Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei
After a stellar cameo in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man gets his first solo movie with Homecoming, a surprisingly grounded story that focuses squarely on the lead character as he tries to reconcile his newfound powers with the fact that he’s clearly too young and inexperienced to become a full-fledged Avenger.
While there have been several popular big screen Spideys in recent years, Holland is perhaps the first one to truly capture real essence of the “high school” Peter Parker, with a believable innocence and geeky enthusiasm that, if his frequent social media videos are anything to go by, are deeply rooted in reality for the British actor.
I also loved the fact that director Jon Watts wisely opted not to re-tread old ground with yet another burning origin story, and while this is certainly the origin of the MCU Spidey’s journey as a superhero, the well-worn radioactive spider/Uncle Ben plot points are only broadly alluded to here.
The humour works well throughout, mainly as a result of Holland’s inherent likeability, but also due to his impressive chemistry with Jacob Batalon’s Ned. The pair feel like genuine high school friends, and while his inclusion goes against one of the comic book Spidey’s key character traits (i.e. protecting his identity at all costs to keep the ones he cares about safe for harm), the whole “guy in a chair” thing actually works rather well here.
Michael Keaton provides an impressively understated performance here as Adrian Toomes, quietly cementing his place in the upper echelon of MCU villains. That’s if you can even call “Vulture” a villain, as his actions throughout the course of the movie – however criminal they may be – are rooted in some thoroughly relatable motivations. Also, rather than chewing up the scenery (as he is sometimes prone to doing), Keaton keeps his performance on the down-low for the majority of the movie, only really cutting loose during one particularly chilling exchange with Peter near the end.
Downey Jr. provides the most tangible link to the wider MCU, serving as less of a father figure and more of a catalyst for Peter’s growing maturity as he tries desperately to impress the “boss” to secure his Avengers membership. From the promotional material it felt like Iron Man would end up overshadowing the lead character, but Watts keeps RDJ’s performances fairly limited, only showing up when the story requires it, and keeping the focus squarely on our friendly neighbourhood web-slinger.
On the negative side of things, and in a truly puzzling situation, the film boasts probably the worst CGI of any MCU movie so far, particularly during the web-slinging scenes which feel like they’ve been cribbed from a rather poor video game cut-scene. It’s a jarring contrast for what is otherwise a fairly grounded, character-based movie, and serves to completely remove a lot of the viewer’s investment in the story as soon as the overblown and obviously CGI sequences kick in.
At the end of the day, while it doesn’t do anything too ambitious and – in the words of a certain Mister Stark – stays “close to the ground” throughout, Homecoming provides a solid introduction to what is an intensely likeable big screen Spidey, falling firmly in the middle of the MCU pack as a result.
In the fallout of Infinity War, it’s likely that Holland is going to join Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther in leading the MCU into its “Phase Four”, and based on what I’ve seen here, it feels like the Marvel Studios juggernaut is going to be in safe hands.