Peter Parker (Tom Holland) aka Spider-Man got a taste of life in the big leagues when he was called in by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) as a wildcard in the Civil War. Since then Peter has been waiting for another call into action, and his proper induction into the Avengers. But as is so often the case when you’re waiting for a big phone call, the phone just never seems to ring so it’s back to school and back to a normal life for Peter. That is until he crosses paths with Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) aka Vulture, a contractor turned alien weapons seller. Web-slinging ensues.
This is the third iteration of Spider-man in the last 15 years, which is astonishing in itself. The first two Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man films were actually very good, although I’m not sure how they’d stand up now, in the cold light of the MCU, but there’s no escaping the fact Tobey Maguire is not a great Spider-Man or Peter Parker. Fast forward a few years and you have The Amazing Spider-Man franchise (which lasted all of two movies). While the films themselves are not great, there are some good ideas and more importantly there’s Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, who as far as I am concerned does a much better job than Maguire. Garfield’s performance, along with his chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey, gave some decent moments. In many ways Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel felt like Superman Returns, a great set of lead actors that were poorly served by inadequate scripts and studio meddling.
Following a brief, but incredibly memorable (re)introduction in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man is finally back where he belongs, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It might be a temporary arrangement with Sony, but it is good to have one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes appearing alongside the rest of the incredibly popular MCU. Spider-Man’s MCU introduction, in Civil War, was definitely one of the high points that left me really keen for a standalone outing for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. I was pretty sure after the cameo in Civil War, but having seen Spider-Man: Homecoming I’m certain that Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man we’ve had. For one thing he looks a lot more age appropriate, Spider-Man is meant to be in high school, and I don’t care how you dress him up, there was no way Tobey Maguire was ever passing as a high school student. Tom Holland manages to perfectly balance the two sides of the character, he’s awkward and nerdy as Peter Parker. At the same time he has the right physicality to pull off being Spider-Man. Peter Parker’s reactions to meeting the Avengers or slowly getting to grips with his powers feel very genuine, there’s an overload of exuberance like an excited puppy.
The story feels more like a Spider-Man story as well. This is a much more grounded tale than a lot of the other MCU films, there is no big blue light in the sky threatening to destroy humanity. Instead it’s just a guy trying to make some money to support his family by selling weapons made from reclaimed alien technology. Michael Keaton is really good as Vulture/Toomes, giving the character a little more depth and accessibility than your normal city levelling MCU bad guy. Although, when the two of them actually get down to the (inevitable) big fight, that ends up being one of the weaker elements of the movie.
I think the film is at its strongest when we’re hanging out with Peter Parker and he’s coming to terms with his double life. The way that the character is being inserted into the MCU is actually really well done when it could have so easily have been a mess of cameos. Robert Downey Jnr is on hand just enough to maintain a connection to the wider world, but it really works from a character perspective. There is another member of the MCU who keeps cropping up, and it is brilliantly done.
I very much enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s another home run for Marvel and so far they’re two for two this year with Guardians of the Galaxy and now Spider-Man. This feels like what I wanted from a Spider-Man movie, it’s part coming of age story, part superhero film and thankfully we’re spared having to sit through Spider-Man’s origin story again.