cinema giggling in their seats. Despite appearing all over the promotional material for the film, Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) presence is kept to a minimum, and its a wise move, allowing Holland to properly shine. The best part about the film is how simply, yet elegantly funny it is. There were few gags that didn’t raise at least a smile.
On the flipside, the villains are relatively humourless, their dark, gritty personalities a perfect foil for the bounce of the titular hero. Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (better known as Spidey foe The Vulture) is magnificent; an everyman with an axe to grind, he manages to make a somewhat-goofy comic character into a chilling, powerful menace, without resorting to the temptation of city-wide terrorism. His battle with Peter is grounded and deeply personal, especially after a well-played rug pull of a twist in the third act. I’d go as far as to say he’s the best villain the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever had (at least on the movie side).
Praise should go out to the cinematography for bringing back the wonder of the web-slinging action that defined Raimi’s original trilogy, all without compromising the grit of the street-level heroics. Certain details like the beardy ruffle on Toomes’ jacket or the frantic bug-eyes of the Spidey costume are subtle, but effective, and the visuals are pleasingly bright and colourful (none of that dour DC grey). Homecoming is, unmistakably a comic-book movie, and its all the better for it.
There are a few minor niggles. Certain characters feel a bit short-changed – Zendaya’s snarky Michelle for one – but with such a huge cast, perhaps its to be expected that a few characters retain a two-dimensional depth. Moreover, the tease of a love interest in Liz (Laura Harrier) feels a bit forced and under-cooked; you get the sense that director Jon Watts isn’t any more interested in the subplot than we are.
Nevertheless, it feels as though Marvel has got its groove back after the middling Doctor Strange and underwhelming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Spider-Man is back where he belongs – with Marvel, and on our screens.
Spider Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts, is distributed in the UK by Sony. Certificate 12a.