The sixteenth, yes Sixteenth, film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and sees Tom Holland reprising his role as Spider-Man/Peter Parker from his brief appearance in Captain America Civil War. This film also stars Michael Keaton, Daniel Glover, Jon Favreau with Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei returning as Aunt May. The film sees Peter Parker following the events of Civil War as he tries to find a balance between his school life and trying to prove that he is worthy to become an Avenger.
The history of Spider-Man in films is a little complicated so let me try and explain. The rights to Spider-Man were sold to Sony who were responsible for the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man Trilogy. When Spider-Man 3 turned out to be a bit of a jumbled mess Sony decided to cancel any future films with Maguire as the wed-swinging superhero, and instead opted for a reboot The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield taking over as Spider-Man. That film only managed a sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 before future instalments were cancelled. Now during this time the Marvel Cinematic Universe was going from strength-to-strength and fans were disappointed that the web-head would not become a part of that shared universe or that Spider-Man wouldn’t become an Avenger (as he was in the comics). But then Sony and Marvel were able to work out a deal in which Spider-Man would be able to appear as part of the MCU without affecting any future Sony films or their Venom spin-off. Having been mentioned at the end of Ant-Man and made his appearance in Captain America Civil War as part of Team Stark, Spider-Man Homecoming is the stand alone film that shows us what Parker did following the events of Civil War.
The film opens with Adrian Toomes (played by Michael Keaton who once played Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman) as the manager of a salvage company that is working on the clean up after the Battle of New York, seen in the finale of Avengers Assemble. Unfortunately they are fired from the contract as all sensitive alien technology is going to be dealt with Tony Stark’s Department of Damage Control. Enraged at the prospect of being driven out of business Toomes decides to keep the technology they had salvaged up to that point and use it to develop highly advanced weaponry.
Cut to eight years later when we see Peter Parker’s video diary that leads up to, and includes some of the battle he participated in during Civil War. Afterwards Tony Stark thanks Peter for his help with fighting Captain America and allows him to keep the Spider-Man suit, telling him to keep below the radar and focus on helping the little people rather than trying to become an official Avenger. Stark’s Head of Security Harold “Happy” Hogan is to be Peter’s handler and then the two part company with Peter determined to prove himself worthy to become an Avenger.
Two months later Peter is still giving his daily reports to Happy’s answer machine, and is getting increasingly frustrated that he is unable to do anything more important. His hopes to prove himself to Stark comes when he interrupts an arms deal and is attacked by Toomes’ men who attempt to flee with Spider-Man on their heels. He is poised to stop them when he is grabbed by a flying figure who drops him in a river and almost leads to him drowning, but he is saved from his fate by Iron Man.
Despite Stark warning him from going after the flying figure, Peter is determined to prove what he can do, so ignores Stark and continuing investigating in the hopes of bringing the arms dealers to justice and becoming an Avenger.
This film has been getting some high praise and in a lot of ways I can see why, however, there are some factors that I wasn’t exactly thrilled about.
I have to say that I don’t think either Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield captured the two sides to Spider-Man’s character, Maguire was great as the nerdy Peter Parker but you couldn’t exactly imagine him donning a costume to fight crime, whereas Garfield had Spider-Man down but he was too cool to accurately play the nerdy Peter Parker. Tom Holland on the other hand does manage to suit both roles, he is suitably nerdy as Parker but also has some fun with Spider-Man. When web-swinging he doesn’t always get his swings right leading him to accidently latch on to a tree house and pull it from the tree as he slams into the ground or when he fires his webbing only to realise there is nothing he can swing from. We have never really seen a Spider-Man that wasn’t on top of his web-swinging so it was both refreshing and amusing to watch a Spider-Man that hadn’t got to grips with his trademark mode of transportation or his own powers. Plus there are a few truly great sequences when Spider-Man is forced to run to his destination because there is nothing tall enough for him to swing from.
The story of how he got his powers is summed up by a simple line “I was bitten by a spider”, that’s it, there is no further explanation, there is no lengthy flashback, it is simply, a spider bit me and I got powers. This works because we all know Spider-Man’s origin story, hell we’ve seen two versions of it from Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man so I was grateful that we didn’t need to see it again. Now whilst Peter obviously has superhuman strength his other key power, namely his “spider-sense”, doesn’t factor and isn’t even mentioned. There is no indication at any point that he possesses the ability to sense danger before it happens, the hairs don’t stand up on the back of his neck, we don’t get a music score that indicates something is wrong. Perhaps this version of Parker’s powers develop more slowly, so he will have his spider-sense in later instalments, but just doesn’t here. Still considering that his formidable strength is secondary to his ability to sense danger it seems a little odd that it wasn’t included, after all it would be like Batman without his detective skills.
Toomes aka the Vulture is a decent enough villain however his transition from salvage manager to international weapons dealer could have been smoother. After all when they lose the contract to clean up the alien technology Toomes basically just decides that developing weapons is the next logical step. The technology they salvaged could have been used to create any number of things, hell, it was obviously used to create the Vulture suit that Toomes uses. I just find it surprising that someone would just go, “Yep, let’s be international arms dealers” when they could have used the alien technology to create any number of other things aside from weapons. Plus when Toomes uses a weapon on one of his people and accidently disintegrates him he barely bats an eye. He’s just kind-of “Ooops, didn’t mean to do that” but it is not defining moment like he is now past the point of no return. Just as a side-note no one actually calls Toomes the Vulture but after they run out of the alien technology Toomes starts raiding various military convoys to steal more like a Vulture picking the scraps of a corpse…clever Homecoming, very clever
This stealing technology leads to a rather confusing moment when Peter also gets to the convoy and sees that Toomes has used four devices to create a door-way allowing someone to pass though solid objects. But here is my question: why does Peter jump into the create to fight Toomes when he could have just taken one of the devices, locked Toomes in the container, then call the authorities?? Surely that would have made far more sense than jumping in, trying to fight, then getting stuck in there himself.
Basically the Vulture is an arms dealer, he is not trying to conquer the world, and is only trying to provide a home for his wife and child. Everything he does is below the radar. He talks about the fact that if the Avengers realise what he is doing then they will stop him and is more irritated that Spider-Man has taken it upon himself to shut him down.
A lot of Peter’s choices in the film seem questionable, one of the key scenes in the trailer shows him trying to hold a ferry together after it is split in half. Now I assumed that the bad guy did that to distract him in order to escape, but no. The weapon malfunctions when Spider-Man snatches it from Toomes’ hand and then the ferry is split in half. So Peter inadvertently nearly causes a disaster, yes, I get they are trying to show that Peter is just a fifteen year old kid trying to help. But not only does he fail to stop Toomes, if Iron Man hadn’t put in a timely appearance, innocent people may have been killed.
The suit that Stark has given him also seems to be the reason he is Spider-Man. Like I said above apart from his superhuman strength, he has almost nothing that makes Spider-Man who he is. Peter invented his trademark web-shooters which I assumed were his own when he has the suit in Civil War but they aren’t. He has his own versions of them but Stark created a far more advanced version of those too, they have dozens of varieties of webbing that he can use. But Peter is supposed to be a genius that created these things on his own. I find it a bit annoying that anything and everything in the MCU seems to have been created by Tony Stark. Peter’s inability to understand everything his new suit can do provides some of the film’s humour but it also makes you wonder why Stark didn’t give him the instruction manual to read over before allowing him to don the suit to fight crime.
Robert Downey Jr. has become the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and he pops up a couple of times during the film. However, the best cameo is Chris Evans as Captain America, who doesn’t physically appear but stars in numerous educational videos that are shown at various times when Peter is in school.
Peter’s friend Ned discovers Peter’s secret identity and provides some of the comic relief as he tries to be Spider-Man’s back-up guy. He also wants Peter to share his identity with his classmates because it is really cool and will make them both hugely popular at school. It is through Ned’s excitement that some of Peter’s classmates nearly find out that he is Spider-Man. At this point there is no Daily Bugle, no Peter taking pictures of Spider-Man, and sadly no J. Jonah Jameson as Peter is still a kid in school at this point.
Spider-Man Homecoming is a very slow boil and is a deliberated small story. Spider-Man is trying to stop an arms dealer…that is it. No one is trying to take over the world, there is no portal in the sky, and Peter is trying to prove he can be an Avenger. Plus, it has to be said that it is somewhat predictable, in the trailer we see Stark taking his suit back after Peter almost gets innocent people, as well as himself, killed during the ferry incident. Peter almost gives up crime fighting but decides to put on his old costume and stop Toomes without the suit Stark gave him. Now let me ask this: what do you think happens when Peter stops Toomes?? Do you think that he makes his own suit, realising that he is better off using his own instincts rather than the gadget packed suit Stark made and continues the fight alone, or do you think Stark returns the super-advanced suit to him which he resumes wearing by the closing credits??
Toomes is a villain that has the smarts to stay out of the field of view of the Avengers but in a massive coincidence he just happens…wait…
…happens to be the father of Peter’s love interest Liz. I mean talk about convenient, of all the people in New York, of all the schools, of all the potential girls that Peter could fall for, Liz just happens to be Adrian Toomes’ daughter. It is so contrived and annoying that the film makers couldn’t come up with anything a little more intelligent. Plus as he is driving them to their Homecoming Dance Liz talks about Peter’s frequent absences, the fact he knows Spider-Man, plus that Spider-Man happened to be in Washington DC at the same time as Peter and the school’s Decathlon team were visiting to save Liz and co from an accident in the Washington Monument…Toomes is able to work out that Peter is Spider-Man. Why do villains always have the learn heroes’ secret identities in order to raise the stakes for the film’s climax. I don’t really see that it adds anything because even knowing that Toomes is Liz’s father that doesn’t stop Peter from trying to stop him. They don’t try and talk each other out of taking the oaths they are both currently travelling down, Toomes simply threatens Peter and tells him not to come after him again as a means of thanking him for saving Liz’s life but warns him that next time he will kill him.
All in all Spider-Man Homecoming is a bit of a mixed bag, Tom Holland is a great Spider-Man and Peter Parker who is struggling to get full grips with his new powers but is also trying to decide where he fits in the world. He thinks that being an Avenger would be the coolest thing in the world but fails to understand the consequences of his actions. But the film spends a lot of time not going anywhere fast, by keeping the story below the radar, Homecoming is in danger of falling below the radar. However, in truth I personally don’t think it does. In the MCU there are plenty of heroes that could come racing to Spider-Man’s aid which is obviously why the plot has such a tight focus.
It is nice to see Spider-Man in the MCU and I look forward to seeing him being a part of the Infinity Wars films, however, this is not the strongest film that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had, nor is it the weakest. I’d be interested to see Peter in sequels, potentially when he is a little older and more mature, and when he knows exactly what he and his suit can really do. Homecoming gets a Thumbs Up, yes it is not the strongest Thumbs Up I have ever given but this film is a decent enough edition to the MCU.
7/10 – Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man/Peter Parker to date, however, the story itself is not great and Toomes being Liz’s father is so contrived it is damn near insulting. However, this is by no means the worst film the MCU has produced but it is not one of the best either, although it has possibly the best post-credits scene of any Marvel film.