Spider-Man: Homecoming movie review - Swings and misses, but still a leap forward
It seems like every time the Spider-Man franchise is rebooted, Spidey gets younger. This time is no different, with Spidey now 14 years old, dealing with adolescent awkwardness, girl trouble, and juggling his school and superhero duties. And while his young age does drag the movie in a somewhat kiddish direction at times, the movie still has enough action in the tank to win over most fans of superhero movies.
Tom Holland, the latest actor to don the iconic red-and-blue getup, is no slouch, building on the teasing performance he gave in the last Avengers movie. However, the issues that inevitably anchor a character of 14 ultimately mean that this Spider-Man is probably a few years shy of being the superhero that everyone loves.
Unlike most reboots, Homecoming has no patience for origin stories. That, the movie assumes correctly, is done to death and ingrained in everyone's understanding of the character. Instead, what it chooses to do is to weave the Spiderman franchise into the larger Avengers lore, laying groundwork for future Marvel Universe movies.
In opting for this change of direction, the movie also ditches most of the more common Spider-Man fare, for an altogether new, modern universe in sync with the Avengers timeline. As a result, we're treated to a slightly more obscure villain -- Vulture (Michael Keaton).
Vulture is a man in a flying mech suit, made from the alien tech he and his crew steal and weaponise. Spidey finds himself hot on the trail of Vulture, even as his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Down Jr.) tries to convince him to stay out of the way. Armed with youthful naivete and a need to do good, Parker ignores Stark and ends up on a collision course with Vulture.
The plot of the movie, and indeed it's progression, is pretty standard superhero movie fare. However, as a child, Peter's non-superhero issues are ultimately boring and uninteresting. His awkwardness around the girl he likes, his constant need to prove himself, being embarrassed at a party, and worrying about peer acceptance, are all fairly flat themes as far as conflict in superhero movies goes. In one instance of this, he even goes through a mini makeover, replete with peppy music, to get ready for a date. This and other similarly immature detours from the action, will ultimately bore older viewers.
This is not to say that a young character needs necessarily also be a boring one. I'm fact, a young Peter Parker could be a fascinating character. Coping with the grief of not only having no parents, but losing a beloved father figure to crime, could create a character matured realistically through damage, and thus a grittier Spider-Man. The version we are presented with, though, may ultimately help the franchise win over newer, younger fans.
Great action, hit and miss humour
The appeal of Spider-Man stems from two things -- action and wit. While we've always loved to see Spidey swing into action, he would probably have never been as popular if it wasn't for his snarky ways. No matter how intense the action, or how grave the situation, Spider-Man’s unflappable funnybone, his one-liners, are what truly drives home his appeal.
This isn't wholly absent from Holland's Spidey. But we already knew that would be the case thanks to his Avengers cameo. What we were hoping for, though, is that Homecoming would build on this. The truth is that the movie forgets about this aspect to Spider-Man's character repeatedly through the movie. Sure, there are moments where he is funny, but not nearly often or consistently enough. These rare instances are glimpse into the comedic potential of Spidey, a potential that will be easier to realise as the character gets older.
Despite this, the action in the movie is more than passable. The various fight scenes, whether with Vulture, his minions, or just regular bad guys, are very well done. This despite Vulture being fairly one-dimensional as far as supervillains go. In some cases, though, the action does feel a little old, with striking similarities to events in the older Spider-Man movies.
Should you see it?
We don't see why not. There's precious little else on offer in the theatres right now, and this one isn't bad by most accounts. Besides, this seems like the way forward for both the Spiderman and Avengers franchise, so if you're keen on following either franchise, you'll have to watch this one.
At roughly two-and-a-half-hours long, the movie would have been better with some of it's filler removed, but even so it is entertaining enough to warrant a view, and packs enough visual action to warrant a trip to the big screen.