By the conclusion of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the character and lore behind it had lost all sense of vigour on screen. The film was tired, painful and offensively deplorable, so much so it managed to master what many would consider near impossible — it made the promise of future instalments as something to dread rather than anticipate. Who could imagine that could be the state of a property as beloved as Spider-Man. So perhaps due to the disappointment of previous outings does Spider-Man: Homecoming feel like such a crowning achievement. Ebullient and refreshing, Homecoming differs from previous iterations by positioning Peter Parker as a high school student who adores his alter ego rather than loathe his inner duality. It is a coming of age drama masquerading as a superhero film, and Homecoming proves as effervescent as the titular protagonist himself.
Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, a young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) enamoured by his experience with the Avengers, returns to Queens under the supervision of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Fully embracing his newfound persona of Spider-Man, Peter attempts to balance this along with the responsibilities of a regular high school student. Antsy at being limited to street level vigilantism, Peter soon deciphers that a crew of scavengers have been selling illegal weapons manufactured from the fallout of previous Avengers missions. Led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), otherwise known as the Vulture, Peter begins to go to dangerous methods by means of taking down Toomes and his crew. Placing Spider-Man in a battle that is destined to shape the kind of hero he will become.
The best aspect that can summate Homecoming is just how effortlessly enjoyable it is from start to finish. The film is without question the best Spider-Man film since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 back in 2004. Tonally, this film thrives emphatically, as it delivers the wholesome and delightful notions that are integral to both the mythology of the Spider-Man world and the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is devoid of any cynicism and is infectiously energetic, and that sense of energy and joy proves to be quintessential virtues. Especially, after the conclusion of the initial trilogy and the second series bathed itself in an overtly serious environment and scope of world shattering battles, Homecoming is determined to stick to a genial atmosphere and root itself in its setting, and it proves invigorating.
Magnificently, the film never misses a beat in capturing the spirit of the Spider-Man character. Portraying Peter Parker as an guileless, awkward and naive teenager attempting to navigate his way through high school. But as Spider-Man, he is the typical wise-cracking, cocky hero that fanbases have come to know him for. A lot of this is recognised due to the brilliant embodiment Tom Holland has imbued towards the character. However, major esteem has to be accredited to the high school setting that the film makes the cornerstone of the film’s atmosphere and tone. The high school setting goes a major way in making this iteration of Spider-Man feel like something we haven’t seen before. The film plays like a coming-of-age drama and the manner to which it depicts Peter Parker against that setting provides something charming to the character never caught on screen prior.
But as aforementioned Holland is terrific, building from his impressive cameo performance in Civil War. Holland balances the alternating personas masterfully, and has no shortage of charm, vulnerability and empathy even despite the nature of his role. The relationships in Homecoming are well realised and that is established through the strong performances and dynamic between actors. Jacob Batalon nearly steals the film as Peter’s best friend Ned, while Tony Revolori brings something interesting with his interpretation of comic mainstay Flash Thompson.
Although it is Michael Keaton who is the biggest scene stealer. Portraying the Vulture, Keaton is able to overcome a prevalent stigma of the Marvel films as he crafts a compelling villain that is just as relatable as he is terrifying. He believes himself a victim of the system and resorts to crime by means of supporting those he loves. The execution of the Vulture is brought to life through a charismatic Keaton that is nasty and surprisingly empathetic. And when considering the vacuum of interest that usually generates within Marvel’s cinematic villains, his direct motivation is more than welcome.
If there are any criticism of Homecoming, it’d have to be the somewhat low stakes and the effect of Iron Man’s presence. The film lacks the intensity of previous iterations as it is adamantly reserves itself to the “friendly neighbourhood” aspect of the character. It isn’t a fundamental issue, and the clear intention is to make the film more character driven as opposed to spectacle. However, by doing this it brings less interest to the various set pieces which can tend to make the plot feel a tad inconsequential. And while for the appearance of Iron Man, his role tends to go against the greatest mantra of the Spider-Man lore. The line of “with great power comes great responsibility” is not cited here, and one can only ponder whether it was Iron Man giving Spider-Man unlimited power through the form of a multi-million dollar suit and minimal surveillance tends to hinder a cornerstone of the character’s ideals. These are minuet issues but they are still present.
Homecoming isn’t free of stumbles and in some areas the film could have gone deeper, however, the fact that we have a fun and enjoyable Spider-Man movie again has been a long time coming. Fitting in finely within the confines of the MCU, Homecoming deftly works fine humour through the guise of well-rounded and engaging characters and their various relationships. Reintroducing Spider-Man for a third time in just fifteen years was a risky play, however, for its inventiveness and clear vision, the film feels more than refreshing. This is a Spider-Man we can see for years to come without the dread of what came before. For a terrific and charming summer movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an utter delight.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens nationwide on the 6th of July.