You’d be hard pressed to find anything memorable from this year’s Power Rangers reboot but one line in particular stood out. Shortly after receiving his powers, blue ranger, Billy Cranston asks, “Are we more like Iron Man or Spider-Man?” Well, after seeing Homecoming, which features the two superheroes in question, sorry to disappoint you William but you are neither. Not even close.
After a brief cameo in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man get’s his full solo debut under the big red Marvel banner, complete with a revival of the 1960’s theme music. Failure of Andrew Garfield’s version of the character to meet expectations sent Sony (wall)crawling to Kevin Feige and co. begging them to turn their most important property into a cash-cow again and in return Spider-Man would be allowed to play in the Avengers sandbox. Civil War seemed to prove this was a shrewd decision and Homecoming only reinforces it by topping off a stand-out summer for superhero movies.
Spider-Man sounds like a girl
Thankfully Marvel decided to skip the whole origin story. At this point Uncle Ben has died almost as many times as Bruce Wayne’s parents. But Homecoming is a reboot in every other sense. This is not the Amazing or Spectacular Spider-Man, experienced crime-fighter and saviour of New York. He’s just a fifteen year old, whose voice hasn’t even cracked yet, bouncing off the walls, quite literally, and forgetting how to speak coherently whenever he’s within the vicinity of his high-school crush. He occasionally falls flat on his face after a mistimed jump and wrecks tree-houses while he swings through a neighbourhood in Queens.
Peter Parker is very much still learning the ropes but thwarting evildoers as best he can in the meantime with the hope that he can impress Tony Stark and become a full member of the Avengers; not just Tony’s ace up the sleeve when he’s sparring with his buddies. It’s all well and good stopping a petty thief and returning an old lady’s purse but when faced with a seasoned criminal, questions are raised over Peter’s readiness for the big leagues.
As I mentioned, Spider-Man is joined by the hero who has arguably usurped him as Marvel’s flagship character while he’s been contracted to Sony – Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. My cousin and I joked that Spider-Man: Homecoming is effectively Iron Man 7 if you count his three solo outings, both Avengers movies and Civil War as mere showcases for Tony Stark. In this instance though, Tony has very little screen-time. His bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) even has a bigger role. No, Tony Stark’s influence is felt whenever Peter dons what is essentially an Iron Man suit with a slightly different colour scheme. It has a built in pleasant-sounding A.I. – a rather amusing one actually – which controls everything from advanced tracking to the type of projectiles Peter fires from his web-shooters. The only thing missing is thrusters in his boots. Personally, I don’t want Spider-Man to be an Iron Man clone, you already have Rhodey for that.
In Homecoming, Spider-Man is up against a foe making his debut in live action. Adrian Toomes, the Vulture, has always seemed like a second-rate villain to me with whom Spidey has never had too much difficulty. The equivalent of, say, the Mad Hatter to Batman. But a combination of a fantastical high-tech flying suit and a superbly sinister performance from Michael Keaton elevate the character, making him a worthy opponent for the fledgling Spider-Man.
Rounding out the cast
Phillipino-American Jacob Batalon, plays Peter Parker’s rotund best friend Ned. Now if you follow Marvel comics you might be aware of another Spider-Man, Miles Morales. Miles is a black-hispanic teenager that has become quite popular among fans, so much so that he was brought over from the “Ultimate” line of comics and incorporated in the long running “616” universe when the former was discontinued. Miles’ best friend is a chubby teen, also of Asian descent (although Korean-American) named Ganke. To me it seems like the Homecoming writers shamelessly stole a key character from Miles’ backstory and plopped him beside Peter, presumably because Harry Osborne has been done to death at this point. What’s worse is that the character is kind of wasted because Ned is not even the funny, scene-stealing best friend. In fact, that honour goes to Michelle, played by Zendaya, who somehow, with about five lines of dialogue, manages to steal the whole movie.
Donald Glover, plays Aaron Davis, otherwise known as the Prowler. He shows up for an instant looking like he stepped straight off the set of FX’s hit series Atlanta (I highly recommend it by the way) but has one of the funnier exchanges of the movie with Spider-Man. He could have an important role to play down the line if Miles Morales is ever introduced.
Marisa Tomei returns as Aunt May who seems to be getting younger with each reboot. Laura Harrier and Tony Revolori play Liz Allan and Flash Thompson, regulars in any Spider-Man story, and form part of a racially diverse supporting cast of characters. Look out for one or two other well-known Spidey villains as well.
Where are the chills?
There are good action sequences and fun web-slinging choreography throughout the film. Close-range battles between Spider-Man and the Vulture are quite difficult to decipher because of the breakneck-paced movement of Spider-Man coupled with the awkward manoeuvring of Vulture’s giant wings. What’s more, they always take place in the dead of night! A second viewing will likely give a better appreciation for those scenes. However, I came away feeling the movie was missing those really epic superhero moments. The absence of a stirring score could be partially to blame for that. Even the ‘ferry scene’ that is front and centre of the trailers doesn’t quite live up to the hype.
What Homecoming lacks in goosebump-inducing heroics though it makes up for in a humourous script chock full of deadpan remarks and sarcastic quips which is right up my alley. One could argue the comedy aspect of the film is more enjoyable than the blockbuster action set-pieces.
Four for four so far
Spider-Man: Homecoming rounds off a quite stellar summer for comic-book movies following in the footsteps of Logan (I know it wasn’t really summer but I’m still counting it), Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Wonder Woman. A stark contrast to 2016’s mediocre showing with Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and X-Men Apocalypse leaving moviegoers unimpressed for the most part. Let’s hope Thor Ragnarok and Justice League continue 2017’s positive trend.
The only real disappointment with this reboot however doesn’t have anything to do with Homecoming itself. It’s actually that Sony decided to push forward with their Venom movie, starring Tom Hardy, which won’t be set in the MCU. We’re therefore unlikely to see this version of Spider-Man fight one of his most popular villains. You would’ve thought a showdown between the Tom H’s would be marketing gold but oh well.
General audiences won’t be too fussed about that missed opportunity but they’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing Spider-Man join up with the Avengers to take on Thanos in next years Avengers: Infinity War.
Spider-Man Homecoming is sure to appeal to younger teenage audiences but those who’ve been around since the Tobey Maguire days, like yours truly, will also find it entertaining. Rating: 7.5/10
Be sure to stay to the very end for an after credit scene that is actually worth it this time.