I’ve always felt that Andrew Garfield got a bit of a rough deal when it came to his time as Spider-Man. He is now widely considered the worst version of the character to appear on screen but it’s hardly his fault. Now, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man and thought Garfield did a really good job with the character of Peter Parker. Yes, he wasn’t the same geeky, isolated young man that we’re used to but we’re living in a world where geek is cool. Garfield gave Peter some sass and it could have worked really well for him because Spider-Man has always been the sassy one. The films didn’t work because Garfield was bad but because he wasn’t given the right material. Sony fucked up the reboot in order to get it out in time. I think the things would have been very different if the actor had been given more of a chance and there had been more thought in the whole thing. Plus, there’s a lot of weird nostalgia surrounding Toby Magurire’s time as the character that I don’t really get. He’s not that good. It’s just that he was the first major big screen version of the character. It just boggles my mind that so much of the stuff I read before I saw Tom Holland’s first solo outing as the web-slinger was focused on how great Maguire was and how shit Garfield was. Let’s be honest, we could do better than both of the attempts Sony made and his brief time in Civil War showed that maybe Holland had what it took.
First off, I have to say it is super refreshing that the third reboot of Spider-Man in 15 years doesn’t feel the need to remind us of how the superhero came into being. We all get it by now: radioactive spider bite, superpowers, move into heroics. Yes, there is a brief reference to it but it is so underplayed that it doesn’t matter. Instead, the main action picks up shortly after the evens of Captain America: Civil War as Peter Parker is eagerly awaiting his next call to assemble. Instead, he is left dealing with petty street crime and helping old ladies carry their shopping. Safe to say, the young man is bored. Until he stumbles upon a black market that is selling weapons made out of salvaged alien technology. Run by the mysterious Vulture (Michael Keaton) who literally, thanks to his mechanical wings, swoops in and steals the technology from under the government’s nose.
Spidey, keen to prove to Tony Stark that he can handle the big stuff, starts investigating the Vulture’s gang but constantly finds himself out of his depth. Especially as he’s also trying to make his way through highschool unscathed and get noticed by school hottie, Liz (Laura Harrier). As well as being influenced by the MCU in general, director Jon Watts clearly takes a lot from the coming-of-age films of people like John Hughes. There are countless on-screen references to high-school comedies and there is one particular Ferris Bueller joke that is totally on point. This is a Peter Parker who really is living in two worlds and trying to balance the two. He is an awkward but intelligent young man who worries about girls and grades just as much as he worries about stopping bad guys.
Despite only being on screen for a few minutes in Civil War, Tom Holland had already made a massive impressive on fans of the MCU before Homecoming came along thanks to his portrayal of Peter Parker. It is the best on screen version of the teenager that we’ve ever seen. Holland’s Parker feels the most realistically young version that we’ve ever seen and has been updated for 2017 teenagers. He is techno-savvy but awkward in a way that doesn’t come across as annoying. He reacts to getting superpowers the way that most of us would have done at that age. We can all empathise with his fanboy reaction to the likes of Tony Stark. He gets caught up in the bigger picture and tries to run before he can walk but it is done with the best intentions. The character definitely has that Marvel sense of development that was lacking in both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s turns. Holland finally gives us the Peter we deserve.
That is not to say that I agree with the people happily declaring that Homecoming is the best superhero movie of the year. I really enjoyed the film and did so as soon as I heard the arrangement of the ‘Spider-Man theme song’ playing over the film’s opening sequence. It is a light-hearted and fun affair that captures the spirit of the character. However, I confess that I felt there was a bit of a disparity between it’s two identities. I realise that the film wanted to situate itself within the MCU whilst also ensuring that this was a Spider-Man film in it’s own right. However, it just feels a bit too confused. It just doesn’t feel enough like either. We have the standard MCU final showdown that is kind of underwhelming in the grand scheme of things but then we also have the teen movie moments like high school parties. Individually these things are fine but they just seemed a bit too at odds for me. I’d have preferred one or the other. I think future Spider-Man films with Holland have the potential to be superb if he can remove himself from the Avengers. This film seemed more about taking the character and showing us that he was firmly part of the family instead of giving him a solo outing.
Still, this isn’t something that really hindered my overall enjoyment of the film. There is plenty to love about the film and, despite my annoyance, it’s always nice to see more RBJ and Jon Favreau on screen. Of course, the greatest strength, after Holland, is clearly Michael Keaton’s Vulture. The Vulture isn’t the biggest or baddest villain that we’ve ever seen in the MCU but he is perfect. Keaton plays him so well and he feels like a realistic result of the increased super-activity in the MCU. There is a scene towards the end of the film where the Vulture and Peter Parker come face-to-face for the first time and the whole scene is perfect. Keaton doesn’t overplay the character but still manages to be chilling and terrifying. Spider-Man: Homecoming has some mistakes, that can’t be ignored, but it’s been 13 years since we last had a film about the character to get really excited about. I see a great deal of potential with this incarnation.