As the old adage goes, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Not quite ready to relinquish the powerful web of Marvel’s most recognisable hero, Sony are responsible enough to embrace everything Marvel’s Cinematic Universe can offer to make Spider-Man: Homecoming a hero that leans on its comrades as much as it stands tall when it needs to.
Weaving itself into the now rich tapestry of the MCU allows for some brilliantly original stitching. The Marvel Studios output, while clever, slots its instalments side-by-side. Apart from the odd cameo here and mention there, it’s really the culmination of Avengers or Civil War that the MCU entire coalesced. Sony are smart enough to take the, quite literal, Marvel Team-Up for all it’s worth and tie in moments from its history. As such, our story starts shortly after the finale of Avengers, where the devastation is amassed and we’re introduced to Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes. A blue-collar contractor employed by the city to clean up the twisted metal of the Chitauri defeat. Pleasingly, the webbing that binds Spider-Man: Homecoming to its more established partner in heroism often plays more like well-considered ideas than tedious ham-fisting. There’s a case full of arc reactors, an Ultron head and even the subtlest reference to the Howling Commandos you’ll see this side of Agents of SHIELD. It establishes Spider-Man as part of the world he only cameoed in previously. Even the introduction of Peter Parker set to the back drop of Captain America: Civil War, is a smart welcome of the over-excited teenager and still manages to set up the conflict that he needs to grow out of.
Much like the movie’s main theme, ol’ web-head is going to have to stand on his own two feet, and it’s here that Spider-Man: Homecoming really comes to life. After leaving the world of super heroes (and adults) Peter is dumped back into his life in queens and while it doesn’t waste much time before we see the misfortunes of our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, we do appreciate just how disappointing it is to be relegated from would-be Avenger to street-level do-gooder. Director, Jon Watts, is shrewd enough to not drag this out before shooting a good helping of webbed fun our way. Just in the first moments of Spidey suiting up, we see him showing off, mid-swing posing and somersaulting on command just to earn some status around the ‘hood. So, it’s all the more fun to see him when he pushes his luck too far. With all this fun being had, it’s a rude awakening when things go wrong despite Spider-Man’s best efforts. The underlining of a hero’s responsibility is clear to us watching Parker learn his heroic trade, but to Holland’s credit his enthusiasm is so infectious that it’s impossible to damn his ill-conceived actions.
In the busy jostling of the MCU, Spider-Man: Homecoming was the first in a long time that actually feels like a comic. There are obvious nods, like the clone saga costume and the now iconic rubble lifting moment, lifted from Ditko’s original panels (issue #33, true believers!), and while it doesn’t shy away from the more mature themes, there’s a lighter and breezy element that comes from embracing the source material and not overly laden with edgier concepts. Even the Staten Island boat set piece, before Peter learns his hardest lesson, is just the right mix of perilous and wish fulfilment. Watts is also smart enough to walk the web between homage and not being beholden. Vulture’s costume is inventively redesigned to be reminiscent of its namesake yet practical. Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May is kookier than previous incarnations, but tenderly maternal. We also have the obligatory knock-down-drag-out finale, but instead of a city/world threatening sky laser, Vulture’s just after the score of a lifetime. It may not be revolutionary, but it’s refreshingly neat.
If you had to play J Jonah Jameson and level some criticism at Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s that it feels like it’s in a rush to bundle everything in. While it doesn’t cut the narrative web it swings by, no sooner has a point been made or beat paid off that we move on to the next. Somehow the comedic punchlines survive the pace, but some of the more tender moments suffer as a result. That being said, when you can have this much fun swinging through the streets at speed, who cares if some detail is a little blurred?
4* – Spider-Man Some More