Fifteen years, three separate franchises, and three actors. Spider-Man has been a bit like the film equivalent of a lost puppy since the turn of the millennium, trying its best despite being constantly thrown around by studios trying to keep the character rights and overcoming some of the worst films the age of the superhero films has birthed. Spidey has finally found his rightful place; he’s alongside the Avengers in the MCU and he’s been brought back to life with respect and dignity by director Jon Watts and the folks at Marvel Studios.
After his short but impressive appearance in last year’s Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been trying his best to see Tony Stark again by sneaking out at night and taking care of some of the petty crimes that have been happening in his local Queens. Being only fifteen, Peter is trying to walk the tightrope of being a fully fledged faux-member of the Avengers, a secret he is still trying to keep from his Aunt May (a role which wastes the talents of Marisa Tomei) and making his way through the twisting politics of high school: girls, grades and growing up.
Meanwhile Michael Keaton is
Birdman The Vulture, a professional thief who wears a set of robotic wings. Since the Battle of New York eight years ago he has been journeying to all the places that the Avengers have fought and salvaged pieces of robotic and alien tech, for they fetch a high price on the black market and when used correctly can make exotic weapons.
Jon Watts had only directed one little known cop drama and ten episodes of The Onion News Network prior to making his big budget debut and going on the fabulous example set here, he’s a director of talent who we’ll probably be seeing a lot more in the coming years. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the equal best film in Marvel’s Phase 3, tied with Civil War.
Tom Holland has landed the role he seems born to play, for as good as Tobey Maguire’s shy, incredibly earnest take on the character is, Holland manages to bring nuance to a character who everyone forgets is still a cocky, very naive teenager – he has made this role his own. He’s more of a Spider-Boy here, trying his best to impress the higher ups but just coming across as annoying and cocky in the way that teenagers so often do.
Marvel has always had a problem with villains; this is the sixteenth film in the cannon and there has only been two or three truly memorable oppositions. This take on the Vulture is one of the best we’ve seen so far; Keaton is astonishingly good in the role and the environment that the film is released in gives it so many more layers. Read in a certain way, the core struggle that the film deals with is the young who think we can all make the world a better place and the adults who are trying their best to make do with the cards they’ve been given by providence. Peter and all his friends are like a bingo list of different ethnicities who speak like #woke progressive Tumblr millennials whereas Keaton and his crew are the working men who have been cheated out of their fair share by the elite 1% (aka Tony Stark). It’s a fascinating piece of subtext, the idealism of millennials crashing against the downtrodden working class of Trump’s America, which climaxes in a revelation which very few will see coming. Keaton’s late career revival is still going strong; the level of performance he brings is far above the normal standard that the MCU provides.
The final third is another breath of fresh air, not for the massive scale but rather the lack thereof. Spiderman isn’t saving the universe or time and space like the Guardians, Thor or Dr. Strange (which is getting tiresome on account of how many times it’s happened). His problems are localised to his city and his personal story of growth is handled perfectly. Although this doesn’t stop the few set piece action scenes from being very well composed, with the added bonus that all the special effects were done in Melbourne and Sydney!
In terms of being a superhero film, Spider-Man: Homecoming is just more of the same, but within its own universe it’s a superhero film a step above the rest which rarely puts a foot wrong. It was genuinely disheartening to see Spidey go to such a terrible place with both Amazing Spider-Man films but all is now forgiven; this is the best that he has been in thirteen years.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas from 6th July through Sony Pictures.