“You just don’t do anything I would do… and definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little grey area in there and that’s where you operate.”
Synopsis: After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker is operating under the guidance of Tony Stark as he learns to be a responsible superhero, teenager and friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, all whilst fighting to take down The Vulture and his cronies”
It’s good. Spider-Man: Homecoming is exactly what you’d expect from Marvel Studios and whilst that does work in its favour it seems to highlight two bugbears that have been niggling at my grey matter for a while, probably from Thor: The Dark World and one that seems to be getting worse for movies in general.
To start off with, the acting is top notch here, everyone is on their A-game, particularly Tom Holland as Spidey and Micheal Keaton as Adrian Toomes. Holland is giving it his all and performing extremely well as what’s very clearly a mish-mash of the previous two Spideys we’ve seen (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield respectively) but bringing a new sense of innocence and all round good fun to the role. This is clearly a Spider-man who wants to prove himself to the world at large (and in particular Tony Stark) and after getting in too deep, he learns a decent lesson about patience, humility and all the things that make for a good coming of age teen story. But whilst Holland’s Spidey is given a fairly basic first movie, especially from a story standpoint, Holland makes excellent use of what he’s been given and turns in a great performance, as well as some top-notch wise cracks. Holland is easily the chattiest and wittiest Spidey we’ve seen on screen and it goes miles in differentiating him from Garfield and Maguire.
Not to put a damper on Holland in this film but Keaton is just running circles around him in the best possible way. Adrian Toomes Spidey isn’t an insanely old rich man who sucks the life out of his victims to regain his youth (stop laughing), but a working man with a grudge against the upper class, particularly an organisation called Damage Control. Who after the Battle of New York stiffed Toomes salvage company out of their contract for cleaning up after the battle in The Avengers. So to stick it to the man, Toomes and his crew of employees begin to steal from Damage Control in order to build high-tech weapons out of their ill-gotten gains to sell on the streets of New York. Toomes steals using his flight suit which looks like a giant Vulture and is easily on par with Spideys suit in how cool it is. But the best thing about Toomes in this is that he’s actually pretty sympathetic for the most part, he wants to make a living to provide for his family, but The Man stopped him from doing that. Simple, effective and played very well by Keaton, The Vulture in this film is a perfect example of how to do a cliché right, we’ve undoubtedly seen this kind of back story before in other films, but here you don’t mind because Keaton plays it so well and by the third act he’s easily one of the more intimidating villains we’ve seen from Marvel. I am slightly disappointed nobody ever refers to him as “The Vulture” but that’s just a pet peeve.
In terms of the supporting cast, everyone performs great as well. Robert Downey Jr. Is pitch perfect as Tony Stark as always, Jon Favreau reprises his role as Happy Hogan which is always nice to see, despite my hangups with how his character acts towards Peter for the majority of the film, Marissa Tomei plays a wonderfully refreshing Aunt May that is a welcome departure from the previous films, helping Peter get through this turbulent and confusing time in his life, Jacob Batalon as Ned is funny and serves as a good comedy half and confidant for Peter to bounce off, Laura Harrier as Liz is very sweet and funny at times of awkward teen romance (which Holland also excels at) and finally we have Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson and Zendaya as Michelle. Flash is a dick as is to be expected but not a jock this time, a welcome change, and Michelle is well played but confusing, her entire character seems to be that she is “weird”, I’ve got nothing against weird but Michelle never really does anything throughout the film except snark. As I said earlier, the entire cast is on top form, literally everyone. Massive kudos all round.
As for the story; it is nothing ground breaking, not in the slightest and whilst that doesn’t hurt the film too badly, it’s noticeable enough to be a niggling annoyance, like a bluebottle fly that won’t stop buzzing around you whilst you partake in a really enjoyable vanilla ice cream. Your ice cream may have lots of toppings and two flakes, thus making it different enough from your last ice cream, but that fly keeps buzzing around and generally being a nuisance. I probably don’t even need to explain the story, to date we have had six feature length Spider-Man films and whilst they are different enough from the previous entries, they still carry the same beats and conventions that are synonymous with Spider-Man. It’s very easy to say that those beats are what makes Spider-Man who he is and what makes him so endearing, but at the same time, there’s only so many times you can hear the same song before you know every lyric off by heart. It’s still fun to sing but it’s not difficult to do.
But whilst it’s very easy to predict what’s going to happen due to Spider-Man being such a long-running mainstay of Marvel, the biggest problem this film has isn’t even in the film. It’s the damn trailer.
This trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming is by far the worst trailer for a Spider-Man movie I have ever seen. The entire structure of the film is given away, in that advertisement we see the beginning, middle and end of the movie. I engaged in a lengthy discussion about this trailer with a friend of mine where we both managed to rattle off the building blocks of that trailer and thus the film itself.
- It begins during Civil War.
- We’ll see Tony set up Peter as Spider-Man including the suit.
- Most of the film will be comprised of Peter trying to prove himself to Tony, Tony will thus attempt to dissuade Peter from this.
- Peter will still attempt to prove himself and vastly overextend himself as a superhero thus failing.
- Tony takes back the suit, Peter gets disheartened.
- Peter still goes against The Vulture in the plane set piece at the end of the trailer.
There. All your essential story beats from a basic three act structure. This doesn’t instil a feeling of curiosity about what I’m going to see, this gives me a checklist to go down at certain parts of the movie. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the film itself because the film is still good, but when I don’t get wowed because I’ve seen all the money shots something is clearly awry. Less is more when it comes to trailers.
Now as predictable as the story of Homecoming is; it still works. Clichés are clichés for a reason and here they’re done well. They aren’t obnoxious are the writers are smart enough to know that pointing out that clichés are being used doesn’t excuse the fact they’re present, looking at you Amazing Spider-Man 2. One aspect I was pleasantly surprised I enjoyed was the High-School aspect, it plays like a John Hughes movie. This film benefits greatly from not going back to the Uncle Ben story beat, “rough times” are briefly referenced in regards to Aunt May, but nothing more than that. Everyone knows this origin story now. Thankfully;y the writers twigged this.
There are cutesy romance and fluffy awkward moments, Peter, of course, has to learn how to juggle being a hero with being a teenager, gets a bit too big for his boots and has to learn not to overextend himself. If I were to describe this film in a word it would be “Education”, this is a film about Peter Parker learning how to operate as his own person in a world of alien attacks, criminals and challenge. The perfectly standard fare for a teenage superhero.
However, there are one or two niggling details that get my goat in regards to this film. Firstly, this film succumbs to what I’ll call “Parent Syndrome”. Where even when Teenager in question messes up (as they must in this kind of story), the Parental Figure is at fault as well. For the longest time in the film, Peter is bombarding Happy Hogan with messages and requests for his next big mission to prove himself to Tony Stark as a superhero. Understandable, eager teenager wants to prove himself, that’s fine. But after the mess in question takes place, Tony and Happy of course sit on their high horses and lay all the guilt on Peter, when there’s one tiny detail that could have remedied this, allow me to lay out the situation in question:
- Peter discovers illegal weapon dealing headed by Vulture and his crew.
- Peter attempts to track them down and put a stop to it. Fails.
- Peter notifies Tony and Happy Hogan.
- Tony and Happy seemingly ignore Peter.
- Peter then goes to a much larger weapon exchange and makes the aforementioned “Mess Up”.
- Tony berates Peter as a father would a son.
The “Mess Up” is that Peter interrupts an FBI Sting Operation on the ferry that you’ve seen in the trailer. Tony and Happy were the ones who notified the FBI and they didn’t tell Peter. So, of course, Peter goes and tries to stop it himself! How difficult would it have been for either Tony or Happy to get in contact with Peter and let him know that the situation was being dealt with? They kept him out of the loop because their position as Parental Figures dictates that they’re the ones who add to Peters Guilt Platter. Which they inadvertently contributed to. I think it would have been slightly smoother if they had got back to Peter with something akin to;
“Message received, we’re handling it. Thanks”
What would Peter do? Go anyway of course. Peter ignoring what he’s been told would have made his screwing up a lot more like a teenager, I’m not saying he’s completely free of fault in the film, but a little more information thrown his way would have smoothed over this relatively small problem. Following on from that is my second small problem. The matter that Peters intelligence doesn’t really factor into anything.
It’s shown that Peter is quite a bit smarter than his peers at school and in general, but the fact that his Stark Industries level of the super suit is the biggest string to his bow (at least from an action standpoint) kind of takes away from how smart he is. It’s revealed that Peters suit is practically his own Iron Man suit, complete with A.I that advises Peter in battle, as well as numerous gadgets and web shooting options and loads of bells and whistles that frankly would make James Bond blush. But it was Tony who built the suit, not Peter. It’s not that Peter is smarter than Tony (yet, hopefully) he’s just smarter in a different way. If the script were to demonstrate that Peter is easily beyond high school in terms of smarts, Tony would still have given Peter the new form-fitting suit, but Peter would have been able to tinker with it and improve it in ways that only he could. It would have made the suit truly his over the course of the film and he would have looked so much more intelligent for it. Not that Peter isn’t smart, far from it, he’s just given something very cool and can’t really do much with it because it was designed by Tony Stark.
Rest assured, I still recommend this film. The above issues I have are minor at best and only really detract from anything if you let it. Whilst this film is nothing groundbreaking it is still a fun ride from start to finish and certainly delivers on what it advertised.
Summation: It’s good web-slinging fun.
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Micheal Keaton, Jon Favreau, Marissa Tomei, Jacob Batalon
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Break some new ground here Marvel/Disney. Iron Man in ‘08 was a huge risk and it paid off.