- Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)
Passing the baton from Avengers: Civil War, Spiderman: Homecoming delivers a handful of fun performances, brings out lots of humour and youthful energy, and rediscovers what power and responsibility mean in a more human, energetic reboot of the superhero story.
Peter Parker hugs (or does he?) Tony Stark goodbye, and like every millennial after a job interview, he’s awaiting the call that’ll get him right into the middle of the action. Following up endlessly and being rejected every time he picks up the phone, his excitement turns into frustration at the lack of serious missions that he should be getting. Instead, he’s going to his Queens high school, trying to deal with the feelings for his crush, and shrugging at the bullying from a colleague. He finally spots his own opportunity – when none of the grown-ups want to help him destroy the criminal that he has been watching, he decides to take the matter into his own hands. But being a superhero isn’t exactly a walk in the park. And although the famous Spiderman quote says, “with great power comes great responsibility” – the young man is yet to learn that on his own.
A delightful coming-of-age angle gets its kicks from presenting us an ode to youth until the very last minute. The film has somewhat of an internship theme – and if anything, it succeeds masterfully at this little analogy. The young man tries his hardest to impress the more experienced Iron Man, and he doesn’t fare very well, being constantly looked down upon. And it doesn’t help that the expectations from the teachers and schoolmates are high when it comes to a contest they’re participating in, and peer pressure feels heavy on his shoulders when he goes out to socialise. When he wonders out loud why he can’t just be himself in the party crowd, his best friend Ned exclaims, “But nobody wants that, Peter!”. It’s funny and stops you for a second thought too.
Although Peter is persistent, he doesn’t get what he wants at all, and puts a lot of work into dealing with criminals as a superhero freelancer after being told to be a “friendly neighbourhood Spiderman”. The mentor-student relationship between Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. is enjoyable to watch: while the older actor brings in his flagship sarcasm and a whole lot of charisma, his younger counterpart beams with energy, youthful spirit, and has a pocketful of issues related to growing up.
Tom Holland breathes new life into Spidey: he really owns that character transformation. The boy who wants to throw himself into the middle of the action, even if it might be an irresponsible choice that hurts those who care about him, grows up gradually throughout the film. He’s just a teen, with the buzz of hormones and rebellion in his head, caught up in all the big events he wants to be a part of.
Managing to be natural, far from archetypical teen lead, he’s got a great squad by his side, too. With Jacob Batalon as Ned, the guys are a supreme comedy pairing that shoots out funny moments like the main character throws the web fluid in a fight. Zendaya’s Liz, who is our main character’s crush, doesn’t appear that much at all. When she does, she makes herself memorable; be it prepping for the contest, getting ready for prom, or owning the moment in the final scenes. In the context of the film finale, when the film finishes, we can only wonder why she didn’t get just a tiny bit more of the screen time.
The film also bears a couple of fun cameos. Stan Lee is there, of course, but Donald Glover and Gwyneth Paltrow also show up to add some more giggles and turn the plot in new directions.
Michael Keaton is absolutely scene-stealing every time he appears. He was once a Batman, then a Birdman, and he isn’t lacking the killer charisma he’s got to become Vulture. He’s an antagonist with populism on his mouth to justify his own criminal actions, a badass spark in his eye and magnetism in every single word and gesture. The depth of his character, with the clearly drawn motivations, is compelling, and he executes it with a tremendous success.
Indeed, the film focuses on the human more than on the superhero suit he wears: the coming-of-age aspect evened out with a whole lot of humour. It doesn’t forget about the action scenes, however, striking a reasonable balance. From a battle with the thugs in a bank to the Washington tower scene and the final combat in the air, they deliver a reasonable kick that everyone was waiting for. This revived version of the film speaks of authority and duty by tying it to real life and a truly believable, immersive circumstances. It means favouring a thief chase down a street in Queens sometime rather than a huge fight every single minute. But this minimalism is welcome; the new Spiderman might as well be better at the power/responsibility talk by ditching the tiniest signs of pompousness.
Spiderman: Homecoming opens in the UK next Wednesday, the 5th of July 2017.