Spider-Man Homecoming - This Movie Rocks Whatever A Spider Can. And Then Some
Dir: John Watts
Starring Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Donald Glover, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tony Revolori, Chris Evans
Turns out, our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man was in the Marvel Cinematic Universe all along. He was just a kid in Queens when the Avengers had that inter-galactic set-to in downtown Manhattan. He (apparently) went to meet his hero Tony Stark in Iron Man 2, but was wearing an Iron Man mask at the time. And now, here he is, a mixed up muddled up teen who's been rescued from his purgatory-like enslavement at Sony, and rehabilitated (via his Civil War try-out) as a full fledgling in the MCU.
And what a bonus it is for all concerned. Despite sterling work from both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland is instantly not just the best Spider-Man EVER! but - and this is an important "but" - the screen's first proper Peter Parker. He's a teen! You know, like he was always supposed to be. And in his John Hughes-inflected movie (check out the Ferris Bueller ref – the second in as many weeks if you take in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver riff), director Watts knows that, and knows how to play with it. Thus, taking on super villains sits side by side with homework. And trying to win a place on the team (in this case, the team being the Avengers) is right up there with trying to score a date with the girl of your high school dreams. And less that sound a touch too teen angst for ya - this Spider-Man really knows how to have fun.
And that's the primary concern here. As with all of the "proper" Marvel movies (and by that we mean Marvel Studios, not, for example, Spidey's former Sony-in-charge outings – and a million miles away from the sombre DC world scheme) this movie knows how to enjoy itself and bring its audience along for the ride. It's funny, as much as fun, but, as with the best of this very specific genre, knows how to bring the gravitas and edge of the seat when needed.
And that would be Michael Keaton, here getting to invert his own superheroic background - but still with wings on - as one of Marvel’s finest big bads, the Vulture. Keaton's done-wrong-to 99 percenter is a more rounded villain than most, and is delivered with zeal and panache by the man, currently having one hell of a Keatonassaiance (come on, someone had to go there.) He dominates the movie when he's on screen, but Watts - on what is remarkably only his second feature after the enchanting Cop Car - knows what the story is here. And thankfully, it's not an origin story (that’s dealt with quickly), but the tale of how Peter Parker comes to terms with what he has become (or is becoming.). Indeed, Watts, Feige and co are so supremely confident in their hero here that they even open the film (post-prologue) with the legend “A Film By Peter Parker” as we kick off with Spidey’s home movie about that time at Berlin airport (see below.) Smart. And inclusive – they have both here.
And that really is the tone of the movie as a whole. It’s clever, and can’t help but draw you in. This is Marvel moving in on Sony territory and redefining it as their own – backed up by exemplarity work. Holland is so winning it’s almost ridiculous, Downey makes perfect sense as a secondary player for once, cameos work, and Zendaya is a revelation, channelling all that Hughesian Breakfast Club Ally Sheedy.
The simple fact is that just about everything about this movie works. And that’s rare. We’re currently living in a bubble of superhero/sequel/tentpole overdrive – one which even the ever-reliable audience are not showing up for. This new Spider-Man reminds us that this is what we go to the movies for – and it reminds us of two of the genre's best exponents. In its Staten Island Ferry moment it deliberately invokes Nolan’s Dark Knight; and, in its basic conceit, it acknowledges Raimi’s first Spidey outing – “With great power comes great responsibility.”
This movie knows great responsibility. This movie has great power. Can he swing? Listen bud – this guy’s got radioactive blood!
(Oh and stay for the very end of the titles if you want the Ferris Bueller vibe to keep going…) Knows its stones.
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