After the deflating experience of catching Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 on its opening weekend in 2007, and suffering through diminishing returns with Marc Webb’s failed reboot, Spider-Man’s MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War delivered a pitch-perfect tease of what we could expect from an unholy alliance between Sony and Marvel Studios. Indie director Jon Watts (Clown/Cop Car) manages to nip at this behemoth superhero property with a radioactive mix of John Hughes teen comedy and a genuinely endearing turn from Tom Holland as the fledgling Spidey.
In the run-up to Homecoming I’ve seen a bunch of memes professing to which previous actor portrayed Peter Parker/ Spider-Man better. To my mind, one was clearly a better Parker, while the other embodied the wall crawling, smart mouthed super-persona far greater. While these actors suffered from the “Grease Effect”, of being (visibly) ten years too old to portray a high school student, here Holland blows them both out of the water with his youthful exuberance, hyper-kinetic excitement and crushing awkwardness. He perfectly encapsulates the dichotomy of a kid shouldering the weight of such gargantuan responsibility, but with maths tests, chemistry classes and the impatient ache to be considered “grown-up”
Rounding out Peter Parker’s classmates are best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who provides the outsider perspective, full of compassionate, dorky excitement, Liz (Laura Harrier), Parker’s brilliant and outgoing friend (…and crush), Michelle (Zendaya), who is very much the “Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club” type, and personal favourite, Flash (Tony Revolori), who’s less of a jock and more of a spoiled “dick”. I could’ve spent two hours just with these characters in the high school setting as they provide the warmth and several belly laughs, which I’m still tickled by now.
Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is used sparingly but to great effect. I’m thankful we’ve not had to endure yet another passing of Uncle Ben as I’ve become desensitised to his murder in much the same way I’ve switched off from Bruce Wayne’s orphanage.
For the first time in a very long time we have a villain that is not only (somewhat) sympathetic but also terrifying. Michael Keaton’s working class version of The Vulture is a detour from the usual, “scientist goes mad” shtick we’ve seen from previous franchise iterations. He has a genuine reason to be doing what he does and while you never root for him, there’s an understanding as to why he becomes the baddie, which is something that can’t be said for most antagonists in the MCU. Rounding out his team is “Tom Hard-lite”, Logan Marshall Green, the consistently great Bokeem Woodbine and Michael Chernus. Each character is used sparingly, managing to balance multiple villains in a way Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were completely unable to do.
It is an utter joy to see Tom Holland’s portrayal of Spider-Man incorporated within the MCU. RDJ’s Tony Stark and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan are more than cameos but their inclusion never feels intrusive. Instead they further the story in a way that is in-keeping with what has come before but also offering a new angle on this well-worn superhero mythos. For the keen eye there are numerous Easter eggs and links to the franchise, there’s the obligatory Stan Lee cameo and you’ll get a couple rewarding credit stingers too.
Having received praise for his Doctor Strange score (which sounded remarkably similar to his work on the Star Trek reboot’quel) Michael Giacchino returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with what is without a doubt the most memorable, hummable and distinct theme of any Marvel property since John Ottman’s work on X-Men 2. Rousing and super-catchy, the Spider-Man: Homecoming suite has bored into my brain like all great earworms alongside Wonder Woman’s sonic rally cry.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the funniest, scariest and most sincere portrayal of the wall crawler ever committed to film. While my fondness for Raimi’s second feature remains, I know I’ll be returning to Homecoming frequently for the comedy and sheer joy of Holland’s exceptional take on Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is released July 7th and we’ll be covering the film on the Sudden Double Deep podcast on Thursday 13th as part of our first birthday celebration.
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