Spider-Man: Homecoming is a reboot of a reboot, taking Spidey into Hulk territory – three actors have played each of these Marvel superheroes over the past two decades.
A second reboot was always going to have to blow off the cobwebs of its predecessors, and Homecoming makes it work for two reasons. The first is that this film brings Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and the second is that it smartly skips over the ‘origin story’ of the radioactive spider bite, allowing more screen time for character development.
With a likeable, awkward central character played by the likeable, awkward Tom Holland (who is the third significant reason the film succeeds) it’s a good choice.
Months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, in which Peter Parker was recruited by Iron Man to help take down the Cap, Peter is still learning to strike a balance between ‘regular high-school nerd’ and ‘web-slinging, skyscraper-swinging superhero’. Mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) won’t let him officially join the Avengers, and so Spidey wants to prove himself. Unfortunately his heroic acts tend towards the ‘rescuing cats from trees’ variety, until weapons powered by alien technology start showing up in the holsters of small-time criminals in the neighbourhood.
When Peter investigates, he crosses a new threat: the Vulture (a.k.a Adrian Toomes, a.k.a Michael Keaton), a man in a mechatronic flying suit, with the wingspan of an albatross and an albatross around his neck.
The genius of casting Michael Keaton shouldn’t go unrecognised. And not just because the role seems like a sly wink to Keaton’s history: firstly playing a superhero himself in Batman (1989), and then playing a faded Hollywood star/avian-inspired superhero Birdman (2014).
Keaton as Vulture presents a contrast to Holland’s Peter Parker. Holland has the cherubic face of a twelve-year-old, while Keaton highlights the generational gap between hero and villain. Adrian Toomes and Peter Parker aren’t that different – they’re both Queens born and bred, motivated by a desire to protect and provide for those they love. But Peter Parker hasn’t yet been wearied by the world, and Adrian Toomes has.
Homecoming is a coming-of-age superhero story, with a real focus on the fact that the protagonist is a 15-year-old boy. At least as much time is devoted to the Homecoming dance, academic decathlons and Peter Parker’s crush on classmate Liz Allan (Laura Harrier), as is spent showing Spidey swinging around the city.
With the addition of other high-school outsiders, like Peter’s “computer guy” Ned (Jacob Batalon), the best bud who does his hacking, and socially-conscious classmate Michelle (Zendaya), there’s a real Breakfast Club feel to the film.
The adventure is fun, the cinematography colourful, and the film doesn’t devote too much time to setting up future sequels, preferring to zip along with the occasional fan service cameo from Captain America in awkward Physical Education videos. The soundtrack, which includes the likes of Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, The Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knockin, and The English Beat’s Save it for Later, doesn’t hurt either.
This is the friendliest neighbourhood Spider-Man yet.
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