12 July 2017

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man : Homecoming
Directed by Jon Watts
Music by Michael Giacchino
UK release date: July 7th 2017

*I do not own any of these images*

This review contains minor spoilers!

I thought I'd start off this review with a bit more of a personal touch - because the story of Spider-Man has been retold so many times in our generation, I think it's important to discuss the issues & concerns this raises. (& I'm a huge fan, Spider-Man is my brother's favourite superhero & I've always had a soft spot for Peter Parker) Most of you like myself probably grew up watching Tobey Maguire in the 2000's as the iconic superhero Peter Parker, and then in my teens saw a darker reboot with Andrew Garfield doning the red & blue suit. Soon after the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, it emerged that Marvel Studios (who own the rights to the Iron Man, Thor, Captain America films) bought the rights off Sony. Marvel Studios wasted no time in incorporating Peter Parker into the 'Avengers World', by introducing him in Captain America: Civil War. I for one was over the moon with this news - the Sony reboot with Andrew Garfield sadly didn't take off, and the idea of re-introducing Peter Parker within the very well established Marvel Cinematic Universe along with Tony Stark & Steve Rogers seemed too good to be true. And yet, in the first trailer for CA:CW, we see Spider Man swing in on The Avengers & disarm Captain America of his shield. I was literally on cloud nine at this point, and I believe most of the internet was freaking-out-happy-crying along with me.

So, with the origin of Spider-Man so widely known, how did Marvel Studios approach Peter Parker with a captivating plot, that wouldn't be a simple re-telling of franchises preceding it? They showed their intentions from the off-set: we were going to witness Peter Parker eventually become an Avenger. They introduced him in Civil War, every Spider-Man : Homecoming poster featured the Avengers tower in the back-ground, and of course Tony Stark/Iron Man was heavily featured in the trailer & posters. This telling of Spider-Man is very different from what we've seen before.

Official plot:

Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine -- distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

Homecoming is not an origin story : they briefly mention it "You were bitten by a spider?", but we do not see Peter discovering his powers, we don't see the death of Uncle Ben. Peter is already familiar with his abilities. He skills aren't yet polished, for instance damaging roofs when landing, inflicting a fair share of material collateral damage in some cases - which only makes it more believable. Unlike the direction of the previous Spidey films, there is no 'revenge' plot here: Peter is not trying to find out who murdered his uncle. Peter is still learning certain aspects of being a 'hero': for instance, he struggles with interrogating the bad guys. This film also showcases Spider-Man's weaknesses - without skyscrapers, his power is limited. Overall though, we very much see Spider-Man as the friendly-neighborhood-superhero. Saving cats from a fire, giving directions, stopping robberies.

Homecoming is about Peter wanting to go on another Avengers-type mission after CA:CW. Instead, Tony Stark has told him to remain the friendly neighborhood spider-man, whilst reporting back to Happy. Peter, believing he is ready to join the Avengers & eager for action, patiently waits for a call from Tony Stark. However, when he crosses paths with a bad-guy selling deadly weapons created from remnants of the aliens that invaded in Avengers 1 ('The Incident'), Peter is put to the test. After trying to warn Tony of the dangers, he rebels against Tony & takes things into his own hands.

  • Tony Stark's influence in Homecoming

One of my concerns was that Tony Stark was going to have too big of a part in the film. The publicity played on this, probably to show that this Spider-Man was involved with the Avengers. Tony does play an important part in the film, but it isn't overpowering. He doesn't appear as much as the posters & trailers insinuated. However, Tony did create Peter's Spider-Man suit - something that I was concerned about, as if this would somehow discredit the height of Peter's intelligence. Peter is fully capable of making his own tech without the help of an Avenger billionaire. With that being said, it made sense that Peter wouldn't have access to the materials required for his suit. It's also shown in the film that Peter doesn't need or like all the advanced tech that the suit offers.
Moreover, Peter's intelligence is illustrated in other ways through-out the film: he is skilled in languages (we know that he understands and speaks Spanish) and he is smart enough to partly dismantle his new suit, indicating a good understanding of electrical engineering. (good enough to fool Tony Stark - which is quite something).
 The relationship between Tony & Peter is quite touching: Tony is like Peter's mentor, a kind of father figure - with a scene in which Tony is trying to compliment Peter (something we have never witnessed Tony do) and Peter's admiration for Tony. It's a captivating dynamic, new to the MCU world in any case: the teacher and the student, Iron Man and Spider-Man. Although Peter absolutely looks up to both Iron Man and Tony Stark, there is a scene in which he is clearly intimidated by him, a moment that puts their relationship into perspective.

  • Peter Parker/Spider-Man as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
The plot of the film is based somewhat on the consequences of Avengers 1 - after the invasion of New York, the left-over extraterrestrial matter is being manufactured as deadly weaponry which is then being sold in the streets of New York. Spider-Man stumbles across this weaponry whilst attempting to stop a robbery, thus launching the plot of the film. There are several Avengers Easter Eggs throughout: direct references of the Avengers new weapons such as Thor's belt & Cap's new shield prototype (very interesting indeed). Once again however, there was no talk what-so-ever of the Defenders (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage & Iron Fist who each have their own show on Netflix) leaving us to ponder how exactly will these Defenders be integrated in Infinity War? With Peter living in New York alongside Matt Murdock & the others, how long can the Netflix shows & films go without a least a quick glance or shot of the other? With them all tackling crime in the same city, you'd expect them to cross paths occasionally, especially since Peter Parker is fighting street-crime too.

  • Main Arcs
What are the main points of the film? The main arcs are absolutely character driven. The events in the film flowed so seamlessly, a feat achieved by good character-writing: their beliefs, choices, actions, and the consequences of said actions. A good, clean structure.
Peter makes a conscious choice to spend as much time as possible fighting crime, even when it interferes with his social plans. There is a love-interest sub-plot, however it's not the central in the film which is refreshing. A 15 year old boy with superpowers and a desire to join a group of Earth's mightiest heroes probably isn't going to spend all his time thinking about a girl. Peter wanting to become an Avenger is the backbone of the film, but first he needs to learn how to work on his own (and that being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man isn't such a bad thing after-all).

Now, a quick note about MCU villains. The Vulture's journey through-out this film definitely took me by surprise, especially that ending. The choice to make the baddie not-as-bad-as-he-could-have-been is a twist we all needed, especially for a franchise with so many other titles. It makes the story once more more believable. Sure, he was a bad guy, but not cringey bad, for lack of a better word. From the way they introduced the Vulture suit to how the character acted in a position of power: it all felt fresh.
My only hope is that they keep the whole "capturing the loved one" plot out of this franchise: they've already successfully gone in another direction regarding the other elements of the Spider-Man story, they can come up with more interesting ways of depicting the jeopardized safety of Peter's loved ones.

  • A youthful approach
Tom Holland is the youngest actor to ever play Peter Parker on screen, at the age of 19 during filming. Homecoming, although appealing to a younger audience, does not fall into the traps of teen high-school films. There are no cringey moments what-so-ever. So far we have successfully avoided a scene in which Peter tries to impress a potential love interest with his alter-ego. We've seen it so many times before - and Peter is only 15. A new focus on platonic relationships and non-serious romantic interactions is what this franchise needs - and hopefully they're moving that direction. (I mean 15, come on.)
Although Homecoming is a very fun & enjoyable film, there are many heart-felt dramatic moments, where you realize just how young Peter is & how scary some of the situations he ends up in are. Tom Holland was faultless as Peter. Truly effortless. I do think that eventually we will see more of his spidey alter-ego, but I was so impressed with his performance and couldn't be happier.

  • A diverse cast
I remember when the Cast was released for this film and being so happy. We have multiple female characters and POC, two things which are very new to the MCU. With Black Panther coming out next year (another epic cast) it's so wonderful to see Marvel finally headed towards a more realistic representation of society, especially for a film marketed towards all ages.

  • Less drama, more story-telling
What made this film so enjoyable for me was the overall 'light' nature of it. Whenever Marvel introduces a new character, I worry we're going to get the over-the-top-world-is-at-stake-people-dying final plot. It makes sense for big films like the Avengers, but sometimes you've got to just calm down. The basic plot (with a good unexpected twist) was simple and just right for this kind of film. Nothing over-dramatic, no huge explosions that rattled the entire city (because that can get tiresome let's be honest). 
This more realistic approach allowed the film to focus on the art of story-telling and character development, rather than it being all about saving the entire world. Yes, Peter still finds himself in very serious, dangerous situations, but we aren't subjected to anything over-the-top. 
We get to see Peter at his best, at his worst - we see him learn from his mistakes, we see him desperately call out for help when he gets utterly overwhelmed. We see his weaknesses and we see just how inexperienced he is - and furthermore, how his actions bring him so close to death.
Peter Parker is a kid who until now hadn't grasped the dangers this line of work entails, and this journey he takes throughout Homecoming perfectly establishes not only the innocent side of Peter's character, but also a world with Avengers through the eyes of a 15 year old boy.

Homecoming introduces Peter Parker to the Avengers world - yet reassures fans that he will remain for now, your friendly-neighborhood-spider-man.
In a nutshell: surprisingly refreshing, vibrant, energetic, and fun. In a good way. & of course, another chapter to the epic story that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where to next?


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