Adrian Toomes, Birdman, Cinema, Clown, Film, Film Review, Gwyneth Paltrow, Iron Man, Jon Watts, Marvel, MCU, Michael Keaton, Movie, Movie Review, Norman Osborn, Pepper Potts, Peter Parker, Robert Downey Jr, Sam Raimi, Spider-Man, Superheroes, The Impossible, Tobey Maguire, Tom Holland, Tony Stark, Vulture, Willem Dafoe
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the sixth Spider-Man standalone movie and the seventh time that Spider-Man has appeared on the big screen. “Homecoming” is directed by Jon Watts (“Clown”) and stars Tom Holland (“The Impossible”) as the titular character. Holland is the third person to put on the suit, picking up the mantle from Andrew Garfield after the unfortunate Sony hack of 2014. For me, Tobey Maguire will always be Spider-Man and my favourite Spider-Man movie is still Sam Raimi’s original, but to his credit Holland is both likeable and believable in the role. The fact that he still looks like a teenager certainly helps, but beyond that Holland brings a sense of playfulness to the character which will help him succeed as part of the MCU.
Nevertheless, I don’t think that Holland’s performance makes “Homecoming” an exceptional movie. “Homecoming” isn’t strictly an origin story, and to its credit it doesn’t get bogged down by exposition, but the themes that it plays with have been exhausted in the past. It helps that this movie ties into the wider MCU by featuring characters like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), but the addition of said characters doesn’t change the fact that we’re still essentially exploring the same concept that Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” explored – ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.
In “Homecoming” Peter Parker is still coming to terms with what it means to be a superhero; he’s naïve, arrogant, and he doesn’t take his enemies seriously. This kind of behaviour is typical of a teenager and it has its place in the movie, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve explored this side of the character before in movies which are frankly better than this one. The conflict between Peter and Tony goes some way to differentiating this film from its predecessors but anyone paying attention surely has to see that Stark is acting as a surrogate Uncle Ben, simply providing the external motivation for Peter to learn what it means to be Spider-Man.
This isn’t necessarily a criticism depending on your perspective, but it goes some way to explaining my feelings towards the film. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” bored me from start to finish; I didn’t buy into the story, I didn’t care about the characters, and I wasn’t excited by the action sequences. I just couldn’t make myself love it despite the fact that I don’t think it was a bad movie from a filmmaking standpoint.
One of my biggest problems with “Homecoming” was that I thought it lacked humour, or at the very least the jokes that were there didn’t make me laugh. In order to find this film funny you have to be invested in the characters because a lot of the humour stems from the issues in Peter Parker’s personal life and his struggles at high school. This is fine and I’m sure a lot of people did feel invested and therefore enjoyed the visual humour in the film, but I just couldn’t buy into the relationships or the plot. I find it very difficult to believe that someone with the bone structure of Tom Holland would have trouble fitting in at high school, particularly because he doesn’t act like an awkward teenager; he’s smart, funny, and relaxed so why should I believe that he’s on the outskirts of popularity?
I also thought that this was a visually clumsy movie devoid of interesting special effects. There’s a lot of CGI and most of it is good, but it isn’t very exciting and personally I found that it took me out of the movie more often than it thrilled me. I couldn’t really focus on anything during the action sequences because the lighting wasn’t great, and the way that Spider-Man fought meant that things happened quickly which made it hard to know what I was supposed to be looking at.
Still, I did like Michael Keaton as Vulture. It’s amusing to me that he’s gone from “Birdman” to this and his presence on screen helped elevate the movie, but I don’t agree with critics who are claiming that he is a relatable villain. We get a sense of his motivations in the opening scene but we don’t actually know anything substantial about him other than the fact that he feels hard done to. We’re supposed to take it at face value that he has a right feel like that, and many people will, but all we have to go on is the opening scene in which the contractors come across as opportunists rather than as average Americans who deserve a break.
There is one standout scene in the movie involving Vulture and Spider-Man, but to go into that scene in detail would be to spoil the film’s main twist and I don’t think that this would be fair to people who haven’t seen it yet. It’s a smart scene which shows the vulnerability of Peter Parker and humanises Adrian Toomes (Vulture), making him seem like a real character rather than a plot device. I liked it a lot and the five minute sequence definitely enhanced my opinion of the movie as whole, although I have to say that it felt slightly derivative because it reminded me of the dynamic between Peter Parker and Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) in Raimi’s “Spider-Man”.
Overall I wouldn’t say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was a great movie but I wouldn’t call it terrible either. It plays on familiar themes and its action sequences are forgettable, but it also features two good performances and this Spider-Man genuinely feels like a friendly neighbourhood version of the character. I would encourage Marvel fans to give this film a chance and come to their own conclusions, but personally I found it to be an uninspired experience.