It’s becoming increasingly difficult to write accessible reviews of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Covering all the different plot points, references, and easter eggs composing every film isn’t something that the general movie-going audience necessarily cares about, but glossing over these details can lead to an overly vague and unspecific review that doesn’t actually prove interesting to fans of the franchise.
Luckily, this is exactly where Spider-Man: Homecoming strikes a delightful balance. Fans hardcore and casual alike will appreciate the means in which Tom Holland’s Spidey connects with the rest of the MCU – an intriguing Iron-Man/Spider-Man Mentor/Mentee situation that serves to tie the film into the rest nicely, but above all just allows the film to be a fun web slinging outing.
That said however, from the second it was announced I was unhappy about the very existence of Spider-Man: Homecoming. 2002’s eponymous Spider-Man ranked very highly among my favourite childhood movies, alongside 2004’s arguably superior Spider-Man 2 (and ignoring 2007’s kind of naff Spider-Man 3). Marc Webb’s 2012 The Amazing Spider-Man, possibly the shortest time ever for a franchise to be rebooted, did not sit well with me. Nothing new or original was brought to the table, let alone the ‘darker’ tone that had been hinted at, Andrew Garfield was clearly too old and attractive to plausibly be a high school nerd, and crucially it was just nowhere near as good a film as the ‘classic’ Spider-Man, considering it was just the same origin story all over again. I had no time for Andrew Garfield, so I definitely had no time for Tom Holland. Unless it was a new Spider-Man film entirely comprised of king-of-my-heart Tobey Maguire swinging around and delivering pizza (does anybody remember those levels from the PS2 game? amazing stuff), I wasn’t interested. Who wants to see *yet another* Spider-Man reboot?
Tom Holland’s iteration of Peter Parker is instantly fresh and likeable.
Luckily, from the orchestral opening titles, featuring a pretty brilliant orchestral rendition of the iconic 60s Spider-Man cartoon theme tune, right through to the second the credits roll, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a hoot. John Watts’ film excels in that it never feels like a reboot. Sections of the film that clearly exist to set the film apart from its predecessors manage not to feel forced, the villains and their motivations are nuanced and contemporarily relevant rather than feeling tired or clichéd, and Tom Holland’s iteration of Peter Parker is instantly fresh and likeable; not least in part to an excellent ensemble cast of friends.
Completely ditching the angst-ridden origin story and throwing the audience straight into the fray, Homecoming’s Spider-Man feels revived from the start as we get a very different coming-of-age story. Peter Parker’s beloved Uncle Ben doesn’t have to bleed out on-screen for an audience to assume what happened, and almost classy touches like this pertain throughout the film. Watching Peter juggle school, the possibility of an internship, spending time with his friends outside school, and also play the hero on the streets on New York is a fun premise for the film, and almost feels like throwback to watching saturday morning cartoons as a kid. Homecoming sports a bright primary colour palette, a decent lighthearted soundtrack, and the adventures of a breezy kid with superpowers and his friends, and that’s all that matters.
High School drama plays a part in the film: asking girls to the homecoming dance, flunking off class and getting embarrassed at house parties, but this High School aspect often serves as a refreshing backdrop to the main event, so to speak, and allows for a lot of character building. Peter’s friends get a decent amount of screen time, and really allow a lot of character development and personal attachment that other Superhero efforts simply don’t allow for. The audience gets to know Peter Parker as a person in a crucial time in his life, just as they we get to know Spider-Man. Peter’s friend Ned is also particularly likeable; shoutout to Ned, more of Ned soon please.
Spider-Man just wants to do as much good as he can and be home in time for tea.
The scope is nowhere near the scale of Civil War or The Avengers. The Vulture, Michael Keaton’s kind-of-brilliant airborne protagonist, doesn’t want to take over the world or destroy the city; he just wants to make some money and cause some chaos. Likewise, Spider-Man just wants to do as much good as he can and be home in time for tea. And that’s alright.
I am not personally particularly invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have never read a comic book in my life; and I just want to watch a good Superhero movie every once in awhile and have a good time. Spider-Man: Homecoming is just that, but it’s also more. The possibilities for filmmakers opened up by the creation of these shared cinematic universes are endless if executed well. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a film that only exists in the first place because Marvel wanted the rights to the Spider-Man property back from Sony, and to give fans the opportunity to see good ol’ Spidey fighting crime with the rest of them. Homecoming feels like a part of something big, something bigger; but never feels lacking by itself. And that’s pretty exciting.
In summary: Tom Holland is great as Spider-Man. The action sequences are good and not over-the-top, there’s a nice balance between Superhero sequences / High School exploits, there’s a great, diverse cast, and it’s basically the perfect Summer Blockbuster. Go see it.