The latest film in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe has arrived, just as the hype surrounding the excellent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 seems to have died down. Fresh off the production line, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the first solo outing in the MCU to feature Marvel’s most well-known character, the titular webslinger Spider-Man, in a series of adventures that follow him re-adjusting to life following his moment of glory in Captain America: Civil War.
There were many potential problems going into Spider-Man: Homecoming. First off was the fact that there have been far too many reboots of the Spider-Man movie-verse recently and they’ve come too quickly. It feels like only yesterday I was watching The Amazing Spider-Man for the first time. But any potential problems with Tom Holland not being able to carry his own solo movie were quickly pushed aside as he proves he thoroughly gets this part, putting in a fantastic performance that really helps sell the movie. He feels like a more believable geeky/nerd character than Garfield’s Spider-Man did, and his character arc in this storyline is effective as he sets out to prove why he should be considered an Avenger, running into many difficulties along the way.
Director Jon Watts was responsible for the excellent 2015 Cop Car that came out a few years ago and he really excels behind the wheel here, opting for a tone that feels right at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while bringing something new to the table in terms of genre. We’ve seen spy movies, space operas, and heist films all explored in the MCU before, but this is probably its first teen/YA movie, which it handles well, even if it does use a lot of the clichés we’ve come to expect from the genre. There’s the standard popular love interest character/school outcast plot, as well as the stereotypical school bully. There’s even a prom, which every High School movie seems to have.
Whilst it doesn’t offer anything particularly to the new in terms of originality, it does provide fun, heart, and character. There were plenty of fantastic additions to Spider-Man’s new universe beginning with this film, possibly the most exciting of all being Michael Keaton, one of my favorite actors, as The Vulture. Normally most of Marvel’s villains are forgettable, but that is very much not the case here as Keaton’s Vulture provides a clear and distinctive impression. He isn’t reduced to being a poor villain when the plot demands it instead, he’s always smart, actively plays a role of his own, and really makes his presence felt, feeling very intimidating indeed. His well-rounded character almost makes you feel sympathetic for him at times and aside from a few evil acts, he could easily have been portrayed as an anti-hero, making him different from the usually cartoonish villains that we’ve seen in the past.
And then there’s Zendaya, whose character name isn’t revealed until the end of the film (which I won’t spoil here because it is a nice surprise reveal). She was easily one of the most fun moments of the film, playing a huge part in the comic relief role. Whilst it was kept to a minimum, it’s clear that she was put in there with sequel potential in mind, so hopefully her role is more of an important one when Peter eventually returns to his own solo outing. Unfortunately, Donald Glover isn’t utilised as well as he could have been and barely appears as more than a cameo. Beyond serving as Peter’s love interest, Laura Harrier’s Liz Allen doesn’t get much to do as well which is a shame. That doesn’t mean their performances are bad, no, far from it – they make the most of what they have. Hopefully, like Zendaya, Glover gets a bigger role in the sequel.
The action isn’t city-levelling, but the after-effects from “The Battle for New York” are clearly felt. The action largely plays a smaller role with the focus more on the character and young adult side of things, but there is enough action there to keep you entertained throughout the film with the finale being a refreshingly small-scale affair. One thing that wasn’t exactly organized was the whole structure of the larger MCU timeline. It has apparently been eight years since the events of the first Avengers film, yet none of the Marvel movies since then have really given any indication to that. That’s one of its weaknesses. A lot of the plot was revealed in the trailers, almost too much, and it does deceive you into thinking that Iron Man is going to be the star of this film and that it might as well be called Iron Man 4. That’s fortunately not the case as the focus is wisely kept on Peter Parker. It really shines as a result, even if we never get to see the full extent of Peter’s scientific skills since there were several opportunities for that to come into play that the film didn’t capitalize on.
Spider-Man: Homecoming doesn’t exactly feel like a complete home run. There are a few flaws and the familiar genre choices hold it back, but if you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing, enjoyable affair that blends humour, action and character development together pretty well, Holland’s first outing as Spider-Man is just the sort of thing that you’ll love. It may not be top-tier Marvel, but it’s certainly better than most of the middle of the range Marvel movies that we’ve seen in the past.