More so than any previous movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with perhaps the exception of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, there’s a weight of expectation hanging around the neck of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’. It is after all the second reboot of the web slinger in merely half a decade furthermore as a combined effort between Disney and Sony there’s a sense that this movie needs to succeed, for both the long term future of their partnership as well as the admittedly small chance of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four ever joining the MCU through a similar partnership. Thankfully this latest outing of your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is largely a triumph even if it does get occasionally bogged down in MCU baggage.
In fact it’s the moments that tie Spider-Man into the juggernaut connected universe that Marvel Studios have created that are the worst ‘Homecoming’ has to offer. The much marketed inclusion of Iron Man feels like a distraction, though Tony Stark’s screen time is more limited than the trailers have led you to believe. Jon Favreau returns to the MCU as Happy Hogan, Stark’s head of security, being tasked with keeping an eye on Spider-Man’s activities embodying the worst aspects of cross movie connections feeling shoehorned in and adding very little to the film overall. While the MCU connections most certainly don’t ruin the movie it would perhaps have been a better film had it been almost entirely standalone ala the two ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies.
After his impressive debut in ‘Civil War’ here Tom Holland absolutely confirms that he is the best onscreen version of the beloved comic book character to date. He looks much younger than the Spider-Men that came before him, so buying him as a High Schooler is easier, he also acts much younger. This isn’t a mature Spider-Man quite the opposite he’s often childish, spending his nights building a LEGO Death Star with his best friend, but there’s something very pleasing about a version of the character that actually behaves like a fifteen year old that accidentally gets superpowers. This Peter Parker actually has fun as Spider-Man, instead of constantly whining about how difficult balancing his life around his alter ego is. Parker’s struggle to maintain that balance is touched upon but it’s not the crux of the movie like it has been so many times before.
While Spider-Man’s web slinging antics will draw people in the real star of the show is actually Michael Keaton as the Vulture, who might just be the best villain in a Marvel movie to date. For once that stakes have been lowered, the world isn’t on the brink of destruction here instead the focus is of a smaller scale and it can’t be overstated how refreshing that is. Keaton’s Vulture is a sympathetic villain with clear and understandable motivations, of course you still want to see Spider-Man defeat him but for once I’m thrilled to report a villain in an MCU movie isn’t a mere throwaway bad guy looking for world domination. Keaton being superb in the role only serves to help make the Vulture the most memorable MCU villain since Loki.
The rest of the cast doesn’t have quite the same impact but there’s a couple of standout scenes for Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned. He serves only to add to the wish fulfilment aspect of ‘Homecoming’ taking Peter’s secret identity not entirely seriously and generally just marvelling at how cool his friend having superpowers is. Liz (Laura Harrier) is a pretty bland love interest, she’s smart and pretty but not much else, and similarly Zendaya’s bit part as Michelle Jones could really have featured anyone in the role, though her inclusion feels like sequel set up more than anything. The secondary cast may not be of the strongest calibre but the film absolutely nails its two leads making this somewhat of a non-issue, you’re not watching ‘Homecoming’ to see Ned Leeds you’re watching for Spider-Man.
Truthfully the MCU formula is starting to wear a bit thin, the film’s arc is the same as practically every other Marvel movie and the way it’s all wrapped up nicely, as per usual, is starting to feel a bit too neat. An ending similar to ‘Civil War’, which dramatically changed the MCU, would have given ‘Homecoming’ a nice little wrinkle to leave the audience thinking and debating with their friends. ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is a romping good time but it’s largely bereft of surprise and for how big a deal was made of Spider-Man joining the MCU it couldn’t be argued that he’s changed the universe in any significant way, he’s just another hero for Marvel’s sweltering ranks.
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is exactly what it was billed as, it’s not a genre defining feature that will ranked among the best ever create but it’s a seriously good time at the movies. When the film focuses on Spider-Man’s attempts to be a hero, and not on MCU politics, is when it’s at its very best however it’s a shame that Iron Man and his friends creep in a little too frequently for their disruptive presence to be ignored or glossed over. This latest cinematic reboot for the web head may not quite reach speculator heights but it’s certainly superior to Sony’s previous attempts.
Score - 7.5