DIR: Jon Watts • WRI: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers • PRO: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal • DOP: Salvatore Totino • ED: Debbie Berman, Dan Lebental • DES: Oliver Scholl • MUS: Michael Giacchino • CAST: Tom Holland, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.
Spiderman: Homecoming wastes no time in letting the fans know that this Spiderman is now under the wing of Marvel. A prologue set in the aftermath of the Avengers encounter with the Chitauri sets this film firmly in the Marvel universe. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his crew are cleaning up the debris left behind from the invasion of New York only to lose their contract jobs when the government agency Control tell them they are fired. It was about this time I was wondering why he and his crew were doing a clean-up of lethal alien technology in the first place. Homecoming is proliferated with insane plot points like this and somehow gets away with it on charm.
Anyway, a very annoyed Toomes is soon speechifying to his crew about the poor blue-collar guy suffering at the hands of the rich, Stark in particular. Thus legitimising in one fell swoop why they should all commit to a life of crime. Several years later and the gang are doing the old, selling weapons-based-on-alien-technology routine. Making Toomes possibly the first bigwig blue-collar criminal to hit the Marvel universe in the movies. And so, the meeting between Birdman, sorry, The Vulture and Spiderman is set in motion – and Spiderman is not even Spiderman yet.
Zoom up the timeline to the present and Peter Parker freshly returned from his Tony Stark ‘internship’, i.e. fighting against Captain America and company in Berlin (see Captain America: Civil War). This return to normality is hard on the young man and he is aching to continue his involvement with Stark and the Avengers. Stark is dismissive of such ideas and tells him to just be a ‘friendly neighbourhood Spiderman’ (drum roll). Meanwhile, Peter has to contest with school, being infatuated with fellow pupil Liz and starting his first big mission in the neighbourhood. That’s all the plot you need.
Key to the enjoyment here is Spiderman’s naivety and simple good guy/bad guy understanding of the world. Gone is the guilt-ridden Parker trying to make amends for his uncle’s death and in its place a well-meaning, exuberant fifteen year old who wants to do the right thing because that’s what you do – a Hardy boy in leotards, for those who know who the Hardy Boys are. Tom Holland wears the suit just fine. In fact, he is probably the best version of Spiderman so far, certainly the first one who actually seems like a teenager.
For all the joy of the set pieces, the heart of the film is Peter’s home and school life, surrounded by a group of likeable supporting characters, most noticeably his friend and not very good sharer of Peter’s secret, the even more excitable Ned (Jacob Batalon).
The ghost of John Hughes is certainly lingering around the fringes of the high-school scenes; there is even a physical nod when Spiderman races through back gardens à la Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off only to run past a television playing the very same clip. Elsewhere, Spiderman’s foil Birdman, sorry, The Vulture, sees Michael Keaton on constant growl, which works fine but is not given much depth… just enough for it to be confused with ambiguity. Also on show is an amusing cameo from Captain America that will certainly get plenty of laughs.
For all of the seemingly major changes in characters and situation this still remains close to the original, as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko envisioned it. A sitcom-cum-soap opera with super-villain action interrupting the course of Peter’s daily life. Director Jon Watts strikes a fine balance between camp and serious, never straying into either camp (ba dum tss) for too long. Well-conceived characters and great heart keep things afloat when even the most ridiculous plotting seems in danger of sinking things and Holland’s wonderful performance keeps everything grounded.
One final thing, stay for the post-credits scene, it is one of the funniest yet and another nod to John Hughes. In fact, you might remember, he created one of the great post-credits scene scenes. Intrigued, huh?
12A (See IFCO for details)
Spiderman: Homecoming is released 7th July 2017