After announcing himself in an Avengers airport scuffle in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker returns to normal everyday life, trying to balance school, relationships and being Spider-Man, all while trying to impress Tony Stark and keep his secret safe.
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Donald Glover, Zendaya
Run Time: 133 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
Swinging onto our screens – and virtually stealing the show – in Civil War, Tom Holland’s take on Spider-Man was immediately appealing. Possessing the youth, naivety and heart perfect for the role, the young star looked every bit the Marvel superhero in his MCU debut, however going into Homecoming, all eyes were once again on the youngster this time tasked to lead the movie on his own. Right off the bat, I am pleased to report that Holland absolutely hits this role out of the park. Never looking out of his depth, carrying himself with a poise and ability that would appear to belie his years, and also – and possibly most impressively – more than holding his own with two of Hollywood’s best and biggest actors and never once looking overshadowed. With all due respect to those who previously donned the iconic red and blue suit, this role is now firmly Holland’s for as long as he wants it, he is already the definitive Spider-Man.
This is far from a one-man show, however, as Holland is more than ably helped by a strong supporting cast. For all the impressions given off by the trailers, Robert Downey Jr. has a relatively small role in this movie, save for popping up now and again for tough love speeches and reprimands, while Michael Keaton’s Adrian ‘Vulture’ Toomes is also not given the large role that you would expect of the movie’s main villain. What is refreshing, however, is that Keaton does not join the long list of actors given Marvel bad guys with next to no backstory, character development or any real effort to make them seem worthwhile. Toomes is not an Ultron, looking to lift a city into the sky and drop it from a great height, nor is he a Kaecilius, on a mission to serve a great master from another dimension, he is a grounded human being with a purpose that could very easily be seen as understandable, if not a tad misguided. For his part, Keaton brings a solid and believable performance that encourages hope that this isn’t the last we see of him in the MCU. He plays the role with such conviction, including one particular scene with Peter that is particularly sinister and threatening. All in all, there is a good case to put forward for Keaton to be considered the best Marvel villain since Loki, and while the pretenders to that particular throne aren’t exactly viable challengers, that should not take away from how good Keaton is.
We also get a return from Favreau’s Happy Hogan. Reprising the role last played in Iron Man 3, Favreau once again puts his all into the part and acts as a suitable proxy for Tony Stark, which helps the film by not having Downey Jr. in it too often and risk overshadowing Holland as the star. The real out-of-nowhere performance comes from Jacob Batalon, with his turn as Peter’s best friend Ned being a joy and adding a real human element to the movie. His scenes with Holland are among some of the film’s best, and provide some funny ongoing gags. He and Holland have good chemistry on-screen and are believable in their roles, with their relationship providing a solid foundation to the movie’s grounded story. Elsewhere, Marisa Tomei returns with vigour as Aunt May, though this unfortunately means that the ‘hot Aunt May’ joke that started in Civil War follows on here, and outlives its welcome as quick as it did then. A quick mention also to the Flash character, which adds nothing to the movie and offers no pay off, it is a wonder why he is even included, given the lack of importance and contribution to the story.
Away from the characters, what also makes this film great is that it stands out from the usual Marvel offerings. That isn’t to criticise those movies, of course, with their hundreds of millions of dollar and consistent high review scores, however Homecoming had to be different. We’re not saving the world like Iron Man and co. and we’re not in space with Star Lord and his band of merry misfits, this is a 15-year old kid from New York who wants to prove himself and help other people. This movie called for friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man and Marvel and Sony answered that call, providing a perfect link to the wider MCU yet still keeping true to the character and what he stands for. The film slips up ever so slightly in the final act, resorting to the well-used and somewhat jarring CGI battle, however when the rest of the film is as good as it is, it is really difficult to pick on that too much.
Homecoming is not just a title, it feels more like an apt overall description. An event in the movie’s story, of course, but also Spidey’s return to the Marvel fold. Yes, it is Sony’s title card that opens the film – though Marvel later steal that crown with a clever Michael Giacchino-provided musical title card – but this is a Marvel film. However, unlike most films seen in the MCU since it all began way back in 2008, this feels more grounded. A young, heartfelt and endearing hero, a down-to-earth villain with good intentions and a story all about your friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man instead of a group of avenging heroes battling space aliens.
With Spider-Man next swinging in for Avengers: Infinity War and his own sequel over the next few years, Sony and Marvel have put their faith in Holland to be their Spidey for years to come. Based on this evidence, that faith has certainly been well-placed.