In 2002, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi weaved a web of movies for Tobey Maguire’s fresh-faced nerd Peter Parker turned superhero Spider-Man. Spawning one of the best comic book sequels of all time with Spider-Man 2, and a disastrous third outing (with the best crotch based dancing) in Spider-Man 3, we’d all needed a regeneration for the creepy-crawly hero. Flash forward to 2012 where Andrew Garfield assumed the mantle of Spidey, under the direction of the best named director Marc Webb, in the Amazing Spider-Man series. Tackling the origin story again, by the time the sequel landed it was as awkward and uncomfortable as Gwen Stacey’s landing (too soon?)
So when the news broke that Peter Parker and his latex wearing antics would yet again hit the big screen, we were a bit dismayed that we’d have to sit through another Uncle Ben death and spider biting escapade. However, seeing the already established Spider-Man in Civil War, we were stoked for the upcoming outing. Could Tom Holland’s rambunctious energies save the teen hero?
Apparently he can because Spider-Man: Homecoming is amazing.
Set immediately after Captain America: Civil War, Homecoming sees Parker wishing to scale the heights of hero-dom under the guidance of Tony Stark. But Iron Man has other ideas and wishes to see Parker trained before he tackles bigger battles. Frustrated, Parker comes across a fiendish ploy in New York city and undercovers a bigger plot. Does he have the nerve to bring this latest villain down?
Gone is the “spider-sense” tingles and the biologically made webbing, sending Parker back to his comic book origins. In their place, there is now an adolescent charm, a frivolous and hilarious atmosphere, and superb chemistry between Holland, his teammates, and the audience. Director Jon Watts tackles the enormous task of updating Spider-Man with furor, establishing a new, somewhat baby-faced hero who you are immediately invested in. The morose blubbering of previous incarnations have been side-lined for a doe-eyed and naive character wishing to reach the grandeur heights of the Avengers when he is being treated like a kid. His foolish antics submerge him in a lot of trouble but tackling the character from a teenager angle allows this fresh beat to take hold and also solidifies the tone in some sort of realism. Because, of course, a 15 year old kid (who looks and acts 15,) wishes to be treated more like an adult and is irritated when that doesn’t happen.
When Tom Holland was cast, most people were bewildered because of how youthful he looks. We’re so used to seeing these characters played by 30 year olds that when a similarly aged actor is cast, it’s alarming. Luckily, Holland is perfectly placed in the latex here. His wide-eyed excitement against his immaturity in crime-fighting is balanced impeccably. Swinging into action (and I believe doing most of his stunts,) Holland’s Parker is an unforgettable whirlwind of fun. It’s not simply amusing elements that Holland does well; in more tender or serious scenes, the emotion conveyed is palpable. Holland has proved repeatedly that he has a promising career. With Spider-Man, he has shown that he is a tour-de-force.
In fact, acting wise there is not one role that is wasted here. From Zendaya to Hannibal Burress, each character plays a part well. Kudos to the younger cast here who establish this amusing High School full of jocks, popular characters, and loveable weirdos. Yet typecast stereotypes they are not and there are enough layers to allow you to warm to every teen involved including Parker’s bestie Ned, providing a supply of laugh-out loud comedy. Michael Keaton, donning the wings as a literal Birdman, is always compelling to watch and does villainy extremely well. Though Marvel will always have a problem in villains, every since they peaked with Loki (but more on date in a later date.)
The approach for the latest Marvel outings seems to be working because they are tackling this films from a different genre – just with superheroes. Ant-Man was a heist film, Winter Soldier was a spy film, and Homecoming is a teen romp. Only Watts is able to build upon this John Hughes atmosphere (which he does lovingly play homage too) by splicing in enough action to turn Pretty in Pink into Pretty Damn Amazing. Not an ounce of zest is wasted, the film flows with a smart pace and a spirit simply not done in the previous outings.
Animated, lively, and completely entertaining, THIS is the Spider-Man web we’ve all been yearning to get tangled in.