Alright, let’s get it out of the way: Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best live-action Spider-Man film there is. It’s funny, it’s smart, it’s age appropriate, it’s well shot, it’s well acted, and it’s damn fun to watch.
It’s hard not to compare Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to the two who have gone before. But where Tobey Maguire was too smarmy to believably get Kirsten Dunst, and Andrew Garfield was too cool to have ever been picked on, Holland’s impulsive charm brings your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man a boyish ambition worthy of the comics. It definitely helps that this Peter Parker is an actual teenager; he’s a bored boy genius with a crush on a senior girl and a head full of dreams about being an Avenger, just like any 15 year old. Holland captures both the physical awkwardness of a teenager and the sleek stylings of a superhero. His chemistry with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is the kind of friendship teen-drama writers would eat spiders to be able to write. In yet another contrast to the previous films, Parker’s romances are important the character but not central to the plot, leaving room for the lead to actually demonstrate self-motivated personal growth rather than a ‘doing it for the girl’ cliche. Iron Man plays a nice distant father figure, a caricature that the film isn’t afraid to be self-aware about and playful with, thank god.
On the flipside however, Michael Keaton’s Vulture isn’t given much to work with. Aside from the simple joy of seeing Birdman play a bird man, Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is a disgruntled disaster clean-up guy, pushed out of legitimate work by Tony Stark’s government-sanctioned clean up crews. So he turns to weapons dealing alien tech in the name of providing for his family in this topsy-turvy super-powered world. But its rude to judge a superhero film on its villains, especially one like Spider-Man, who has always been a analogy for internal conflicts and personal growth.
There’s not a huge amount to say about Jon Watts’ direction – the film is dynamic, and the audience can sink into it without much thought. The scenes of high school and friendships are stronger than the superhero ones, perhaps because the sassy dialogue makes more traditional sense in the high school setting. There are some fantastic large-scale shots of destruction and some rapid edit action sequences that build both the scale and the sense of fun (provided you’re not distracted by uninspired CGI). Overall the pacing is a little uneven, as to be expected as Parker swings from Academic Decathlon to crime fighting to crushing on that senior girl to trying to impress upon Iron Man that he’s ready for more. It helps that Spider-Man: Homecoming doesn’t faff about with its hero’s origin story (either the spider bite or the death of Uncle Ben) – even without seeing the other movies, no audience needs another 90 minute introduction into Parker’s life.
It is, also, a relief to see a MCU film where the plot isn’t centred around alien invasions, giant magic diamonds or petty spats that lead to world wars. The stakes in Spider-Man: Homecoming are personal, local – more in line with say Jessica Jones than Captain America: Civil War. Ultimately, Spider-Man’s story still centres on that difficult, adult thing: responsibility.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas from today.