By Thomas Simpson
Reboots tend to strike fear into audiences, especially when said movie franchise was only given a rebrand five years ago. Andrew Garfield may have made a good Spider-Man but when Marvel looked to borrow the webslinger from Sony so they could slot him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the decision was made to recast. Garfield was gone, replaced by Tom Holland who won over fans and critics in Captain America: Civil War. People were hungry to see more of this incarnation which brings us to the aptly titled Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Co-produced by Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios, and distributed by Sony Pictures, it’s the third reboot of the film franchise since Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man starring Toby Maguire. Many weren’t happy with a recasting only five years after Spider-Man 3, but this version has been more welcomed due to Marvel’s involvement.
Rather than tell the tale we’ll all familiar with, we start the movie with Uncle Ben already dead and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) already having his powers. On top of that, he’s already been a low-key Spider-Man for a while, as explained in Civil War. Tony Stark Aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is Peter’s self-appointed tutor, gifting him an advanced suit to help him become the hero he knows he can be. It’s not before long that Peter bites off more than he can chew when he finds himself up against arms dealer Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), soon to be known as supervillain Vulture.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a clever origin story that ticks most of the boxes required yet remains fresh. We have Peter learning his powers and making mistakes as he becomes the polished hero. What we’re not subjected to is the tired story of how he got from A to B and the film is better for it, allowing it to hit the ground running.
Holland is excellent as Peter/Spider-Man, exuding a brash cockiness with a gentle heart. All he wants to be is a superhero but he’s not willing to earn his stripes. His eagerness to impress leads to more trouble and creates brilliant conflict between him and Stark, with Downey Jr. imbuing the role with a maturity we haven’t seen in the character. As Peter learns to be a hero, he also has to balance it with the social awkwardness of high school. Director Jon Watts takes influence from John Hughes’s movies, creating a perfect high school comedy that happens to be hiding in a comic book movie.
The humor is appealing and allows the writers to have some fun with the character, most notably when Spider-Man is stuck in the suburbs and lacks the tall buildings to swing from. The jokes about Marissa Tomei’s Aunt May pick up where they left off in Civil War, poking fun at the backlash the casting caused. The supporting cast brings plenty of laughs including John Favreau reprising his role as Happy Hogan and Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) proving to be a useful sidekick. The most intriguing character is Zendaya’s Michelle who steals each scene she’s in and her relationship with Peter offers something different to the franchise. It’s a new take in familiar chemistry.
No good guy is complete without his enemy, and Michael Keaton is outstanding as Toomes. The writers do a great job at layering the villain to present more than a one-dimensional bad guy. His motives are pure, even if his tendencies are evil. Keaton looks like he’s having the time of his life as he maliciously grins his way through the film creating a menacing and memorable character.
The hopes were high for Spider-Man: Homecoming and it doesn’t disappoint. It appeals to first-timers unfamiliar with him while avoiding telling the same old story to older fans, especially those that have seen the character recast more than once since 2002. Although a Sony movie in name, this is definitely a Marvel film that slots easily into the MCU. Welcome home Spidey, it’s been a long time coming but the wait has been worth it. R.
Thomas is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.