Cometh the hour, cometh the Spider-Man, right back into the middle of the MCU where he belongs. No backstory, no spider bite – because it has been done – just straight into the life of a teenager irrevocably altered by comicbook logic. Instead we jump in with the Peter Parker straight after the fight in Civil War, hero-worshipping Tony Stark, fully kitted out and ready to get into a fight with someone a little more daunting than the odd bike thief or shoplifter.
After all of the backbiting and corporate petulance between Disney and Sony, it is so good to have Spidey amongst the ranks of the Avengers because without him it all has all seemed a little weird, but here we have a Spider-Man born of the Cinematic Universe, only a child during the New York Incident, and fully immersed in the unique-to-film narratives, lore and history.
Lets get into it:
Does Whatever A Spider-Teen Can
Tom Holland delivers an actual teenager. He’s uncomfortable, clumsy verbally and physically, but he’s brimming with so much misdirected enthusiasm that super-heroism seemingly comes naturally to him. He’s grown up in a city torn apart, saved, and put back together by heroes, in a school that uses Captain America PSAs as part of the curriculum, studies Vibranium, and Stark tech, and is supplied with enough chemicals that he can develop his web-fluid under the table. New York seems more real than it has in any other Spider-Man film, none of the warming sunsets through which Tobey Maguire emoted, or the neon nightlife of Andrew Garfield’s webslinger, this is a low down and dirty city filled with cheerful people – embodied in the street vendor who asks him to “do a flip”. You could actually imagine him quite clearly living down the road from the offices of Nelson and Murdock, or Alias Investigations.
We also get a glimpse of why Spidey doesn’t work in the suburbs, complete with Ferris Beuller style back-garden hopping scene, in which we see the Ferris Beuller back-garden scene. Well done, good shout.
The suit rather takes centre stage, his gift from Stark Industries to step up his Spider-abilities, complete with a miniature armoury contained within the skin-tight lycra. It’s pivotal to his secondary plotline, stepping out from the shadow of adopted and unwilling father-figure and/or idol of worship, Tony. Spoilerish but Peter undergoes the same transformative experience as Tony does in Iron Man 3, going back to basics for long enough to remember what he’s truly capable of, little sweet all told and spoiler over you can keep going. However, the suit does cause one rather huge problem.
No Spider Senses? Seemingly at all. The Stark tech suit does most, if not all of the sensory work for him apparently, and maybe it’s because he grows over-reliant upon it, but it’s simply not practical for the character. Lest we forget that the sense is a kind of short-cut from senses to reflexes that mimics a kind of short-term precognition. He recognises a situation and reacts with a speed that bypasses his brain and plugs straight into his already enhanced agility. This is noticable immediately from him pulling a faceplant into a building which – while genuinely good slapstick, I laughed – should never happen. There were two instances where a badguy gets the drop on him, which should also never happen without some kind of reaction just ahead of time. Vulture’s jets are way too loud for him to miss to start with.
But now we’re talking about Vulture.
Mr Keaton, I am humbled.
Adrian Toomes of comic-book fame was an inventor and industrialist whose business partner’s embezzling left him broke and with nowhere to turn. How similar we find our new Vulture, a savvy member of a civilian cleanup crew, edged out of the most lucrative deal of his career – the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion – by Stark contractors authorised by the government. He helps out his former team by selling some of the advanced alien tech on the black market, and soon this becomes a system. Using a flight harness and other tech looted from the Avenger’s missions (keep an eye out for a heap of reclaimed Ultron chunks) he leads a gang of lesser Marvel villains like Shocker and The Tinkerer into a life of petty crime to keep them and their families safe and comfortable.
In the current economic climate, we have a villain edged out by a big corporation just trying to grab enough to get by for him and his friends, and best of all he’s doing it in such a way that he’s reliant on MCU history to do it. How deliciously elegant, but none of that is Michael Keaton’s doing.
Keaton may very well have immortalised one of the lesser known Spider-Man classics. Despite being one of the most famous faces on set, it’s hard not to lose yourself to his blue-collar turned arms-dealer version of Toomes; the respect he both offers and demands of his team, the fact that he has the same gravitas without the mechanical flight suit as he does while in the air. He communicates so much, so effortlessly, it’s easy to forget his Bruce Wayne, his Beetlejuice, or his – wait, he was Porco Rosso in the english dub? Huh.
Big Spoiler and the most important one, but I have to talk about the ride in the car. There’s a moment when Peter is sat in the back of Toome’s car, and for reasons I shall not reveal they are forced to maintain civility, but it is during the trip that Toomes’ discovers who Peter is. That scene, watching the ever mounting terror on the face of young Holland and the empowering moment for Toomes as the truth comes out, is slow, torturous, and in the confined space is played out like a moment from a true psycho-thriller horror film. The physical communication bellows everything their characters dare not speak aloud, and the shameless use of the changing street light to depict the penny-dropping moment is gutwrenching when it should have been a terrible cliche. I got genuine chills from both of their performances, and I will do a moment by moment breakdown at some point, because there is so much left to say, especially when the conversation turns to Vulture and Spider-Man instead. Spoiler over.
The Stark Effect
Tony is rather a secondary antagonist of the film, and he does rather dominate the screen-time in places… but I’ll have someone else discuss that for me on Sunday. My greatest experience however, was returning home to dwell on a moment from a Carnage comic, in which Tony calls Peter at home to ask him how many limbs he currently has, and Spidey naturally answers the summons while eating cereal twenty stories above the streets saying “Come on Parker, you can do two things at once, you’re an Avenger now.” This scene might as well take place a week or two after Homecoming, because the relationship between the pair as mentor and student is brilliantly cemented.
Is it a little over-the-top to have so much Iron Man time in a Spider-Man film? And was it used well? I think it may be subjective; as it’s not an origin story and more of a “Welcome Home” piece and a meeting of two flagships of the comicbook universe I think the angle taken was pretty good. Despite what people may think of Robert Downey Jr and his paychecks for each film, is there any question that he is Iron Man at this point?
Spider-Man Homecoming, despite it’s one rather glaring flaw has all the hallmarks of a great MCU addition, tethering the wall crawler into a universe that has dominated and terrified the film industry for nearly a decade. It could never stand alone, but it doesn’t really have to. It has its own unique kind of style, bringing a combination of teen-movie complete with finale at the Homecoming* dance, thrilling action, intense characters, and a discernible lack of Paul Giamatti. Seeds have been sewn for a sequel, and I look forward to it.
*Because it’s the… d’you get it? Cause they called the film… hah!