Do we really need another Spider-Man film? Probably not, and no one would blame moviegoers for approaching yet another big screen iteration of the character with a healthy dose of caution and worn-out trepidation. After all, Spider-Man: Homecoming is Spidey’s sixth outing in 15 years and kick-starts the arachnid’s third film series in as many years; it also follows the mopey reboot helmed by the aptly named Mark Webb, whose movies blandly regurgitated all the depleted storylines with an admittedly excellent cast, but precious little else.
However, Spider-Man’s Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in last year’s Captain America: Civil War promised much, and sure enough, under the studio’s sturdy tutelage, director Jon Watts has delivered the web-slinger’s most comic-faithful and flat-out enjoyable adventure since Sam Raimi’s 2004 slam-dunk Spiderman II. The latest revival achieves this by mercifully avoiding the exhausted origin story and instead opting for a teen movie featuring a superhero, as opposed to a superhero movie featuring a teenager. While far from faultless and frequently succumbing to Marvel’s knowingly smug tone, it strikes the right balance between big action set pieces worthy of a fresh Avengers recruit and more scaled-down moments, which pay obvious homage to John Hughes comedies.
Peter Parker is played with youthful pizzazz by a spot-on Tom Holland, who, buoyed by a hugely charismatic supporting cast, coolly toes the line between bumbling and exuberant, a high-schooler who freezes up when face-to-face with the object of his affections, but swaggeringly ditches Spanish tests to risk life and limb in head-to-head confrontations with villain-du-jour The Vulture. The latter is brought to glorious life by Michael Keaton, who continues his fowl streak after his career-resuscitating turn in Birdman. It seems that Marvel is finally taking the time to craft more complex and compelling antagonists; this raises the stakes and leads to a genuinely suspenseful car-based showdown, one of the tensest moments in recent superhero films.
Putting aside Homecoming’s readiness to stick to the customary final act template, which includes a heaping dose of CGI and some epilepsy-inducing editing, it’s hard not to admire the way the wall-crawler has been effortlessly knitted into the fabric of the existing MCU. This is all the more impressive knowing that Watts, whose only directorial credit is 2015’s indie road thriller Cop Car, has harnessed the input of a staggering six writers to create a back-to-basics adventure with a clear, unified tone. It’s this coherence and verve that ensures not only a much-needed regild to counteract Marvel’s recent streak of lacklustre releases – the disappointing Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 – but also the reanimation of a franchise that had become synonymous with seasonal eye-rolls. Glad you came crawling back, Mr. Parker.
Spider-Man: Homecoming | Directed by Jon Watts (US, 2017) with Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Robert Downey Jr. Starts July 13.
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