YES, IT’S ANOTHER Spider-Man movie. Toby Maguire kicked off what feels like an endless cycle of Spider-Man films 15 years ago, and since then we’ve had five films. The films have varied in their critical merit, but have remained financially successful. Now, with Sony ‘loaning’ the rights tothe superhero to Disney, it was time to see if Spidey’s webby wheel could be reinvented, or at least improved.
Spider-Man: Homecoming follows Peter Parker (Tom Holland) through his turbulent teenage years. Holland is a refreshing change as he embodies the youthful character, something previous actors in their late 20s couldn’t truly capture. The film also avoids the ‘Uncle Ben Sequence’ we are all overly familiar with and this provides new dramatic motivation.
Peter struggles to balance his personal life and his role as a superhero, a tall task for any teenager. In the midst of these struggles we are introduced to a fantastic supporting cast, all of which have strong motivations whilst balancing romantic and comedic aspects of the film. Liz (Laura Harrier) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) act as realistic distractions for Peter and provide the best comedic moments in the film. Ned has a particularly fun friendship with Peter which allows for comedic highlights.
The super-villain of the story, Vulture, is played by the recently re-appraised Michael Keaton. Keaton plays a sincere villain who is believable in his actions until the very end. Vulture has an emotional tie to the Avengers and this story ably connects this new Spider-Man with previous Marvel films. Perhaps this grand narrative shouldn’t be surprising from the largest cinematic franchise, yet it’s still impressive. With this said, Vulture doesn’t feel like a classic character and, if more Holland-lead Spider-Man films do follow, it would be nice to see an antagonist from darker territory.
The film positions Spider-Man as a trainee superhero. This is an effective introduction to the character and allows the audience to learn with Peter. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has his customary franchise appearance and takes on a paternal role with Peter. This is an interesting new relationship and allows Iron Man to become a more engaging character, even if he doesn’t have death-defying action scenes. Tony attempts to guide Peter Parker through his suit, and the trials of working under a dismissive teacher add meaningful drama.
Jon Watts provides solid direction. The introduction to Peter Parker is done with an elegant style, but don’t expect too many artistic flourishes from this film. There is something to be said for a well-directed film that avoids teenage clichés or other, more perilous superhero tropes.
As expected there are impressive action sequences, yet their tension is amplified through character relationships. The film navigates teenage life perfectly, whilst increasing the action to make it a contender for blockbuster of the year. Spider-Man: Homecoming will undoubtedly be a huge hit this summer and its success is well deserved. It may not change the face of superhero films, but it shows that a Spider-Man franchise still has a few tricks up its sleeve.