Spider-Man: Homecoming has all the elements of a blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, including the unmissable Stan Lee cameo. But what separates Homecoming from the rest of the 15 films that have so far taken place within the MCU ambit, is that it’s a film that works completely on its own.
Made with distinct Young Adult flavours, Homecoming is the boy-next-door story that also explores the aftermath of the destruction caused by the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, but in a way that Civil War couldn’t, mostly because it was too busy trying to fit a dozen superheroes into a two-hour movie.
What Civil War did do was introduce us to young Peter Parker (Tom Holland), and in the few minutes of screentime he was gifted, Holland turned his charm up to 11, in effect creating an unprecedented amount of hype for Homecoming, where he thankfully doesn’t disappoint.
Director Jon Watts (Cop Car) makes a smart move by bypassing the origin story to tell a wholesome Spidey tale instead, one that explores his grass roots-level experience of crime fighting, which puts him more in the league of The Defenders, rather than the Avengers.
By not focusing on his tragic past (*cough* Batman *cough*), or taking us through his tedious transformation (I, personally, would have screamed if I had to watch Parker get bitten by a spider one more time), Watts allows for an in-depth character exploration. There’s time for Spider-Man (or Spider-Guy as he’s mostly called in the movie) to truly be a teenager, complete with a demanding high school career, a burgeoning romance and some light bullying to contend with.
Fans of the comic books should also feel placated. In the hands of Marvel, the Spider-Man franchise feels closest ever to its comic book origins. Combining early Stan Lee-Steve Ditko influences with more recent stories by the likes of the super-team of writer extraordinaire Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley, and the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, Homecoming is a gift to those who have grown up with Spider-Man.
For instance, we see Parker experimenting with spider-fluid in chemistry class, suggesting that his webbing is artificial, which is closer to the comics, unlike the last two Spider-Man movie outings where they were a part of his powers. Even the opening score is a fun, updated version of the original theme tune from the ‘60s cartoon, this time composed by Michael Giacchino, who also took on composing duties in last year’s Doctor Strange.
That’s not to say updates haven’t been made. Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), who in the comics is our typical white male jock bully, is now a science geek like Parker, competing alongside him to be the smartest kid in his grade. It’s a welcome change to see these stereotypes being broken down.
The spidey costume is also significantly different, now equipped with a Siri-like AI support (voiced by Jennifer Connelly). Connelly, interestingly, is married to Paul Bettany, who voices J.A.R.V.I.S., the AI developed by Tony Stark, and also plays Vision in the MCU. Yes, we thrive on useless trivia.
And while the CGI and sets look undoubtedly amazing, it’s the humorous writing and the superlative star cast that are the true heroes of this movie. Holland channels his fresh-faced innocence and flexes his athletic skills to varying levels of perfection. It helps that he actually looks like a teenager, unlike Tobey Macguire and Andrew Garfield, who were both in their late twenties during the filming of the earlier Spider-Man films.
The supporting cast is excellent and in more ways than one prove to be the actual backbone of the storyline. Not including greats such as Robert Downey Jr. (reprising his Iron Man role), Marisa Tomei (the hottest Aunt May to have ever existed) and Jon Favreau (playing Happy Hogan, Parker’s nanny of sorts), the bulk of the work is done by the kids in the movie. Most important of them is Ned Leeds, played by Jacob Batalan, who plays a geeky, Star Wars-obsessed kid and Parker’s best friend. The chemistry between the two characters is the main catalyst for most of the film’s humour.
And last, but in no way the least, is Michael Keaton’s Vulture. While Marvel is still struggling to create a memorable MCU villain, Vulture may come close to being one. Keaton successfully brings the chills and brandishes a whole new level of sinister. Something gets lost in translation, however, in the fight scene in the climax, because Marvel did a DC by going overboard with the theatrics.
All said and done, Spider-Man: Homecoming stands to go down in history as the movie that did right by one of the most iconic characters to ever have been created, super-hero fatigue be damned.