We have seen a lot of Spider-Men on the big screen, and by now we all know how the story goes.
We know Peter Parker well – he’s a science nerd, a somewhat awkward teenager with a burning crush on Mary Jane Watson and we know he’s a misfit by day and a web-wielding crime fighter by night. And we all remember Tobey Maguire (the first to don the spandex suit in 2002) and his iconic run as the character in a franchise that showed us Peter’s emotional and endearing origin story, as well as some more questionable storylines in later instalments. Andrew Garfield was next to take up the Spidey mantel in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man with considerable success. But by the time the sequel came out, Spider-Man’s charms were beginning to get lost amidst the plethora of characters, gratuitous action and cheesy plot points of a studio that was growing too big for its own boots.
Enter Tom Holland, a fresh-faced (relatively) unknown actor and Marvel’s first choice to play the newly regenerated Peter Parker in their first flick since reacquiring the character.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Dir. Jon Watts) brings Peter’s story back to earth and offers a wonderfully fresh take on the character. It follows Peter post Civil War as he balances school life with crime fighting and longs for something more than just retrieving stolen bikes and helping old ladies.
Everything changes for Peter when, against the better wishes of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), he pursues a dangerous arms dealer (Michael Keaton) using alien technology. Essentially an origin story without the now overdone Uncle Ben death scene, Homecoming is a fun, wholesome take on the Spider-Man story that shows us a fresh side to the crime fighter. Holland’s Peter Parker is a real kid, a quirky, smart-mouthed neighbourhood Spider-Man straight out of the comic books. This Peter is likeable, relatable and far removed from the other untouchable big name heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Credit must be given to Jacob Batalon for his performance as Ned, Spidey’s best friend and comedic ‘man-in-the-chair’. Ned’s nerdy awkwardness helps ground Peter, and in their shared scenes the two come off as real geeky teenagers. Their continued struggle to build Ned’s Lego Death Star is as charming as it is funny. Batalon (as well as Watts’s cast of other misfit teens including Zendaya and Tony Revolori) are what give the movie its unique John Hughes coming-of-age flavour – something that previous Spider-Man films have tried to achieve, yet just fallen short of.
Even Donald Glover’s minor role as criminal Aaron Davis is entertaining. Glover and Holland share a notable comedic rapport that stands out in their short scenes. And how could we forget Downey Jr., who’s enormous screen presence and undeniable charisma can be felt even in his small appearances as a side character. The somewhat rocky but no less charming father-son relationship between Stark and Peter adds another dimension to the film that manages to subtly develop both characters.
This brings us to Spidey’s nemesis, the embittered blue collar worker turned super villain Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture (Michael Keaton).
The most compelling villains are often those who are made worse by their circumstances, and to an extent this is true for Toomes. It adds an element of realism to the otherwise fairly far-fetched storyline, although there is nothing extraordinarily new about Toomes’s brand of villainy. It may not be groundbreaking, but Keaton still pulls off the role, his righteous moral code and sense of entitlement making him a formidable foe for Spider-Man. Keaton has a great deal of presence which he uses to his advantage, making Vulture a memorable character and not just another whacky throw-away villain.
Watts also sprinkles in a good few Easter eggs which no doubt seasoned Marvel fans (much like myself) were looking out for. Most enjoyable of these were the appearances of Captain America (Chris Evans) in several unbearably cheesy educational films shown to Peter and his classmates.
Fans of the Spider-Man comics may also notice a homage to The Amazing Spider-Man issue 33. And as always with Marvel movies, it pays to wait until the credits stop rolling.
From the opening sequence with the classic Spider-Man theme to the endearing end credits animation, Spider-Man: Homecoming was yet another success for Marvel. Holland has established himself as a fresh and unique Peter Parker and definitely one to watch. Watts has succeeded in creating a hearty, charming coming-of-age take on the Spidey story, and one that is certainly worth seeing.
By Isobel Roach