Directed by Jon Watts
Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
After his debut in Civil War, Peter Parker (Holland), aka Spider-Man, is keen to get his teeth into superheroing. With Tony Stark (Downey) keeping him at arm’s length from the Avengers, he fights local crime while reporting to Happy Hogan (Favreau) and cutting back on his extra-curricular activities – including academic decathlon with love interest Liz (Laura Harrier), best mate Ned (Jacob Batalon), jerk jock (in as much as a tech academy has jocks) Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) and girl of mystery Michelle (Zendaya) – in preparation for his next mission.
Meanwhile, salvage worker Adrian Toomes (Keaton) has been driven out of business by the Stark-backed Damage Control team that has taken over the clean-up of the Chitauri invasion. To support his family and crew, he has technician Mason (Michael Chernus) create weapons and a flying suit that he uses to scavenge more Chitauri tech, create more weapons and sell them to the criminal underworld. When Spider-Man stumbles across his operation, their battle threatens lives and prompts Stark to cut him off and reclaim his high-tech Spider Suit. When he discovers that Toomes is Liz’s dad, and that he plans to rob a plane carrying Stark tech from Avengers Tower to the new upstate facility, Peter must rely on his wits and his prototype suit to defeat ‘the Vulture’ and prove himself a hero.
What’s wrong with it?
So, Marvel… We’ve talked about this, right? Where one of The Amazing Spider-Man‘s great redeeming features was its Gwen Stacy, Homecoming has barely a female character worth mentioning. Liz is love interest/villain’s daughter, and ends the movie being decamped to Oregon, and Michelle is basically a red herring that you’re supposed to think is Toomes’ daughter. I guess that a big part of the problem here is that Marvel were aiming for a high school rite of passage movie instead of a standard Spider-Man origin story, but… well, there’s always an argument. Ant-Man was about fathers and daughters, Iron-Man was about a reforming playboy, Captain America was set on the front. The thing of it is that Marvel has to stop and say ‘well, rather than just accepting the limitation of a formula, how about we either change the formula, or just do something different?’ Why not have Michelle be Peter’s non-sexual life-partner (although Ned was a rare instance of a ‘fat friend’ being not just useful, but badass, and not defined by his figure, so for the world I wouldn’t want to see him go altogether,) or Liz have a more active role, either in opposition to or support of her father? There are centuries of cultural baggage pushing women out of leading, active roles in heroic narratives; it takes more than waiting for the right one to push back.
Maybe it was the 3D, but I did not love the CGI Spider-Man bits. I will always pull for practical effects over CG, and even if your collapsing Washington Monument is rendered, I want the man jumping on them to be an actual man jumping on something, even if it’s a green screen set. But as I say, maybe that was just that my eyes don’t quite work with Real3D, because my girlfriend didn’t have a problem with that.
What’s right with it?
The Marvel ident music is replaced by a badass, orchestral arrangement of the TV Spider-Man theme tune.
I don’t care what anyone says about keeping faith with the comics, the 80 year old Aunt May doesn’t make sense with a high school age Peter. Marisa Tomei is roughly the age I’ll be when my daughter is 15, so that seems about right.
There may be too few women, and of course a white lead, but there’s a really good mix of ethnic groups in the cast, with none of them playing to stereotype.
The best female character in the movie, bar none, is Karen, the AI in Peter’s suit. After Ned deactivates the ‘training wheels’ protocol, she and Peter quickly establish a wonderful rapport, which includes Karen giving him romantic advice, in between offering to activate ‘instant kill’ with an uncalled for persistence. I was sorrier to see her go than the suit, especially since Peter’s home-made suit is the Scarlet Spider outfit.
Aside from the CGI/3D issues, the action scenes are superb, with a real sense of impact and stakes.
At least no-one hangs Peter’s love interest off anything.
Keaton plays Toomes as a devoted family man, driven by society’s inequity to regard everyone but his own kin as in some sense ‘the enemy’.
How bad is it really?
Occupying a middle ground between full-on Avengers and the Defenders scale, Homecoming is a largely successful expansion of the brand to encompass friendly, neighbourhood superheroes. Like so many Marvel efforts, however, it is hamstrung by its failure to push forward in terms of representation, instead occupying the same troubled narrative ground as its high school and superhero movie antecedents.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Armed with his suit’s enhanced interrogation mode, Peter attempts to shake down low level hood Aaron Davis (Glover) for information. Davis shrugs off his intimidation tactics, despite a modulated Batman voice, but responds to Peter’s appeal to shared locality and a heartfelt discussion of sandwiches. (The ferry scene is good, but this one really gets to the heart of Spider-Man.)
What’s up with…?
- Tony and Pepper? Were they not broken up in Civil War? Were they on a break? I want a one-shot, damnit!
- Maximum effort? I kid, but there is actually a song on the soundtrack named after Deadpool‘s catchphrase.
Production values – Overall, the film is beautifully made, but either the 3D transfer or the overuse of CGI really took the shine off the big action scenes for me. 7
Dialogue and performances – A very good cast work well with a script that is often excellent and never less than workmanlike. Special mention to Keaton for bringing a genuinely sympathetic villain to life. 5
Plot and execution – The plot is clear and well-done, but hews too closely to its predecessors in both the superhero and high school genres, thus perpetuating a false division of the sexes. 7
Randomness – Instant kill? 3
Waste of potential – Honestly, the greatest problem that the film has is the standard to which I am now holding Marvel. In fairness, its failings are mostly par for the course, and only fail to reach my hopes, rather than my expectations, but I can’t help wishing it could have been more. 7