'Spider-Man: Homecoming' - Review - Chris at the Pictures

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' - Review

★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

“Not another Spider-Man reboot!” I hear you moan, as the third iteration of the wall-crawler in a decade (now played by young British star, Tom Holland) gains his first lone outing. I totally sympathise. The apprehension that the character has been wrung dry by Sony/Marvel in such a short time is understandable, but surprisingly baseless here. If anything, the previous versions have been a blessing: audiences are now so familiar with Peter Parker’s origins that Marvel Studios, having wrapped the character in the warm embrace of their Cinematic Universe (hence the dual-interpretation of Homecoming), take the chance to cover new ground.

We catch up with Spidey fresh from his tussle with the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, but now facing possibly a greater challenge: sophomore year of high school. Fawning over fellow whizz-kid, Liz (Laura Harrier) and feeling rejected by Tony Stark (a short appearance by Robert Downey Jr.), our teen in tights finds it hard enough balancing heroism with hormones. The arrival of Michael Keaton’s Vulture (a disgruntled hoarder of the tech left behind after various super-sized scuffles) serves only to tear Peter’s allegiances between his worried Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), his schoolfriends and his promise to Stark yet further.

Homecoming drops the rather operatic tone of the Raimi movies (and whatever mode of address the Marc Webb duo was going for), adopting something more homogenous within the wider MCU (read: breezy, quippy, plenty of explosions). Those labelling it a John Hughes-style teen movie are probably still arguing that The Winter Soldier was a Cold War thriller. Nevertheless, the smaller stakes and tighter focus allow this to stand out, if briefly. There’s a smidgeon too much banging and clattering towards the end (what else is new?), but that’s redeemed by a pursuit of character development and moral lessons over empty spectacle.

We’re not talking the usual city-levelling humdrum so blindingly avoided by Civil War, but something comprehensible, comedic and (most importantly) personal. Holland’s Spider-Man is one more likely to knock over a mailbox than a multi-storey, who apologises for the slightest calamity and is genuinely doing what he does to make people’s lives better. Stark’s plea for Peter to remain a “friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man” is one we sympathise with not because we want him to lie low, but because we’d hate for him to get hurt. My point of comparison for Holland as the web-head is neither Tobey Maguire’s dorky bumbling, nor Andrew Garfield’s misjudged angst, but Gal Gadot’s endearing sincerity as Wonder Woman.

The remaining cast are an amiably diverse bunch (considering the population density and cultural mix of contemporary New York, a sea of white is neither progressive nor factually accurate), including a great turn from Jacob Batalon as Peter’s roommate, Ned, and a short but winning role for Zendaya as snarky classmate Michelle. Keaton – batting aside the countless Birdman jokes with enormous CG wing-blades – is gamely gravelly.

Michael Giacchino’s score isn’t much to write home about, a hugely entertaining revamp of Paul Webster and Robert Harris’ Spider-Man cartoon theme being the rare exception. Once he’s done with War for the Planet of the Apes, can we collectively ask Hollywood to give him a break? I’m a huge fan of his music, but with 11 scores under his belt in less than three years, I worry they’re overworking him. His compositions are the only element of Homecoming that raise the law of diminishing returns, lacking the sheer epic quality of Elfman or the late James Horner’s emotional wallop.

Much like Deadpool for 20th Century Fox, this solo jaunt amounts to little more than a breath-freshener for the MCU. It’s a much-needed step back from overwhelming ensemble casts and endless digital vistas, delivering a story that revels in simplicity, morality and comedy. Now, if you’ll join me for a musical finale, to the tune of the original Spider-Man theme. Altogether, now…

Does whatever a soft reboot should
Tells a tale, small of scale
Lots of laughs, lots of heart
Enjoy! It's a whole bunch o' fuuuuun