Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
Run Time: 133 mins
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is the third reboot of the webslinger in the space of fifteen years. There was the Sam Raimi trilogy with Tobey Maguire in the lead role – all are good fun (yes, even the third in my opinion) and the second one particularly stands out. Marc Webb’s two films with Andrew Garfield then followed which were also solid but the second installment recieved mixed reviews and stopped plans of a cinematic universe which there were plans for. Marvel and Sony then finally reached an agreement to incorporate the character into the profitable Marvel Cinamatic Univese and now here we are. Tom Holland now stars as the eponymous character with ‘Cop Car’ director Jon Watts calling the shots. Holland is a much younger Spider-Man than Maguire and Garfield were when they were in the role and Watts has stated multiple times he takes inspiration from John Hughes films in his direction for this film. I must admit a sense of fatigue had settled in before seeing this film as we have had so many variations of this character over not that long a time. The trailers made the film look a little too sickly sweet and a cash grab. Tom Holland’s character had previously been introduced in last year’s ‘Captain America: Civil War‘ but I found him quite weak and annoying and detracted from what was mostly a perfectly solid film. Add to that the disappointment of Marvel’s first outing of the year, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘ and I was trepidatious to say the least.
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, to my surprise, was a breath of fresh air in what has been quite a convoluted genre of late. I thought it struck just the right tone between seriousness and humour and it is a very realistic and grounded film in the Marvel canon. It also features one of the best villains we’ve had in Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is extremely sinister and narcissitic. The whole cast are generally excellent and I was really invested in the narrative that Watts portrays. Watts also does well to not aim too high in terms of visual effects and although there are a couple of impressive action sequences, they never reach the heights of some of the other Marvel films which further helps to keep this film very grounded.
The performances in this film are spot-on – Tom Holland does a complete 180 from his performance in ‘Civil War’ and instead of finding him quite annoying and overly energetic, I found his performance a lot more genuine and heartfelt. Compared to Maguire and Garfield, Holland probably balances both roles of Peter Parker and Spider-Man the best and if Marvel continue to take this approach with the character, it’ll be interesting to see how he develops from now on. The standout in this film is Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is at times, extremely sinister and cynical but because Watts chooses to develop his character on a more human level, this really adds another layer to the character and Keaton’s villain is one that audiences can actually empathise with. It’s definitely one of the strongest Marvel villains to date and is refreshing to see seeing how many villains Marvel have under-delivered on. There is one scene of particular mention towards the third act of the film that is particularly well-acted by both Keaton and Holland together which was electric to watch on-screen. The rest of the cast all fare well too and it’s refreshing to see Watts not include too much Robert Downey Jr as the trailers had suggested. He is used sparingly in the film to advance the narrative. It’s good to see Jon Favreau back and he too is excellent as always. Zendaya also does a surprisingly nice job in a limited role.
The script and narrative is where the film really excels. In the screenplay credits, 6 different inviduals are credited and that would normally be a surefire sign of there being too many cooks in the kitchen but the script is surprisingly pretty much perfect. Narratively, the film is strong and the film’s pace is also perfectly judged and it didn’t feel as if the film was 133 minutes at all.
If there’s one nitpick I have with the film, it is the directing. Although Jon Watts has successfully implemented his John Hughes vision for the film, I don’t feel we get enough of Watts’ characteristics dripped into the film. We don’t really get the gritty, small-scale traits that he used in ‘Cop Car’ and this links back to my overarching argument for the entire Marvel canon that a lot of the film feels as if they don’t have a director’s stamp. This is a big problem I have with Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America films for example despite however well received they are, it just feels as if the film was made by a Marvel executive with not a lot of room for a singular vision. At least though, it pays off in this film.
The score by Michael Giacchino is at times, very good if not a little derivative of some of his previous works. It’s a shame it doesn’t soar as it had the potential to do particularly after his great work on ‘Doctor Strange‘ last year. However, looking at his filmography this Summer (of which there is a lot of), he clearly has put the work into ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ as he does some of his best work there. Here, Giacchino is servicable with a couple of high moments. The cinematography by Salvatore Totino is also serviceable and fairly safe, there’s nothing really overly risque with what he does.
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is just the welcome surprise I needed and for a film that perhaps didn’t receive the best marketing, it’s a blessing that the film is as good as it is. It proves why this needed to be made despite there already being an abundance of different Spider-Man films over the past fifteen years. With the exception of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2’, 2017 has been a very strong year for comic-book films – ‘Logan‘, ‘Wonder Woman‘ and now this and with both ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and ‘Justice League’ still to come, it shows there is plenty of new life left in the comic-book genre if it is left in the right hands.