I’ll be upfront.
I’ve been a fan of Spidey since I was about five years old, having read my cousin’s comics. The best birthday present I’ve ever received (on my seventh birthday) was an action figure of Spider-Man in his symbiote costume – all black with a “web” that came out from his chest. I was 12 when Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man first came out and I was 22 when Marc Webb rebooted the series with The Amazing Spider-Man. While both films had their ups and downs, what with the scene of Maguire crying being etched in my mind forever, they were close to comic book lore, kitschy and just fun.
Spider-Man: Homecoming however, takes a different approach. But it’s important to note the context that it’s in. While still distributed by Sony Pictures (who holds the rights to Spider-Man as a franchise), it’s produced by Marvel Studios who has had its own success with its Marvel Cinematic Universe that plays home to The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor. At the end of Captain America: Civil War, Marvel introduced a 15-year-old Spider-Man, a sign that Sony was finally willing to release a little of the character.
And that’s left us with a new Spidey who is young, inexperienced and finding his way around the whole “friendly, neighbourhood hero” gig – quite literally the start of every Spidey film. The only difference is that this is a world where the Chitauri have invaded Earth and been defeated. This is a world where Iron Man and other heroes are present for Peter Parker to look up to. Parker starts off wanting to do more, enthralled by the fact that he communicates with Stark’s right-hand man, Happy Hogan (still played by the awesome Jon Favreau) and is constantly trying to prove himself as part of The Avengers. But there are no world-conquering villains present in Homecoming. What you get is a well-planned villain, Adrian Toomes aka The Vulture in comic terms.
Played superbly by Michael Keaton, Toomes is a street-class villain who’s just looking to make some moolah off the Chitauri tech that has plagued the city since their invasion. Spidey’s sense of justice is enraged however and they go head-to-head, all while Parker tries his best to prove himself. On this level, the plot of the film trudges along rather expectedly. Tom Holland, who plays Spidey, balances comedic knack with well-intentioned determination but like most Marvel films, that quippiness goes a little too far sometimes and that tends to be a problem with the writing.
One just has to look at the writers of the film to know the direction it was headed in. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who both co-wrote Horrible Bosses take centre stage with other writing credits going to writers such as Chris McKenna (Community, The LEGO Batman Movie). The end result is a several laugh-by-the-minute sort of film that Marvel has chosen to employ in most of its films but with an attempt at “heart” that falls slightly short of the mark. Several scenes of Parker’s daily life in school, with Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei who allegedly didn’t know the character’s age) and in interactions with his best friend, Ned Leeds tried to show who Parker was as a person but that just didn’t seem to materialise.
In terms of direction, Jon Watts’ ultimately succeeds but we can only hope that they get one of the bigger guns in the Marvel Studio line-ups to start focusing on better action sequences. In Homecoming, the climactic action sequence feels a little too close to Michael Bay-esque level of action where it just seemed that the writers threw ideas in for ideas’ sake.
The best part of the film is really Keaton’s portrayal of Toomes though. While Keaton may seem to have a penchant for playing winged characters (Batman, Birdman and now The Vulture), what he really has done for the latter two characters is build up a life story and actual character for these villains. We’re sure that this isn’t the last we’re going to see of Keaton though, what with Vulture being an integral part of the Sinister Six. Pay close attention in Homecoming for hints of other villains that may join the fray soon though. If anything, the attention to comic book detail and Easter Egg-dropping was something that this fanboy appreciated.