by Ryan Pollard
Out of all the countless superheroes in history, the one superhero that always resonated with me and was always my personal favourite was Spider-Man. For the past two decades, the Spider-Man film franchise has had something of a turbulent history. First starting in 2002, the first Spider-Man movie directed by Sam Raimi was a groundbreaking phenomenon that launched the superhero genre to cinematic peaks and heights. It was a truly awesome film that ended up getting usurped by the outstanding 2004 sequel, which took the character development even further, in addition to having a great villain. However, it all went down the drain afterwards; 2007’s Spider-Man 3 ended up being a disappointingly average movie with great moments but bogged down by haphazard storytelling, botched character arcs, and portraying too many villains with some being better served than others. With Raimi quitting the franchise shortly after Sony drafted in Marc Webb to helm a reboot that was essentially a remake, resulting in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man – a lifeless, empty corporate shell of a movie, and it only got worse with 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Both films didn’t reap the critical and commercial rewards Sony was hoping for (I wonder why!?), which resulted in them forming a deal with Marvel Studios to bring the wall-crawling hero into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The results were extremely promising at first, thanks to last year’s Captain America: Civil War, which saw the introduction of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man – and it was a great introduction at that. Now, with Homecoming, the question was whether or not a solo outing would do him justice and reinvigorate the character after thirteen years of rapid decline. Well, the answer is yes, and so much more. If you adored his introduction in Civil War, then this movie is for you. It is the best Spider-Man movie since 2004’s Spider-Man 2, revitalising the character for a whole new generation. Director Jon Watts wanted this movie to have a John Hughes vibe to it in terms of its style and tone, and it definitely shows throughout, particularly with its humour, which works extremely well. The film feels particularly reminiscent of The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (there’s even a scene from that movie played here), right down to the fact that some of the classmates and one of the teachers at Peter’s school look as if they had just walked out of one of those movies.
What makes this movie feel so fresh and exciting is that this is essentially a high school that just so happens to feature a comic-book superhero, whilst also mixing the excellent humour with real genuine emotion and character development. It all works perfectly. The version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man presented here is portrayed, for the first time, like an actual high-school kid; he’s not mopey or annoying at all, but genuine and believable. He has typical teenage problems and makes real mistakes, but that doesn’t bog down or interfere with the narrative like the previous three Spidey films did. There’s a particular standout moment during the film’s climax where our hero is placed in a terrifying moment (which harkens back to an iconic moment in Spidey’s comic-book history) and you get the sense that this is a kid that’s genuinely afraid and scared for his life.
The pacing is perfect, with the film finding an even balance between fast and slow, and never once having a moment that is either dull or boring. As for the action sequences, they are exciting and visually spectacular to behold, even if they do somewhat lack the visceral edge of Raimi’s first two films. The same could also be said of the web-slinging, which is competent, yet feels a tad too digital and lacking the style and flair seen in Raimi’s trilogy, but it’s infinitely superior to the over-the-top, overdramatic aerial ballet of Marc Webb’s films, which looked as if Spider-Man was flying rather than swinging. The visual aesthetic is gorgeous and Salvatore Totino’s cinematography captures the aesthetic of the original comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, whilst Michael Giacchino’s score proves to be one of the most memorable scores seen in a Marvel movie yet.
As he does in Civil War, Tom Holland knocks it out of the park as Peter Parker, proving that he truly is the most definitive Spider-Man yet seen on screen. He perfectly captures both sides of the character beautifully, nailing every single emotional beat. You can sense that Holland is genuinely passionate about the character and wants to do it justice, which he does in spades. He is to Spider-Man what Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Pratt are to both Iron Man and Star Lord, and it’ll be interesting to see where his story goes in future movies. Michael Keaton was excellent as the Vulture, and proves to be one of Marvel’s best villains, even if Marvel doesn’t tend to have that many great villains in their films. However, it’s great to see Marvel listening to the audience and turning that around this year, first with Kurt Russell’s Ego the Living Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and now with Keaton’s Vulture; he’s truly menacing, yet you can understand what’s driving him, where he comes from, and what he wants. The rest of the supporting cast are all terrific, from Marisa Tomei’s grounded take on Aunt May to Jacob Batalon’s fumbling comic relief Ned, plus Zendaya proves to be a real surprise as the quirky Michelle. For those complaining about Tony Stark’s presence in the movie, he’s only in it for roughly ten minutes to just keep things going while his presence as a mentor to Peter is felt throughout.
In the end, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the movie hardcore fans like me have been waiting for, and its greatest achievement is remembering what a great Spider-Man movie should be: fun, heartfelt, and exciting in equal measure. It hugely improves on the previous three outings that got weighed down by heavy themes or overblown melodrama, plus it manages to juggle multiple villains without becoming an out-of-control mess. Not only is it one of the best superhero movies to have been made, but it’s also the best Spider-Man movie ever made. Granted, the first two Sam Raimi movies are better films, but in terms of which film adapted the web-slinger perfectly, it’s this film all the way. Welcome back home, Spider-Man.
Director: Jon Watts
Scr: Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
Prd: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal
DOP: Salvatore Totino
Music: Michael Giacchino
Run time: 133 mins
Spider-Man: Homecoming is out now in cinemas.