Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Review
Spider-Man: Homecoming is directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car) and stars Tom Holland (The Impossible, Captain America: Civil War), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes), Zendaya (Shake It Up!) and Laura Harrier. "Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges". Third time's the charm? With the guidance of Marvel, can Sony finally perfect Spider-Man?
I want to make it very clear, I was enjoying Spider-Man: Homecoming quite a lot up until I realised it was coming to an end very abruptly and anticlimactically. Therefore, after a second viewing, my major issues with the film could be cancelled out. A younger version of me, who loved Spider-Man, would have absolutely adored Homecoming - I think this is the best Spidey film in years and I think it perfectly captures both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. I really did enjoy it but was just shocked at how small-scale it was despite it seeming to be building to something much larger. See Homecoming but just be aware that this is unlike any Spider-Man film before it.
I'm going to begin with my big negative so I can be positive for the rest of the review and end on a good note, because this film deserves it. I struggled to move at the same pace as Homecoming - I thought things were moving pretty quickly towards the beginning but then I realised not much time had passed and that a clear narrative was yet to evolve. The villain, Vulture, is built up perfectly and I was really excited to see him in a big, finale battle and for his masterplan to be revealed. However, the issue was, Vulture had no big masterplan - his biggest was stealing the Avengers plane which contained a few Avengers equipment that he could go on to sell. Naively, I thought that the reveal of this was just stage 1 in the film's build up to an explosive finale and I actually mistook the finale action sequence for a middle action sequence - it was to the standard of one that's usually in the middle of the film that's not as exciting or memorable as the opening or closing action sequence. I think what made it worse is that I had the mindset that much more was to come throughout it so when it concluded and Peter 'defeated' Vulture and the scenes that wrap up stories started to come along, I was shocked, disappointed and really wanted more. Homecoming acted like there was some big mystery around the character of Vulture and what he was doing but really it was actually all to do with just selling the equipment all along. I think because of my initial shock after first viewing, going in the second time - I will be able to follow the films pace much easier and maybe appreciate the final battle for what it is. I rarely have issues with a film's third act but Homecoming's was definitely flawed and I think the film could have been written much better to make the narrative slightly more clear, coherent and well paced.
I'm now going to play Devil's advocate and explain what I liked about this anticlimax of an ending. It's possibly the realest superhero film I have seen. If superheroes were to exist in our world - they wouldn't only be needed for world threatening fights, they could be put to good use on smaller but still important crimes. Spider-Man is the right hero for those kinds of jobs - he's good at being the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man but he can also stop problems that have higher stakes. I would say Spider-Man: Homecoming is quite similar to Ant-Man with how small-scoped it is and I think that is somewhat refreshing.
Other than the much smaller than expected end battle, Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't much different to the other superhero flicks that have come before it. I think it's going to please fans of the genre - new and old. The film begins on a very strong note and I loved seeing Peter Parker in his day-to-day life. I also liked how the film had quite a timely quality to it - the world represented in this film perfectly represents the real world. Mainly here, I'm talking about a diverse neighbourhood. I also liked how Peter Parker 'vlogs' his experience which I thought was actually in-character and believable. The action sequences were also always fun and entertaining. However, because of the marketing of the film - I already knew the first half of the plot just from the trailer so it was irritating having to wait over an hour to get to stuff that was new and exciting.
One character I had really high hopes for was Vulture/Adrian Toomes. Marvel do not have a great history with villains - they are usually one-dimensional, easy to defeat and set up a masterplan that is way too complex. With Vulture, I actually thought the film did a good job of letting us get to know the character as Adrian Toomes rather than his villainous alter-ego. I thought Vulture's business made perfect sense and it was actually believable to think that someone would be making money off of the after-effects of superhero fights. It was also cool seeing his collection and what kind of weapons he had been able to create/salvage. There was a scene in the film between Adrian and Peter that was absolutely terrific - I did not see it coming whatsoever that Adrian was Liz's dad. When he opens the door, I was shocked, stunned and speechless; a genius twist. The scene just got better and better when Adrian was driving the couple to Homecoming and he was putting everything together through his conversations with Peter and Liz and realising that Peter was Spider-Man. The scene was full of tension and genuine fear and I was very worried for Peter - an unexpected dark and fearful moment that was terrifically executed; the acting, the lighting, the shots - it all helped to create a memorable scene that was definitely a highlight. Michael Keaton also did a brilliant job with his performance - I would class Vulture as the perfect villain if he wasn't given such an anticlimactic masterplan. Especially the scene in the car on the way to homecoming, Keaton really helped sell it and was just really convincing. Vulture did have the typical villain monologue and when he explained himself, I could empathise with what he was saying and I think some credit should definitely go to Keaton's performance for that. Keaton was not an eccentric and cheesy villain, like most of the film, he was a real villain (showing his family helped to emphasise this) and had a really subtle and nuanced performance.
Then we have Tom Holland who is extremely well cast as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. The style of Homecoming is very teen movie-esque so it was nice to see Holland bring in qualities of Marty McFly from Back to the Future to his performance, it worked well. Obviously without the impressive visual effects, this really plays like an 80s flick and I think that was a smart move. I criticised Spider-Man as being quite annoying in Civil War due to his immaturity but after spending a whole film with the character, it makes sense and putting Peter Parker in the context of school really does explain why the character is the way he is. As Spider-Man, Peter Parker does have a lot to learn and does think he can go straight to the destination without going on the journey. As soon as Parker demanded to have the limited mode switched off, it was clear things were not going to go down well. Once his suit is revoked, I think it's quite telling and quite poetic really that Parker is still able to save the day with the bare minimum - it proves to himself and everybody else that the suit isn't what defines him. I think it was also nice when Parker refuses Avengers membership at the end - it shows that he wants to remain humble and enjoy his younger years of life. Holland is very good in the role - he has comedic and dramatic ability, he sells the action sequences and he's just very likeable. It was nice to see an age-appropriate actor in the role and I think it's the best it has ever worked. Peter Parker benefited from having a small-scoped story to tell as it gave some nice character moments and helped the audience get to know him as an actual person rather than a superficial hero.
When the casting was announced for Homecoming, it was exciting that there seemed to be many actors in roles that were left a mystery. Unfortunately, the mystery is that many of these actors are underused and don't have much to do here but quite a few still manage to make an impression. I'll begin with Robert Downey Jr. who many worry will have a negative impact on this film rather than a positive one - to reassure everyone, this isn't Iron Man 3.5 and you've seen most of Tony Stark's scenes in the trailers. I think the character works well and doesn't feel shoe-horned in. Robert Downey Jr. is as good as ever in his career-defining role. Zendaya made headlines when it was revealed she was cast in Homecoming but I have to say, her character was pointless and was only really there for some funny one-liners, she added nothing to the plot...until the end when it is revealed she is MJ. Zendaya is good in the role and does manage to make an impression with her limited screen time. Donald Glover's Aaron really is a nonstarter as a character, he's only there as a device to create a mystery about what Adrian is doing. Glover is good but is wasted with this minuscule role. Jacob Batalon does a nice job as Ned but he wasn't the scene stealer I was expecting, Chris Evans was though with his Captain America instruction videos! Laura Harrier was good as Liz and Marisa Tomei brought some well-needed life and energy to the character of Aunt May. Finally, it's only brief, but I was so happy to see Gwyneth Paltrow return as Pepper Potts - her return was surprising and was a nice touch to the ending scenes of the film.
Spider-Man: Homecoming as a refreshing style to it for the superhero genre but narratively, it doesn't bring much new to the table. Tom Holland does a terrific job in the title role and is supported by a brilliant Michael Keaton who plays the anticlimactic villain, Vulture. The supposed mystery is set up well but what's surprising is that there are no big mysteries or masterplans with Vulture and the biggest and genuinely shocking twist happens on the way to Homecoming. The CGI is a little cartoon-like at times but can be easily forgiven but the film is fun and bright. The rest of the cast are criminally underused which includes Downey Jr., thankfully. If the end battle wasn't so abrupt and disappointing, Homecoming would have been a practically perfect film but maybe after a second viewing with changed expectations, it will be? Spider-Man: Homecoming brings some needed life and soul to the character that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.