‘Spider-Man: homecoming’ is the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which sees the companies most recognizable figure, Spider-Man, in his third big screen incarnation. This time the character is played by Tom Holland and takes place almost directly after ‘Captain America: civil War’ where our hero is learning to balance crime fighting and high school all while trying to impress his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and gain admittance to the Avengers. Things get even more complicated when a group of high tech arms dealers, led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), begin terrorizing the city.
The thing that most separates this film from other summer blockbusters is its focus on character and its smaller scale. While there are plenty of action scenes and a few big set pieces the film spends a large amount of time with our hero in school and his relationships with his best friend and, of course, the object of his affections. Holland manages the perfect balance of vulnerable, geeky teenager and brave do-gooder effortlessly giving the audience an immediate connection to him. Tom Holland has such a charm and innocence, while at the same time a determination and bravery that perfectly encapsulates the character and allows you to smile when he is happy and feel his pain when he is against the odds. Aside from just the performance Holland brings, the script and direction works exceptionally well in portraying that yes, he is super powered and is capable of amazing things but, at the end of the day, he is still just a child. This adds to the sense of excitement and danger, as well as the fun, that previous big screen versions may have lacked. There is one scene with Keaton and Holland facing off inside a car, which demonstrates this to perfection.
This brings us to Michael Keaton as the films villain, ‘The Vulture’. This is a character which, on paper, was always going to be hard to translate to the screen, and done poorly, could have derailed the film. Happily, this is not the case and Keaton is fantastic. He manages to be both terrifying and sympathetic at the same time, his character both a father and working class hero while also being cold and ruthless. One of the big criticisms levelled at Marvel Studios is that their villains are weak and by the numbers, not so here as Keaton manages to work wonders with the material at his disposal. While Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr provide solid support, it is Jacob Batalon, as Peter’s best friend Ned, who shines just as brightly, providing comic relief and, alongside Holland, one half of a very endearing double act.
The direction is also spot on, with the action scenes being exciting but never over the top, an elevator rescue seen is a stand out, and the scenes at school or in Peter’s room being intimate and character focused. There are a few very funny and clever references to other ‘coming of age’ films such as ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ that really show exactly what this film is, a teen drama with super powers. Visually the film is good and has a very clear sense of scale, jumping seamlessly from street level to skyscraper without the viewer ever feeling disorientated.
The only real negatives are that, like most of the MCU filmography, this as times feels like a spinoff or the latest part in a bigger story as opposed to a truly great stand-alone film, there is also some pacing issues and the feeling that this is the first part of a bigger story, as opposed to a contained single adventure, does leave a sense of anticipation rather than satisfaction. However these issues do not take away from what is a fun, exciting and funny superhero adventure.