This is a blast! As usual, Marvel Studios makes it look so easy. The humour is spot-on, the character arcs so well-drawn, the action sequences so well-conceived and purposeful, and the expositions well-handled. This is not an origin story, it tells the story of how Peter Parker comes of age and becomes worthy of becoming a member of the Avengers.
A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero Spider-Man. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May, under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark. Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.
One of the things I hate the most is watching those Defcon One city levelling destruction climaxes in superhero movies. I know I know… that’s so lame because these climaxes are practically mainstays in these tentpole movies. However, when the storytelling is excellent and the characters are compelling, all these skull-numbing destruction doesn’t even feature and my senses are glued to the screen. It is when the art of storytelling takes a backseat that I start to mentally count the cost of reconstruction and don’t get me started on homes being flattened and families destroyed. Why doesn’t any superhero movie address the consequences of superheroes using our cities as battlegrounds? Finally, someone did.
Spider-Man: Homecoming begins after Spider-Man’s participation in a superhero gang fight in Captain America: Civil War (2016). But it actually begins 8 years prior, in the aftermath of Loki unleashing the Chitauri which made NYC their playground in The Avengers (2012). In the midst of the big clean-up, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) who has secured the rights to the project got laid out by self-important bureaucrats. From that moment onwards, it isn’t hard to see him becoming the Vulture, if only to strike back at the uncaring system that wipe their expensive plates with the common folk. Action has consequences. It is not difficult to see his motivation and to feel for him.
There is so much I love here. The pacing is spot-on and 2h 13min passed by like a breeze. The jokes hit their marks, especially those scenes with Ned (Jacob Batalon) which are a hoot. Herein lies one of the best narrative risks taken – the identity of Spider-Man was revealed to this inquisitive geek very early on, and it opens up so many interesting turns in the narrative. The dude longs to be the “Man in the Chair” and he asks hilarious questions like “do you lay eggs”. I am still smiling thinking about his affable personality and antics. Then there are the expositional scenes. I thought I needed to see how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man. I thought wrong. The ‘how’ was explained in a throwaway line and that was it. It felt so refreshing. Neither was the movie burdened by having someone uttered that “with great power comes great responsibility” line. In fact, the movie moves like a buoyant spirit with cool narrative choices and risks taken. Even the new hi-tech Spidey suit is a character itself, but a purist would probably hate that.
All would be nought if the casting was off and Tom Holland just scores in the titular role. It really helps that he is a teenager when he landed the role and his tackling of teenage acceptance and wanting to become a member of the Avengers feels palpable. The stakes feel real and his learning curve is steep but a rewarding experience. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man punches way above his weight. The action sequences have awesome stakes and by the time they rolled in, I was so in love with the characters I lapped them all up.
Every year we are indundated by giant budget superhero movies, but I suffered no superhero-movie fatigue with Spider-Man: Homecoming. This felt like home.
4 / 5