After years of floating around in the cinematic abyss that Sony Pictures Studios imposed on Marvel’s flagship hero, Spider-Man is finally back where he belongs, nestling in the bosom of Kevin Feige.
After Sony’s rather disastrous reboot of the Spider-Man franchise in 2012, from which they had planned a number of ill-advised spin off films, the average cinema goer could be forgiven for being skeptical about Spidey’s big screen return so close to Andrew Garfield’s incarnation. But Sony had their chance and they failed. A number of times, in fact, remember Spider-Man 3? While I was looking forward to seeing the inevitable train wreck of Sony’s Spider-Man-verse after the pitifully woeful attempt to set it up in Garfield’s second outing as the web-slinger, I was more excited for what this meant for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The MCU began in 2008 with Jon Favreau ‘s Iron Man and has churned out hit after hit ever since. It’s unprecedented in cinema. You can tell how much of an achievement this by looking at the failures of other so-called cinematic universes. Sony’s Spider-Man, Universal’s Monsters, Fox’s Fant4stick and X-Men universes and DC’s own entry have all been on the receiving end of criticism from fans and critics alike. And rightly so, in my opinion. Most of them have made an absolute pig’s ear of it and even those that started well have managed to retroactively destroy everything that made them great to begin with. Marvel have made it look so easy for almost a decade and even more impressively, they’ve managed this without their main guy, the only superhero they have who is as universally recognisable and popular as say, DC’s Batman and Superman.
Quelle surprise then that Spider-Man: Homecoming a booming success. Haven’t you heard? Marvel don’t make duds. Directed by Jon Watts and written in the most part by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like the missing link in the MCU, a missing link we didn’t realise was missing until right now.
Marvel has really excelled at introducing something new just at the right moment. Winter Soldier was the MCU’s Empire Strikes Back; Guardians of the Galaxy was so different and introduced us to the cosmic universe; Shane Black gave us a whole different take on Iron Man. They’ve done it time and time again and it looks like they’re still mixing it up. By getting directors like Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler, Marvel are now giving directors the chance to put their own visions on screen and by the looks of the trailers of Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther we’re going to be getting something totally different from what we’ve already seen.
Homecoming is fresh and vibrant and Holland’s Peter Parker is a fantastic addition to this beloved cinematic universe. It’s so refreshing to see Peter actually be a kid and deal with that in an interesting, relatable and often hilarious way. Watts brings a John Hughes-esque feel to Spider-Man and it works tremendously. Peter is awkward and angsty yet charming and funny. It’s an amazing feat really considering that 99% of teenagers are obnoxious and irritating. Take a look at Harry Potter, what a dick head that guy is. Always shouting at his friends and being all angsty and crying about his dead parents. Peter does none of these things. He’s full of heart and enthusiasm, I could watch this guy just at school all day, let alone swinging about New York. Holland totally nails the role and is far superior to his predecessors albeit with the major advantage of not being about 45 years old.
One worry I had going into Homecoming was Robert Downey Jr’s role. He was heavily featured in the promotional material, and you can see why, the whole MCU is built on the man, but thankfully his role is pretty low-key. This really is Peter’s story. He and Tony share a mentor-mentee relationship which is used really nicely to give Peter a chance to self-reflect. There’s one line Stark delivers to Peter, which is in the trailer, which is “If you’re nothing without the suit then you shouldn’t have it”. It’s a nice character moment in a film full of character development. Jon Favreau’s return to the MCU is glorious. Almost every line he delivers as Happy Hogan is gold. I’m starting a petition for a Peter/ Happy road trip spin-off, anyone?
Michael Keaton returns to comic book films to play the Vulture. The actual Birdman. Adrian Toomes makes his money by salvaging tech from past Avengers’ battles while also flying around in big metal wings in his down time. Does he solve Marvel’s villain problem? Not quite, but he’s a step in the right direction. He’s evil pretty much because the story needs him to be rather than for any actual real reason, but he does add a much more personal touch to his villain than most of the MCU big bads. The development of his and Peter’s relationship is actually a lot more interesting than I expected.
The supporting cast are also all great. Jacob Batalon who plays Ned, Peter’s best friend, and Zendaya as Michelle are both standouts. The former is hilariously uncool and indiscreet and the latter brilliantly cynical and sarcastic. Ned in particular gets a really nice little story arc once he discovers his best friend is a crime-fighting superhero.
Tonally, Homecoming is spot-on. It’s funny and witty yet emotional and delicate when it needs to be. It’s also great to see a superhero film from a kid’s perspective. He’s not trying to blow things up or kill anyone. He’s just trying to help out a little and that’s the sort of message that should be in these superhero films.
Spidey’s return to the big screen is a huge success; great characters and humour with the best Peter Parker we’ve ever had put it in the top tier of MCU films.
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