Your friendly neighbourhood web-slinger is given an energised, youthful rebirth in Spider-Man: Homecoming, albeit one which falls short of entering Marvel’s top tier pantheon.
Up until Tom Holland’s debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man’s big-screen stature was caught in its own web of rushed franchise building and diminishing returns. After Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 self-imploded the franchise, Andrew Garfield and director Marc Webb were left picking up the pieces across two films which failed to spark fresh enthusiasm for Peter Parker.
Luckily, Spider-Man: Homecoming jolts our familiarity by rolling back the clock to high school. Following an excellent home video sequence which offers a different perspective on Spidey’s role in Civil War, we’re thrown into Peter Parker’s regular humdrum of girl-chasing and street-slinging as he yearns for another call from Tony Stark to live out his hero fantasy.
Elsewhere, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes aka Vulture is dealing weapons constructed from alien technology found in the New York wreckage from the first Avengers movie. As his undercover dealings collide with Spidey’s personal crime-busting circle, the film becomes a small-town chase as Parker strives to prove himself worthy of Avengers status.
The film works best when it’s focussed on the smaller picture. This isn’t the Spider-Man we’ve seen soaring between New York skyscrapers, but one who’s running through backstreets, bundling over garden fences and trying to tackle crime in-between house parties. It’s a great change of pace, with Tom Holland playing the role with all the charms of an endearing, overexcited puppy; being given advanced web-slinging, shooting and bombing abilities to make any kid squeal.
Parker’s school pals are also similarly hilarious, if tragically underserved in screen-time. His best friend particularly, played by Jacob Batalon, gets rapid-fire zingers in the vein of Michael Pena’s excellent turn in Ant-Man. These new faces, like the zippy oddball Liz, bring refreshing youthful sparks to Marvel’s table, with smaller touches peppering their high school life creating some of the standout moments you wouldn’t expect.
This fresh approach however is slightly dampened by the lingering presence of Marvel old-timers. Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Jon Favreau’s Happy crash the party a little too often, while attempts to crowbar in other Spider-Man villains like Shocker feel unnecessary and all-too reminiscent of the studio’s worst habits on the big screen.
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The set-pieces too, while consistently thrilling, feel straight-forward following the imaginative visuals in Doctor Strange and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2. While the boat-splits and Washington monument ascents may not be as memorable as Spider-Man 2’s train sequence, they’re thrusted along with excellent inter-play between Holland and Keaton, who’s easily the best Marvel villain since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
Spider-Man: Homecoming therefore brings fresh life to the web-slinger in a breezy, incredibly fun flick which is only marred by its connections to Marvel’s wider plan. It might fall somewhere in the middle of the studio’s overall best works, but the occasional flash of brilliance leaves hope another (inevitable) entry will focus its attention just a little closer to home.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is released in UK cinemas on July 7, 2017.