Well, as Marvel’s highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity Wars approaches, the company continues to set the scene with it’s solo movies, with Thor: Ragnarok on it’s way, and Black Panther a little further down the line. This go around we have the interesting case of Spiderman: Homecoming, yet another reboot to the franchise, starring Tom Holland, who made a much loved appearance in Captain America: Civil War. I’ve been thinking for quite a while now, that these movies have to get stale after a while. But after watching the latest Spiderman adventure, I can see that they still have a few trick’s up their sleeve. How did they do it this time? Focus on the little guy. Literally, and figuratively.
So, we all know there was the original Sam Raimi trilogy, starring Toby Maguire, which in my opinion was fantastic up to the dance scene in Spiderman 3. Then we got a whole new origin story and two-movie run for Andrew Garfield. That makes for a tough starting point for a whole franchise. Marvel knew this, and wisely chose to skip the origin story entirely, picking up the action soon after the events of Captain America: Civil War. A very wise choice as this saved us about 30 minutes of screen time and endless comparisons and complaints from comic and movie traditionalist everywhere. We get straight into the fun here.
Joining Tom Holland as Spidey are Robert Downey Jr. with a guest appearance as Tony Stark, and Jon Favreau (Chef) as his assistant Happy. The recently resurgent Michael Keaton (Birdman) joins in as the film’s primary villain, Vulture, and there are some other top quality actors in smaller roles such as Marisa Tomei playing Aunt Mae and Logan-Marshall Greene as another henchman. The quality of the cast brings a nice legitimacy to one of the less ‘serious’ of the Marvel films, and each of them do their part. Holland in particular is excellent and clearly represents where Marvel wants to go with this character. Younger, more fun, more naive and a little less mature. It’s a different look and feel, and it works.
The film get’s a lot of it’s humor from these supporting characters also, and it’s clearly a film that wants to take on a lighter tone. Peter Parker’s friend Ned, and “frienemy” Manuel provide a lot of silliness, while Happy and Stark bring a more mature humor. The film doesn’t get serious too often, and while I tend to prefer the darker tones, this is Spiderman, and we’ve seen plenty of that elsewhere. Not all of the jokes hit home, but there are plenty that do, for example the fantastically thought out sequence where Spiderman has to chase a villain, but this time he’s in the suburbs. No skyscrapers in site, and this wreaks havoc on his general strategy for webslinging. Simple but genius.
The film’s real strength though is in it’s villain and the overall theme that follows along with him. Michael Keaton plays a construction worker, working cleanup from the various alien disasters, and making enough money to support his guys as a result. But when the government sweeps in and takes that work away, he’s left in the dirt, wronged by the higher ups. The little guy gets stepped on, but unfortunately for the city, the little guy pushes back.
Keaton plays this really well, and manages to generate a little empathy while still being pretty damn villainous. I won’t spoil anything but for a film with such a light tone, there are actually a couple moments that are among the most tense I’ve seen in a Marvel film, largely due to great direction and some good work from Keaton. This portrayal of the ‘little guy’ is not just present with our villain though, it’s throughout the entire film.
One of the interesting problems with Spiderman is, that he also lives in New York. So, why wouldn’t The Avengers just swoop in and stop this Vulture? Well, they’re too busy saving the world from total destruction. But someone has to stop him right? Plus, someone has to stop the bank robberies, and the burglaries and the car jacking. Spiderman covers that territory, and that makes the film work, and it makes it credible. It also adds more weight when Spiderman tries something a little bigger. We see him fail, and we see that he is just a kid. It’s a cool dynamic.
The film did have its flaws. Despite some fun set pieces, I never found myself really wowed by any of the action sequences, other than maybe one impressive scene in Washington D.C. They were not bad at all, and they were visually fantastic, but they just didn’t feel like anything new. That’s probably a symptom of superhero fatigue. Plus, the film was still enjoyable and I consider it a really good Marvel movie, so it’s not all about the action. But a really, really special and unique set of action scenes could have created an all out classic here.
To counter myself though, if we’re trying to focus on the ‘little guy’ perhaps that would be out of place? There were a few teen-movie cliches in there that landed flat for me (although thank God that they didn’t repeat the long repeated ‘let me impress everyone in gym class’ sequence, although for a moment it looked like they might!). But these are fairly minor qualms.
All in all, Spiderman: Homecoming is another strong entry into the canon, a good introduction for Tom Holland and a nice setup for certain aspects of the upcoming Avengers finale(s). We’ll see what follows, and there were certainly some sneaky mentions of what’s to come in the sequel and some surprise introductions of certain characters. Also, big shout out to Captain America for the incredible trolling job he did – you’ll know what I mean when you’re done watching it!
Movie Melt Score: 8/10