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Spider-Man: Homecoming - Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

A THIRD new Spider-Man incarnation in 20 years didn’t necessarily suggest great things. But having finally found a Homecoming of its own amid Marvel’s ambitious superhero universe, this latest outing for one of the comic book world’s most prized assets is a pleasant surprise on many levels.

First and foremost, it’s fun. John Watts’ film carries an innocence and wide-eyed brashness befitting its central character’s coming-of-age journey.

But it’s also capable of surprising – a trait that has become increasingly rare in this somewhat predictable and hopelessly over-crowded genre. Some 16 films in and Marvel clearly still has a trick or two up its sleeve.

Skipping the expected origins format, Spider-Man: Homecoming jumps straight in, firstly by establishing a motive for the film’s main villain, Michael Keaton’s Vulture, and then picking up in the aftermath of Peter Parker’s role in Captain America: Civil War, as he excitedly re-watches footage of that superhero square up he has assembled on a mobile camera.

Desperate for more Avengers involvement, Parker (again played by Tom Holland) returns to New York and college but puts everything on hold as he waits, and waits (and waits) for that next call.

As frustration sets in, however, he stumbles upon a criminal enterprise being set up by The Vulture, which has links to the climactic events of Avengers Assemble. Yet while Parker views bringing The Vulture down as his best way to prove himself, he risks incurring the wrath of his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr).

And then there’s the everyday complications posed by Parker’s school life, including balancing a good education with superhero duties and realising his love for college hottie Liz (Laura Harrier).

Just as Peter Parker spends a lot of the movie balancing priorities, so too does director Watts. But while certain elements do get under-served (Keaton’s villain being one of them), he mostly gets that mix just right.

For a start, the emphasis on humour works in its favour, meaning this arrives like a breath of fresh air amid some of the more weighty superhero fare out there. But there’s also a fairly even divide between the coming-of-age high school stuff, where Parker gets to battle his inner nerd, as well as the more super-sized hero material.

It means Holland gets plenty of time to create someone who – as Downey Jr instructs at one point – is more than just a suit, coming across as fresh-faced, eager to a fault, naïve yet likeable at all times. You root for the kid as much as the icon.

Jacob Batalon also scores highly as Parker’s best friend, a similarly awkward teen who cannot believe his luck in befriending a superhero, as well as Harrier’s love interest. Indeed, Watts juggles the wide variety of supporting players in reasonably satisfying fashion throughout, affording plumb roles for some genuinely up-and-coming talent (including Donald Glover and Bokeem Woodbine as two more criminals and Zendaya as the kooky Michelle).

Spider-Man: Homecoming

He also keeps Downey Jr’s involvement to some nicely judged cameos (along with Captain America), meaning that early fears about how great a role Iron Man might have are without merit.

Where he does come up short, however, is in his portrayal of Keaton’s Vulture, brilliant whenever he is on-screen, but not quite afforded enough to do to create someone as memorably complex as Dr Ock in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May also gets very little to do beyond being the butt of some sexy jokes.

Of the set pieces, Watts does well to generate excitement from rescue scenarios more than superhero dust-ups, with a scene at the Washington Momument and another aboard a ferry exciting and fresh (as well as amusing where possible).

Another of the film’s minor disappointments, however, is that last act square up, which again becomes too effects heavy and way too familiar within the superhero genre. There is, at least, a little more emotional investment but Watts’ film enters yawn-inducing territory at this point, before emerging for some amusing post-battle character wrap-ups.

Overall, though, Watts – whose previous credits include the gloriously OTT Cop Car – has pulled off something of a surprise for sceptics and fans alike. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a lively romp of a superhero movie that delights more than it misfires.

Once again, Marvel has defied the odds to serve up another crowd-pleasing winner that also keeps its cinematic universe in ridiculously good health.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 13mins
UK Release Date: July 5, 2017