Spiderman, Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3, Amazing Spiderman, Amazing Spiderman 2 and now Spiderman Homecoming. With five other films before it, Spiderman: Homecoming always had plenty to look up to. However, this is no typical Spiderman film, this is the first solo Marvel Cinematic Universe outing with the web-crawler, and Marvel deliver a story which lovingly returns the web-head back to his High School roots, delivering a smaller-scale story which focuses on the key elements that have made Spiderman one of the world’s most loved comic book heroes.
This is a coming-of-age story, focusing on Tom Holland’s interpretation of the character, an interpretation which is the most comic accurate interpretation to date. Comic book lovers are in an era of visual and casting delights – with DC and Marvel providing fantastic visual interpretations of characters, with actors who were born to play the role. Take Charlie Cox and Mike Colter from Netflix with their interpretations of Daredevil and Luke Cage. Or take Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot. Like these names, Tom Holland is a perfect casting choice for a younger Peter Parker. He nails the look, he draws the emotion of the viewer, and he does a wonderful job of playing a wisecracking, acrobatic Spiderman – something missing from previous incarnations.
Referring to casting, the choice of Jacob Batalon as Peter Parker’s friend and comic-relief sidekick, Ned, was fantastic. Rather than just serving as a comedic element, he adds character development to the main protagonist – acting as the foil to the superhuman side of Peter Parker. Michael Keaton, as the villainous Vulture, also performs admirably despite limited screen time. Unlike other villains in the Marvel Cinema pantheon, Vulture was a villain with an understandable goal and backstory. His motivations are clearly explained across the whole film, and this element of his character ties together into an interesting plot twist – he may be a villain, but he is shown to be a villain out of necessity rather than purely evil desire.
Plot wise, Homecoming is one of the smaller-focused films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is precisely what a solo Spiderman film should aim for. Where films such as Doctor Strange explore an entire multiverse, Homecoming narrows in on the Boroughs of New York and making many jokes about the capabilities of web-slinging in city areas without any skyscrapers. This narrowed focus bridges the gap between the larger scale Avengers films and the Netflix shows in terms of the storytelling – filling a gap that was unwittingly missing in the overall scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This is also a plot which focuses on exploring Spiderman and his desire to please the father-figure of Tony Stark by uncovering a weapon’s smuggling plot led by the Vulture. It is a plot which ties together all elements that make Spiderman unique: grounding him in a world which makes no sense to him and which he muddles his way through, while holding firm to the idea that “with great power comes great responsibility.” This is simply, squarely, the world of the teenager – and this is the appeal of the figure of Spiderman, that he begins as a teenager in a world of gods and monsters, and must make sense of this bizarre reality.
Visually, Homecoming is a colourful treat with its costumes, explosions and acrobatics plucked from the palette of a comic book. While the costumes all feature modern screen updates, there are little hints of previous history from film, television and comics themselves: from the Marvel Studios opening visual appearing to the Spiderman theme music, to the feathery collar on Keaton’s jacket mimicking the classic design of the Vulture’s costume. There is even one key scene which appears to be almost taken directly from the classic comicbook moments which inspired it.
While Spiderman: Homecoming is certainly no masterpiece, and not the greatest film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is a smaller scale entry that was needed – both as a form of entertainment and to fill in a gap in Marvel’s narrative threads. It is by far, however, the best Spiderman film to date – because it truly captures the essence of the character, as well as providing an entertaining and captivating story. If you enjoy superhero films, and have a particular affinity with Spiderman or Marvel – this is the spectacular Spiderman film you have been waiting for.