Captain America and the Gang may have protected the Earth from alien invasions, but it’s Spiderman that has always been my favourite superhero. If you’re getting mugged in a dark alleyway by a hoodlum, it won’t be IronMan flying down from the sky to save you – it’s going to be Spidey swinging from his webs. I like how he looks out for the ‘little guys’ – his tagline is, after all, ‘Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman’ – a true working class hero who prowls the streets protecting its citizens while the ‘big boys’ are busy defending the universe.
Following Hollywood’s tradition of milking the shit out of a franchise, there’s a brand new Spiderman, and it tells the story of Peter Parker in his teenage years. I went in with no expectations. After all, the Amazing Spiderman 2 just showed 3 years ago, and here they were ‘rebooting’ it already.. how many times can a story be told?
Well… needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised because Spiderman: Homecoming is one of the better superhero movies to come out in a long time.
The film opens with Adrian Toomes and his salvaging crew cleaning up the scene after the Battle of New York (from the last Avengers movie), before they are unceremoniously laid off by Tony Stark’s US Department of Damage Control. Angry at being driven out of business, Toomes convinces his colleagues to keep the alien technology they found on site to create advanced weapons and sell them on the black market.
Fast forward eight years and 15-year-old Peter Parker is drafted into the Avengers by Tony Stark, in a sort of ‘internship’ programme. However, he is told that he isn’t ready to be an Avenger and resumes his classes in high school. Frustrated and eager to prove his worth, Peter sneaks out nightly to perform crime fighting duties. He becomes disinterested in studies, believing he is destined for greater things, and drops out of his school Decathlon team in order to have more time as Spiderman. Coming home from his daily rounds, he is accidentally discovered by his best friend Ned, revealing his identity.
One night while attempting to stop what he thought was a regular ATM robbery, Peter runs into goons using high weapon tech sold by Toomes, which destroys a sandwich store across the road. He attempts to call up his superior at the Stark Company, Happy, but is dismissed. Determined to show he is ready to be ‘treated like an adult’, Peter and Ned try to get to the bottom of the mystery. Interrupting a weapons deal with a local thug, Peter confronts two of Toome’s associates, culminating in a high speed chase in which he nearly drowns after Toomes in his Vulture suit drops him into a lake. He is saved by Stark, who warns him to stay out of trouble.
Of course, like any teenager, Peter does just the opposite…
Finally, a superhero movie that’s not just mindless explosions and special effects!
Spiderman: Homecoming follows a tried-and-tested plot of a young hero who discovers the meaning of maturity and destiny. Aside from being a superhero film about good vs evil, it also plays out like a good high school drama, as Peter takes on all the issues teens go through: bullying, crushing on girls, math quizzes, rejection and a good dose of angst. The film takes time to flesh out the characters and set up the scene for the final showdown.
I think one of the most endearing things about the Peter Parker character is that he’s a giant nerd and the underdog, so we can’t help but cheer for him. Actor Tom Holland is an exceptional Peter, capturing the essence of a headstrong, rebellious youth trying to find his way in life, to make a mark in the world. His on-screen chemistry with almost all the other actors are on point, creating very believable interactions. Speaking of actors, this is one of the most diverse Spiderman movies – just look at the Decathlon team!
Another great development is Toomes, aka the Vulture. While other super villains seem hell bent on world domination or revenge, the motivations behind Toomes’ actions are more relatable to ordinary audiences. If Peter Parker is a working class hero, then Toomes is a working class villain – driven to a corner by the higher-ups and authority, he resorts to a life of crime in order to provide for his family, and will not hesitate to kill in order to protect them.
Some might say that Spiderman: Homecoming has a straightforward, ‘simplistic’ plot, but it’s good-natured and pays tribute to the early days of the character – just a young man trying to do good in whatever way he can. It doesn’t try to be what it isn’t, or distill over 50 years of history into a single 2-hour + movie, and that, in my opinion, is what makes it tick.