Sunday 16 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Yes it's another reboot of Spider-Man. But this time he's a wannabe Avenger, Marvel creating a different take on an origin story as the titular teen finds his power but without the spider bite - literally and figuratively.

After the events of Captain America: Civil War, 15 year old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is taken back home to New York and performs his superhero duties under the guise of "the Stark internship". Mainly, that involves helping old ladies with directions or apprehending bike thieves. He is, simply, a bored teen struggling to live up to his identity and desperate to impress Tony Stark (Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr) once more. Parents gone, Peter's daddy issues are instead directed towards Stark as his surrogate father. And while Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is his legal guardian, Karen his "suit lady" plays an equally motherly role.

Homecoming is a superhero film as teen fantasy, Peter balancing his secret life with schoolwork, competing in the academic decathlon team, escaping detention and, of course, impressing his crush enough to invite her to the homecoming dance. All that while rebelling against his surrogate father and discovering numerous powers within the suit he's been given. Even then he struggles to control them: he clumsily chases after villains with pubescent comical effect. His geeky best mate Ned (Jacob Batalon) is the only person he shares his power with, Ned keen to live up to the "man in the chair" side-kick character and living vicariously through Peter - just as we do.

It's a film of vibrant, youthful charm that's a mile away from the "with great power comes great responsibility" theme of the earlier films. The tone is far from serious and while this does make it all feel shallow, it's typical of Marvel's cinematic style that fits with Spider-Man far more than their other characters. He's a playful hero, wisecracking as he incapacitates his enemies to ensure that tongue is firmly in cheek throughout the enjoyable action sequences. The boyish and charming Holland succeeds at this comedy with aplomb.

"I'm nothing without the suit," Parker eventually pleads to Stark. And that's disappointingly true. Rather than discovering physical powers, he unlocks abilities in his suit. This ultimately undermines the character, tying him to Stark and his money rather than relying on himself. That is, until the predictable cheesy hero climax.

And then there's the bad guy. Initially underdeveloped, Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes / Vulture is just a bitter man who lost his job, stumbled across some alien tech left over from a previous film and miraculously utilises it to create a flying mech suit (his casting a nod to Birdman?) in a somehow secret underground base. It's one of many unbelievable moments in a film that asks us to suspend our disbelief too many times.

Then it all gets political. In the final face-off between Spidey and Vulture, he spouts a speech about revolting against those at the top with money, his aim to fight against the establishment and show them who's boss like some cackling Trumpian villain. Maybe, though, it's Stark who's playing the role of Trump: a businessman with too much money and too much power.

Either way, they're both ultimately thwarted by the youth: Peter Parker. Homecoming might be a typical Marvel film and a childish take on the notorious superhero, but like Spider-Man himself the film evolves with surprising maturity.


Watch: Spider-Man: Homecoming is out now.