by Lachlan Anderson
Rated M. Starring Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton. Directed by Jon Watts.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
I’m sure that’s what Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said to director Jon Watts before the tricky task of shepherding Spider-Man to his sixth film and second reboot within 15 years. Could they stick the landing and get the character just right this time? We had a promising snippet of Tom Holland’s very young teenage Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, but there wasn’t much to tell if he’d manage to hold his own as the star of his own film.
Thankfully Marvel and Watts has delivered what is possibly the best Spider-Man film yet.
Two months after the events of Civil War, 15 year-old Peter Parker (Holland) is back in his native Queens, New York City, going to school, getting picked on, pining after girls, and living a double life as the friendly neighbourhood Spiderman, with some guidance from Tony Stark (Downey Jr.). As he comes to terms with the realities of being a hero and going through the usual high school dramas, he uncovers a crime ring run by the Vulture (Keaton) that is stealing and selling weapons from previous Avengers battles.
It’s taken six tries, three directors and three different actors, but it looks like Hollywood has got Spidey just right. Not to detract from the previous films, especially Raimi’s first two, though. This take on the character is even younger than before, placing him squarely in his sophomore year of high school (year 10). There’s both room to grow into the character for many years to come but it also allows Watts to really investigate what high school is like for the young hero. Peter is an awkward teenager, but so are most of his classmates. School bully Flash isn’t a jughead jock this time, but a rich and selfish member of the academic decathlon. Peter’s love interest, Liz, is a far cry from Mary Jane Watson from the comics. Homecoming feels more realistic to most modern high school experiences.
Keaton as the Vulture is interesting casting. He’s a far cry from Batman in 1989. As a villain he works quite well especially for the film’s street level tone. A working class guy gone bad. He is played with enough sympathy to get him, but enough malice to really hate who he becomes. It’s a shame then that the film wavers as the third act escalates. Too much set up means the end is rushed.
Spider-Man has always been a character who represents the struggle of great power and sacrifice. The path of a hero is not easy for Peter, who realises as the film goes on that he can’t have it all. There’s a price. And though he can be heroic someone always ends up hurt. Yet despite all he has to sacrifice, the end result is far better than any safety he would have had otherwise. This film highlights that sacrifice is not a wasted venture. It may hurt us but it’s worth it in the long run.
The Verdict: Funny and fresh, this is the film Spider-Man has been waiting to appear in. Holland more than holds the film together and despite a dip in the finale, Marvel have delivered an enjoyable take on the kid Avenger. 4/5
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens worldwide this week.