Spider-Man’s web holds firm despite weaknesses
Here we go again, with the return of the Amazing Spider-Man. His latest adventure, Spider-Man: Homecoming, has the Avengers' DNA coursing through its veins.
While that's no bad thing to the legions of Marvel Universe fans out there, the reliance on Tony Stark and his technology threatens to overburden parts of Spidey's latest swing around the block, but it never overwhelms it. Rather, a great deal of charm from English actor Tom Holland helps make this Spidey such a joyous high to behold.
After Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's attempts at the web-slinger saw more of a mope-fest, this latest seizes on the sense of fun as young Peter Parker waits for his callup to the Avengers, following his arrival in Captain America: Civil War.
Stripped of yet another take on the origins of the character, Homecoming builds on the work done with the brief Civil War appearance when everyone was at each other's necks.
Desperate to get the callback from Stark and the gang, Parker finds himself stonewalled and sidelined into doing the "friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man" thing - and juggling school life as well.
Still, he gets caught in a web of his own when he discovers that Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture) is taking Chitauri tech and repurposing it for his own nefarious ends. Unable to get a message through to Stark via Jon Favreau's dismissive Happy Hogan, Parker decides to take matters into his own hands.
"The DNA of this movie runs deep from the Avengers' world."
Homecoming has a definite bluster to proceedings as it pastiches John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off and, as already mentioned, it's great to see a lot of the angst jettisoned from previous films in favour of a take on the teen growing up and dealing with average stuff while desperately wanting to be older. From the pratfalling to being ungainly, Holland brings a humanity to Parker that is both refreshing and endearing; this really is a definitive stamp on the role and a signal of intentions that Spidey won't become burdened with the usual considerations of the MCU.
The Stark touches are there throughout, whether it's the female Jarvis-style suit (voiced by Jennifer Connelly) or the brief moments appearing as a mentor; and peppered with a couple of other appearances throughout from one other Avengers alum and mentions of the Sokovia Accord, there's no denying the DNA of this movie runs deep from the Avengers' world. But it's the lighter touch employed by the script that helps keep it refreshed and entertaining.
A great deal of stock has to be set in Keaton's performance as the blue-collar Toomes, whose evil aspirations seem drawn from economic concerns many will feel are familiar and timely. There's a great twist involving Toomes that helps Homecoming subvert expectations - but there's also a very strong performance from Keaton as the Vulture that meshes both elements of Green Goblin and Birdman throughout.
Perhaps less successful is the muddied final CGI showdown sequence, which takes place in a night-time setting and is hard to make out as it whirls around.
And unfortunately, women get very short shrift in Homecoming, a film that's definitively, disappointingly, predominantly for dudes.
Whether it's the unattainable hot girl who needs to be rescued, or the slightly ditzy Aunt May, the female sector of the MCU feels like a real stepback. Equally disappointing is the deployment of some Asian stereotypes - one's a chess club nerd, the other's a schlubby goofball friend; there's an argument to say it's great to see roles represented, but given the piecemeal once-over of the writing, it feels like a veritable slap-in-the-face for inclusivity of all genders and races.
Ultimately, despite a bit of a mid-way slump, Homecoming represents a strong signal of intent from the MCU in their handling of the web-slinger.
Relying more on the fun side rather than the relentless quippery of before, this Spider-Man is a dazzling, deftly-delivered film that brings the entertainment in much the same way that Ant-Man did. And because of that blast of freshness in the ongoing stale atmosphere of the Infinity War cosmos, it scores highly on many levels.
It's a geeky heady treat, albeit one that has a few foibles - but not enough to unpick the web that's been spun on screen.
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya
Director: Jon Watts
Running time: 133 minutes
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