The moment you see the Avengers Tower in the New York skyline, you know that this Spider-Man film is going to be a bit different. While the wallcrawler is not unique in the remake cycle, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is the third reboot in 15 years. It is, however, the first to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the positive results are immediate.
Eschewing with an origin story completely, save for a few vague references to his past, director Jon Watts picks up the adventures of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) a few months after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Mentored by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Peter isn’t quite ready to be an Avenger, but he is eager to make his name. When former salvage worker Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) turns to a life of crime using alien tech recovered from the 2012 incident, Peter spots his chance to step up to the big leagues.
There was always a concern that this was going to be an Iron Man film that happened to feature Spider-Man. While Stark is usually present in some form, including armoured avatars or proxy everyman Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), the film surprisingly keeps many of these elements at arm’s length. Peter Parker as an “apprentice” is a perfect compromise between another radioactive origin story and the modern comic book version, one with a tricked out set of tech. A series of PSA videos featuring Captain America (Chris Evans), extolling the virtues of everything from exercise to patience, pokes fun at the universe as much as it embraces the world.
This comedic approach is exactly where Spidey needs to be right now. Rather than confining the laughs to the nerdy companion (Jacob Batalon), or the ubiquitous crime-fighting quips, the comedy is peppered all throughout the film. There’s the visual gag of Spider-Man running across a golf course, numerous one-liners, and a series of mundane ‘rescues’ set to The Ramones. Holland plays Parker/Spider-Man as an awkward adolescent, having to deal with the inherently funny problems of being a teen and a hero at the same time. In some ways, this makes him the ultimate on-screen version of Spidey.
Balancing out Holland’s earnestness is Keaton at his sinister best. Ordinary conversations turn deadly in the hands of the award-winning actor, one who isn’t a straight-up villain so much as a disgruntled contractor with a legitimate beef with the heroes of NYC. It’s a callback to some of the themes of Iron Man 2, in which Whiplash had a similar gripe with the Starks. Love interest Liz (Laura Harrier) is more perfunctory, even if her true significance becomes apparent later. We would also happily watch an entire film of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May.
Naturally, the conventions of the genre dictate some spectacular action sequences as well. While the highly publicised sequence on a ferry is somewhat reminiscent of Spider-Man 2‘s train set-piece, it brings a wow factor. An elevator rescue at the Washington Monument is inspired, fully utilising the strengths and weaknesses of the hero. The climactic showdown with the Vulture shows a hero going to great pains to avoid civilian casualties or structural damage to buildings. Other films: please take note.
Peter Parker’s suit may be set to its ‘training wheels,’ but SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING confidently lets its star shine. There are a few convenient plot twists that strain credulity, along with some heavy-handed hints at things to come, but all are easily forgiven in the face of this ridiculously fun outing. Spider-Man’s future in the MCU is now clear, and fans around the world can rest assured that he will be here to stay after this joyous homecoming.