This is one of the rare times that the MCU has had to handle a superhero that has previously had a big screen adaptation of the character. Sure there have been versions of Captain America, Thor, Nick Fury and Doctor Strange, but those were on TV or straight to DVD, the only character in the MCU prior to this that had a previous cinema release was the Hulk. Even then, that didn’t have the cinematic legacy that Spider-Man has. The Sam Raimi trilogy is one of the best superhero trilogies released, Spider-Man was an effective origin story, Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero films ever made and I don’t think Spider-Man 3 deserves anywhere near the amount of hate it has. The Marc Webb films on the other hand, aside from solid performances from Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Martin Sheen were complete messes. Now that Spider-Man is being inducted into the MCU, and following a brilliant debut for the character in Captain America: Civil War, we’ve got another Spider-Man solo film with Spider-Man: Homecoming and, whilst it isn’t as strong as the first 2 Sam Raimi films, is still a solid Spider-Man film.
The film takes place 2 months after the events of Captain America: Civil War with Peter Parker trying to maintain a balance between his normal life and his life as Spider-Man, albeit with more time being devoted to Spider-Man. Whilst Peter is struggling with the balance, he runs into conflict with Adrian Toomes, a salvage company owner who became an arms dealer, selling modified versions of the weapons from the Chitauri, Dark Elves and Ultron sentries from the other MCU films after his salvage firm was forced to close with Tony Stark’s creation of Damage Control, designed to clean up the damage caused by superhero battles. Over the course of the film, Peter has to better learn how to manage his life balance and avoid getting into too much trouble too early. Now the tone of this film is what separates it both from the other films in the MCU and from the other Spider-Man films. Whilst those other films have played as superhero films, Spider-Man: Homecoming plays more like a high school film, with many of the trappings of films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club and Mean Girls in place. This tonal shift is very welcome for the MCU, along with the stakes being relatively small scale. The villains in this film aren’t trying to destroy or take over the world, they just want money, making them some of the more relatable villains in the MCU, combined with the whole Damage Control side of the story. However, the times when the film does turn into a superhero film, whilst a lot of fun, don’t feel as tonally consistent within the world of this film. It feels like more time should have been taken to make sure the tone was right rather than getting a new Spider-Man film out as fast as possible. It does also harm the film that there is no mention of Uncle Ben. Whilst the decision to have Tony Stark in the mentor role does make a lot of sense, not even mentioning Uncle Ben does undermine Peter Parker as a character as we don’t really get any hints of what he was like before he became Spider-Man.
The cast though helps make the film work where the plot lets it down. In many ways, Tom Holland may be the best version of Spider-Man we’ve had on screen. The character feels very relatable, some of those ways being quite personal to me which I don’t want to go into here. There’s also a great deal of heart and humour that Holland brings to the role, along with feeling like a believable outcast that is needed for Peter Parker. It’s still a bit too early to say whether or not Holland has surpassed Tobey Maguire as my favourite version of Spider-Man, but with this film he’s almost there. Michael Keaton meanwhile is one of the best villains in the MCU as Toomes. There’s a great sinister nature that Keaton brings to the character along with some dark humour, with Keaton making sure that Toomes is constantly a physical and intellectual threat, with the relatable motivation further helping Toomes stand out in the MCU villains catalogue. On a comic relief side, Jacob Batalon is a consistent highlight as Ned, getting in the best lines in the film, Jon Favreau plays a good straight man as Happy Hogan, there’s some good light hearted work from Jennifer Connolly as Peter’s A.I (and a nice little reference to Paul Bettany as JARVIS), the scenes with Chris Evans are consistently hilarious and there’s some good dry wit from Zendaya as Michelle. Robert Downey Jr meanwhile doesn’t dominate the film as Tony Stark, doing a great job in a mentor role and showing how the character has evolved in his relationship to Peter since Civil War. On the other end, Marisa Tomei and Donald Glover are completely wasted, their appearances here feeling like they were there just to set up stuff for the next Spider-Man film and, whilst Laura Harrier does a good job with the character, there isn’t more to Liz outside of being a love interest for Peter.
On a technical level, there are plenty of impressive elements in the film. The use of the webbing in this film feels more believable than in other films, particularly when there are limitations to what the web can attach to. The effects for Spider-Man swinging around are pretty good, as is the CG for Toome’s Vulture suit, and there is a good sense of speed and height whenever there is a fight between Peter and Toomes. There are some good action setpieces making use of vertical movement, whereas the other films focused more on lateral movement, with a scene set at the Washington Monument being a highlight. I also appreciate a lot of little background details in the workshop for Toome’s gang and with the Damage Control stuff, including the return of Dummy from the Iron Man films. Finally, whilst Michael Giacchino’s music is pretty generic for the most part, his new arrangement of the theme from the 60’s Spider-Man show is excellent and a great way to start the film.
Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a welcome, lighter change of pace for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a good bit of relief in-between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor: Ragnarok, whilst also doing a good job of establishing this version of Spider-Man in the MCU. Whilst there is still the shadow of the Sam Raimi films over this version of Spider-Man, the different tone of the film and especially Tom Holland’s performance as Spider-Man help to set this series apart and could push it over the Raimi films with a bit more time devoted to them.
My Rating: 4/5