Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming Is Right At Home In The MCU

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I'm a film critic. I enjoy going to the cinema so much that my goal is to try for an average of once a week. If I like what I’ve seen a lot, there’s a chance I’ll go and see it again. I cover all genres, including but not limited to: action, romance, horror, animated, comedy. You may not agree with everything I write, but everything I do write is strictly my own opinion. If you don’t agree with something I’ve said, that’s fine, as a lot of people have their own ideas of films, and not every film is going to be enjoyable to every single person. But if any of my reviews sparks a conversation or a discussion, then I’ve done an alright job. And if you want to then see said film, then I’ve done an even better job. If you’re interested anymore than this, then here is where you can find a complete list of every film that I’ve reviewed to date: https://ollieauthorofxma.wordpress.com

This was the third Spider-Man we were getting over the course of fifteen years. The original trilogy, from 2002-2007, was great in its own right. It broke a bunch of records, made tonnes of money, and if you overlooked the wooden and at times painful acting from Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, it was hugely enjoyable. Then in 2012 we got a reboot of the character, just five years after the original trilogy ended, and a sequel two years after that, that was meant to act as a backdoor pilot into a Sinister Six cinematic universe. But The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t that universally well liked (I enjoyed it for what it was, although I’m part of a very small percentage of those who did), and after Sony got hacked, they inevitably scrapped the project and made a deal with Marvel whereby they co-shared the rights to the character, still produced any Spider-Man movies, but Marvel was allowed to have one of their flagship characters in the MCU. After all these years, Spider-Man was finally coming home.

After having a cameo in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) was getting his own movie. Marvel had scrapped the origin story, and so this picks up after the events of Civil War, with Peter Parker just being a friendly neighbour Spider-Man and trying (and failing) to get in touch with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), instead being put through to Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who just sees him as a kid and not worth the time. This may sound a bit harsh, but Happy has his own problems to deal with, as he is moving everything of Tony’s to a new Avengers facility upstate, yet things keep getting stolen. Unbeknownst to Happy, the man behind all this is Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton), who is perhaps one of Marvel’s most grounded ever antagonists. In the past we have had a plethora of different villains, all of whom have sought to take over the world or beat the protagonist in some shape or form. All Adrian desires is to make ends meet and provide for his family. This is something that I feel most people would empathise with.

I say ‘most people’, because on the second time I saw this film, my girlfriend and I got rather distracted by a woman who seemed to think that whatever was on her phone was far more important than the movie that she had paid to see. Now I’ve refrained from discussing my experiences in the cinema whilst watching the movie in question that I’m reviewing for quite some time, but I do feel that the moviegoing experience is part of what makes the film so magical. This annoyed me. This was a 9:30pm showing on a Friday, and this woman didn’t seem to care one iota about the film. She and her husband had two kids, one of whom was blatantly too young and was more enamoured with jumping about in the aisle, unchecked. Eventually, the entire family left halfway through the third act battle. Not only were they clearly not Marvel fans, but they didn’t seem to respect the notion of cinema etiquette. Anyway, large digression about my grievance aside, the antagonist of this movie (not the woman on her phone) was one of Marvel’s better villains, I found.

The reason Adrian was such a good antagonist was because of how realistic scriptwriters  (deep breath) Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts (who also directed the movie), Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers crafted Adrian, as well as the performance that Keaton delivered when he took on the role. Instead of wanting to kill everyone and rule the world, Toomes had a personal vendetta against Stark, because Stark took away his livelihood after the Battle of New York post The Avengers. It didn’t take much work to tie Spider-Man into the MCU, but – aside from the still-confusing timeline – they did a rather good job, so that it felt organic and natural. The scriptwriters also integrated the film into the MCU in such a way that it birthed the film’s antagonist. His motivations and subsequent actions – while nonetheless villainous in some regards – at least made sense. What is also logical about Toomes is the very fact that he’s so small-scale: at no point do you think that this is someone who should go up against the likes of Captain America, or even Stark himself. He attracts Spider-Man’s attention, and Spider-Man leaps at the opportunity to save the day.

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I want to talk about Spider-Man for a bit – after all, this is his film. Holland does a great job of balancing the duel roles of the character, capitalising on his performance in Civil War and taking it to new heights. If you were at all worried that he would crumble under the pressure, then have no worries, because that is not at all the case. This version of Spider-Man is also very true to the comics: he is a teenager in high school, trying to navigate the twists and turns of everyday life while making sure to hide his identity from everyone else, which includes his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon). Because he is just a teenager, he’s not going to get everything right, and yet it’s quite frankly remarkable how many times he messes up a situation that he is trying to help out, to the point where there are a couple of occasions where you think it would have been better had he just called the police and had them come and sort it out. He also (minor spoiler) accidentally does reveal his identity to his best friend, but that turns into a good thing, as Ned is one of those people who is incapable of keeping their mouth shut, so he has to struggle not to tell anyone else about Peter’s alter-ego.

If there was one other thing that this film needed to convince casual moviegoers that Spider-Man: Homecoming was now part of the MCU it was to have a pre-established character show up in some capacity. On this occasion they decided to go with the eponymous Iron Man, and he was in the trailers and TV spots and promotional material so much that there was a slight fear that he was to have more than just a cameo, and potentially overtake Spider-Man in his own movie. Thankfully, that was not the case, and Iron Man was in the film for perhaps less than ten minutes in total, so it really was just a glorified cameo in the hopes of bumping up the movie’s total monetary grosses. When Iron Man did show up, it was usually at the eleventh hour, and if you’d not seen all the trailers there is one particular scene where it’s actually a surprise, given what comes before the scene in question. It works well, and the fact that Spider-Man can kind of-sort of get himself out of his own messes shows that he doesn’t really need to rely on Iron Man.

Spider-Man: Homecoming also balances humour alongside the inherent seriousness of what’s at stake. I don’t mean Peter cracks jokes as he’s constantly attempting to be the friendly neighbour Spider-Man, but this particular version of the character is a lot more laid back and easygoing than the other two. He injects a certain levity into the proceedings that enables the movie to be a feel-good kind of film while simultaneously realising what is at stake. For example when Peter has to leave a party in the suburbs because he has seen some suspicious activity and wants to go and investigate, he is forced to run across long fields because there are no buildings for him to swing from, thus making his plight all the more desperate. It is funny because of how real it is presented, yet there is a level of urgency surrounding the moment as well. And much like his mentor Tony Stark, he does manage to get in a quip or two while he is fighting. This shows that the scriptwriters stayed true to the character by not letting him take himself too seriously, and it perfectly encapsulates Spider-Man and his naturally seamless integration into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

There is one big twist in the film that I didn’t see coming. I remember seeing an article online before I first saw the film with my best friend, and there was a spoiler warning. Usually I don’t mind so much unless it’s something huge such as Avengers: Infinity War, or Game of Thrones, but on this occasion I was glad I didn’t read on, as the twist became even more shocking. It’s doubtful that people haven’t seen this movie, but if you’re yet to catch up (2017 was the first year that there were three MCU films, and let’s not even begin to count all the other Marvel-owned TV shows), I don’t want to give anything away. The climactic battle was artfully done, too, and felt raw, powerful, and gut-wrenching, as you weren’t entirely sure what the final outcome was going to be. This did make the film better, and overall it was extremely enjoyable. Even the last few moments had you laughing out loud. Spider-Man: Homecoming was perhaps a film that people didn’t want to see because they thought they had had too much Spider-Man over the years, but this particular entry really showed everyone that it was worth it, and that Spider-Man is here to stay.

 

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Oliver Ledingham-Smith

I'm a film critic. I enjoy going to the cinema so much that my goal is to try for an average of once a week. If I like what I’ve seen a lot, there’s a chance I’ll go and see it again. I cover all genres, including but not limited to: action, romance, horror, animated, comedy. You may not agree with everything I write, but everything I do write is strictly my own opinion. If you don’t agree with something I’ve said, that’s fine, as a lot of people have their own ideas of films, and not every film is going to be enjoyable to every single person. But if any of my reviews sparks a conversation or a discussion, then I’ve done an alright job. And if you want to then see said film, then I’ve done an even better job. If you’re interested anymore than this, then here is where you can find a complete list of every film that I’ve reviewed to date: https://ollieauthorofxma.wordpress.com

Review: Spider-Man: Homec…

by Oliver Ledingham-Smith time to read: 6 min
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