Coming as it does on the heels of the pretty roundly panned Amazing Spider-Man reboots and the generally well-regarded, but by now decade-plus old, Sam Raimi trilogy (whose third instalment was recently the subject of an ‘editor’s cut’, which briefly made its way onto Amazon only to be pulled shortly after), it shouldn’t be too hard for Spider-Man: Homecoming to make a decent impression.
Tom Holland’s newer, younger, less angsty Peter Parker’s appearance in last year’s Captain America: Civil War acted as the ideal backdoor pilot for his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and added some much needed levity to the showdown between former allies Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Here is his chance to carry the weight of an entire movie, and with any luck its own sub-franchise, if Sony studio executives have their way.
The emphasis this time is on the coming of age of Peter/Spidey, as he grapples with both high school problems and making a good impression on mentor Tony Stark, for whom he owes his spiffy new Spidey-suit full of gadgets and the ‘internship’ which seems to be his alibi for constantly skipping class and coming in late.
Even though the burdens of high school were all largely shunted into the background of previous iterations, director Jon Watts’s prominent emphasis on this version of Parker still being a kid coming to grips with his powers is reaching for the suburban nostalgia of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe, rather than the mostly empty spectacle of his direct predecessor Marc Webb.
Whilst Raimi’s fourth outing was to feature John Malkovich as Spidey nemesis The Vulture before Sony blackballed him and started fresh, this outing features Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes as a working stiff whose salvage company goes from cleaning up after superhero battles to retrofitting alien materials and technology into weapons and gear to commit robberies.
Where Amazing 2’s blatant sequel teasing of The Sinister Six and a mess of conflicting villain storylines made nonsense of any kind of central conflict, the makers of Homecoming have placed Keaton’s Vulture as a dark reflection of Tony Stark, whose intervention into the clean-up of The Avengers’ Battle of New York by creating the Department of Damage Control leads Toomes to decide that a post-Avengers world requires a post-Avengers class of criminal.
So will this break the streak of bad Spidey-films? Here’s hoping.