Released: July 5th 2017
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Keaton, Zendaya
“Finally!” Peter Parker exclaims as he struggles into the Spider suit for the first time in Homecoming. It’s a shared sentiment – this is the onscreen Spider-Man we’ve waited to see for so long.
“Can’t you just be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?” – Tony Stark
Between school, his new “Stark internship” and his high school crush, there’s a lot going on for Peter Parker, without the added fact that he’s New York’s newest friendly neighbourhood hero. But left with only a “we’ll call you” from his new mentor Tony Stark, his life gets more complicated when he discovers a series of robberies, masterminded by Michael Keaton’s Vulture.
This isn’t an origin story. And thankfully so. The absence of Uncle Ben is still palpable but gone are the tragic flashbacks and shakily spoken variations of “With great power…” This is a homecoming for Marvel’s most beloved heroes to the Avengers, his fans and to an MCU that should never have let him go… It’s been worth the wait. Homecoming is the Spider-Man movie we have all longed for – cheeky, fun and witty as Peter Parker ever was. It’s a high school movie, owing as much to John Hughes as it does to the original comics, and Parker seems right at home here. His quips and struggles seem appropriate, equal parts awkward high school kid and scrappy New York superhero a la Captain America.
Tom Holland’s exuberant performance carries the character into territory forgotten by the previous movies. Peter is once again the guy we can relate to, the awkward high school experience and the feeling of something more that captured the young comic book audience is all there. Holland embodies Peter the way that Robert Downey Jr has become synonymous with Tony Stark and it’s very much his movie. He has the energy and zeal of the cheekiest Spider-Man, the youth that predecessors lacked and an instant talent that we haven’t seen since Downey’s explosive performance in Iron Man back in 2008. Holland gives his all throughout, though one scene in particular, the film’s pivotal emotional scene doesn’t need to be described – the raw emotion and powerful performance signposts his as the firm one to watch in years to come. Andrew Garfield has been impressive since The Amazing Spider-Man, but Holland has defined this role into something real and relatable in a way that is remarkable even for the MCU.
Not all aspects of the film keep step with the brilliant Peter Parker. While the final two acts sing past at a fine speed, the first act runs on the slow side, wallowing a little too long in Peter’s inexperience, before the pace finally picks up at the first major set piece. It’s a pacing problem suffered by the majority of MCU firsts but Homecoming does fortunately boast a strong enough sense of fun and a brilliantly conceived “home movie” introduction to keep viewers interested before any real action starts.
Homecoming also shares the most common MCU downfall – its villain. Keaton’s notorious handle on the jaded villain stereotype keeps the Vulture flying, but Marvel’s disappointingly common lack of care with the villain leaves a few plot holes to be exploited, despite the abundance of Machiavellian exposition. In fact, a similar thing can be said of the female cast. Laura Harrier and Zendaya feel sadly extraneous, with little necessary screen-time and a lack of character compared to the bursting humour and energy of Peter, Tony and a surprisingly central Happy Hogan. The cast is refreshingly, and noticeably, diverse but it is not always used to advantage.
Homecoming doesn’t stray far from the MCU formula we’ve come to expect and it falls into many of the same traps, but Holland’s Spider-Man stands out in his comic book colour grading and his even more colourful performance. By no means is it a perfect film alone, but as a Spider-Man film, it is everything we could wish to see. As well as a heap of fun Avengers references that feels in tune with Peter’s sense of awe and excitement, the movie reminds us what was so exiting about Peter Parker and the Spidey suit in the first place.
Director Jon Watts brings us the hero we need… and deserve. Homecoming welcomes Peter Parker home to the way we know and love him – the friendly neighbourhood hero we all want to be.