Spidey gets a breath of fresh air in fun reboot

by Martin McNamara
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AFTER an unwarranted franchise reset with Andrew Garfield’s regrettable turn as one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes, no one was asking for another Spider-Man movie.
Thank God we got one. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Cert 12A, 133 mins) Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts, returns the characters to his fundamentals, giving us the friendliest neighbour Spider-Man we’ve seen on the screen thus far, and a much-needed return to super-hero basics for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Most refreshingly, Homecoming comes unburdened with the now entirely unnecessary Spider-Man origin story.
This is a clever and genuinely admirable move on the screenwriters’ part; after two franchise resets, everyone and their uncle knows how Spidey got his powers and why he does the things he does (FYI: radioactive spider bite, murdered uncle, compulsion to help others).
After some brief back-story to the movie’s villain, The Vulture (Michael Keaton), we’re returned to the air-strip battle of Captain America: Civil War, in which we first met Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.
This time around, the action is captured straight from Spidey’s phone, and comes complete with excited post-battle commentary from their hero in a manner befitting any teenage YouTube enthusiast.
When the narrative starts proper, Peter is just getting used to his new life as a superhero, operating under the guise of an internship at Iron Man’s “Stark Enterprises” to cover his frequent disappearances from family and friends.
Peter navigates relationships at home with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and at school with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his crush, Liz (Laura Harrier).
While Peter spends his extra-curricular time fighting street thugs, eventually moving up to bigger villains with the Vulture, Spider-Man’s real battles are those of the average teenager: struggling with authority figures, a need to grow up too fast, and the heart-aches of high-school romance.
Spider-Man: Homecoming gets its priorities right – we don’t need another movie about superheroes battling world-threatening forces. This is a genuine breath of fresh air.
Indeed, the spirited tone and vibrant palette of Homecoming is the perfect foil to DC’s overly grey, ultra-grim ‘Expanded Universe’, and Spidey finds the time to poke fun at that world’s ever-brooding caped crusader.
However, Marvel’s stable of heroes get its fair share of mockery too – none more so than Captain America, who frequently appears in educational classroom videos at Peter’s school, and who Hannibal Buress’s jaded gym teacher refers to as a “war criminal” in one of the film’s most subtly hilarious throwaway gags.
Without a world to save, there’s plenty of space for Downey Jr’s Iron Man to operate at his most loveably pig-headed.
After all the brooding and feuding of Civil War, where Iron Man undoubtedly pulled the narrative short straw, this is a welcome return to form for the character.
Michael Keaton turns in the MCU’s best bad-guy performance since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. The Vulture is a villain not fuelled by a hunger for power or world domination, but by disdain for the state and a need to provide for his family, justifying his life of crime in a manner similar to Tony Soprano.
However, it’s Holland that shines here, delivering on all the promise of his brief appearance in Civil War. Spider-Man: Homecoming demonstrates, with an expertise crafted over 16 MCU films (mistakes made and lessons learned), that you can update, modernise or outright alter a superhero’s story, just as long as you stay true to the heart of the character (protesting fan-boys be damned).
Not since Marvel’s first go-round at Captain America has a hero been so wonderfully in swing with the spirit of the source material.
It may suffer from a lack of tension and some clumsy action set-pieces, but Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best version of the character yet. Maybe not the hero we asked for, but in these trying times, he’s certainly the hero we need.

Verdict: 8/10

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