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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming

This review has been a long time coming. Having seen the film over two weeks' ago I originally intended to write it over the weekend gone by, but since then I've graduated from university, found myself working as a runner on the set of upcoming indie film Scarborough, became a peer mentor for a single hour and a half session to a student who was studying a BA in Film Making and Creative Media Production and been suffering from a heavy cold that has made me feel dizzy. It's fair to say it has been a busy few days - and it's not set to get any quieter. I'm currently writing a self-published book about a vigilante with sand powers based in Scarborough, and in September I will be starting a MA by Research in Screenwriting at the University of York. Hopefully this won't impact my reviews for this blog site, but if I don't chase my dreams I'm never going to break into the Media Industry.

My ultimate ambition is to be a screenwriter, and as an aspiring writer Spider-Man: Homecoming is a superhero movie that pleased me a lot. The film follows the newest inclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Peter Parker (Tom Holland), who is trying to juggle his school life with his life as a superhero. When Peter discovers a bunch of criminals - lead by boss of the Toomes Salvage Company Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) - are using stolen Chitauri technology from the Battle of New York to create new weapons, he decides to take action and protect New York from this new threat. Things become complicated when Peter develops a crush on classmate and Adrian's daughter Liz (Laura Harrier), and when Peter's best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) discovers his secret identity. Meanwhile, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) is concerned about Peter becoming too much like him and resolves to make sure he doesn't make the same mistakes.

So why did Spider-Man: Homecoming's writing please me a lot, I hear you ask?

Well, there's one important thing that Spider-Man: Homecoming does that many action blockbusters in general tend to ignore. It explores who our lead character is. Spider-Man: Homecoming is like a character study of what makes Peter Parker Spider-Man; the only thing missing is the iconic phrase 'With great power comes great responsibility'. A constant theme of the film is who Peter is without the suit - the answer being it's not the suit that makes Peter Parker Spider-Man, it's his heart and bravery.
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Many other action heroes would leave the antagonist of the movie to die, but here after an intense fight on a plane Peter saves Adrian's life from the unstable alien technology Mr Toomes has been capitalising on for crime and shows compassion towards the man who tried to kill him.
This shows just what kind of hero Peter Parker is: he's a teenager who stands for courage and empathy, who always opts for the humane solution rather than senseless killing. Those are the best heroes to me - the ones who care even for those who have turned to the dark side, who will protect everyone and not just those who agree with his moral compass.

Equally, the film doesn't forget that Peter Parker is a kid. He isn't perfect at the superhero stuff, and he makes some very amateur mistakes. At one point, Peter as Spider-Man leaves his phone on whilst spying on Adrian Toomes' crew. His phone rings, and it immediately alerts the criminals. If this was Tony Stark, it would be a plot point so stupid you'd be hearing the CinemaSins voice in your head - but this is a sixteen year old kid trying to be like the Avengers. It would be unrealistic if he didn't make these mistakes. With the Sam Raimi films (which weren't a part of the MCU), it was easy to forget how young the main character was but here Jon Watts uses it as a way to set Peter Parker apart from the other superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a character who still has a lot to learn, and he goes on a pleasing character journey from wanting to be an Avenger at the start of the film to
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realising he needs to be a 'friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man' in order to better protect those he cares about.

It's not just Peter Parker the film gets spot-on. It also gets Spider-Man perfect too. I never watched the Andrew Garfield films, but the Sam Raimi trilogy oddly featured a quiet Spider-Man. This version of Spider-Man, on the other hand, is much more faithful to the Spider-Man from the comics. This Spider-Man jokes whilst he fights, and has a wonderful meta quality that many will likely describe as a 'PG Deadpool'. One of my favourite Spider-Man moments from the film was our hero debating what to name the Stark Spider-Man suit's AI; if ever there was one scene in the movie that best summed up Spider-Man, this scene would be it. At one point he creates a hammock out of webbing - something that feels like it jumped right out of a Spider-Man comic.

Talking of things that feel like they jumped out of the page, that is probably the best way to describe Tom Holland's performance. Tom Holland may have only been in two films so far as the iconic character, but he already feels like a quintessential Peter Parker. He is exactly how I imagined Peter Parker to be when reading the comics. The voice and mannerisms are perfect, and he plays both Peter and Spider-Man effortlessly. Whereas Tobey Maguire was great as Peter Parker but not so good at portraying Spider-Man, Tom Holland excels at both. There will never be a better Spider-Man than him, and whoever takes up the mantle after him is going to have very hard shoes to fill (hopefully that day will be a long way off, but it will happen eventually).

The supporting cast of school students deserve recognition too. They are all brilliant, the particular stand-outs being Jacob Batalon as Ned and Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson. Jacob Batalon's portrayal of Ned is interesting in that he discovers Peter Parker's secret earlier than you would expect, and when he does he is both an ally and a hindrance to Peter's double life.
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Whilst in the film's climax he assists Peter by firing his web shooter at Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine),
earlier in the movie he tells Peter's crush Liz (Laura Harrier) that Spider-Man is Peter's best friend after she states at school that she fancies Spider-Man. Ned's intentions are well-meaning, trying to help Peter be seen as 'cool' to the girl he loves but it creates added complications at the party Peter has been invited to where Liz expects both Peter and Spider-Man to turn up.

A big part of the Spider-Man comics is Peter's high school problems versus his vigilante life, and its nice to see the film play with this, and the impact it has on his friends when he has to leave suddenly to fulfil the duties of his secret life.
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Poor Liz is abandoned by Peter for super-heroics twice, one at her party and the other at the homecoming dance.
Laura Harrier plays Liz well, and you do find yourself sympathising with her - especially when Peter considers explaining to her why he disappears like he does, but in the end continues keeping his double life a secret.

One common complaint from many critics about the MCU is that the villains tend to be weak, and as you would expect from a Spider-Man film this isn't the case here. Spider-Man has such a rich rogue gallery, and the Vulture is one of the most iconic. Neither the writing or Michael Keaton let down the premise of a Spider-Man film with the Vulture. Jon Watts' film shows Adrian Toomes as an everyman, working with his salvage company to clear the mess from the Battle of New York from 2012's The Avengers and it's an effective way to allow us as the audience to relate to the villain. He's an everyday man who's fed up of being the guy who has to clean up after the superheroes, who wants to be something more - a direct parallel of Peter Parker's journey in the film. Except he doesn't change. Like all great films, the antagonist is a dark reflection of our protagonist and shows what would have happened had he gone to the dark side of greed and irresponsibility - another example of why this film appeals to me as a wannabe screenwriter. In my view it's an example of great writing, and one day I would love to write something even half as good as this movie.

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Arguably one of the best scenes in the film is the tense car journey to the homecoming dance at Peter's school. Liz is Peter's date at the dance, and upon turning up at Liz's house he is shocked to find out Adrian Toomes is her father. Adrian drives them to the school, and what could have been a very simple scene turns into an amazing tense sequence where Peter knows Adrian is the Vulture and Adrian starts to figure out Peter is Spider-Man. Any moment one could expose the other's identity - will Peter tell Liz her Dad is the Vulture? Will Adrian expose Peter's secret? It gets even more tense when Liz leaves the car and Adrian turns to Peter in the car and threatens him to keep out of his business.
It feels like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie; specifically I could imagine it as a cut scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Sometimes the best scenes rely on human paranoia, and we feel paranoid for Peter.

Let's not forget this is a Summer blockbuster however, and many viewers expect plenty of action from a superhero movie. This film definitely delivers on an action front. There are many memorable action sequences - the standouts for me were Spider-Man saving his friends trapped on a lift in the Washington monument, the ferry scene spoiled in the trailers and the climatic fight between Spider-Man and the Vulture on the plane. CGI is used in this scenes, but is barely noticeable - it honestly feels like watching Tom Holland in a Spider-Man costume the entire time. They are stunning scenes to watch, and ones I can imagine many watching again and again. The Washington monument scene with Peter's friends in the lift I feel will particularly be remembered in ten years' time with as much fondness as the train fight in Spider-Man 2.

It's the amount of love from the production crew towards this movie that makes it such a pleasing watch; you can really tell it was made by a passionate crew who care about the Spider-Man property. During the Marvel Studios opening credits an orchestral version of the iconic Spider-Man theme plays - a version of the theme that feels so triumphant in its uplifting tones that it makes you want to get up and shout 'SPIDER-MAN IS IN THE MCU!'. But then you'd probably get chucked out of the cinema, and that certainly wouldn't be much fun.

Then there's the 'Film by Peter Parker' towards the beginning of the film, presented as a home made movie by Peter filmed during the Civil War airport battle. This feels like more than a deliberate nod to Peter's time in the comics as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, showing Peter Parker's interest in photography without actually having him work for the Bugle just yet. It's also presented incredibly well, with a lot of attention to detail such as the 4:3 aspect ratio that suggests it was filmed on a very cheap camera of the kind a school student would be able to afford, and a shaky aesthetic as Peter films from his POV as he's walking. It's very authentic towards what it's supposed to be, and very in-character.

Before this film came out, many complained about the presence of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr). Well, in the end those complaints look ridiculous. Tony Stark is barely in the film, and that's how it should be. This is rightfully Peter Parker's film, with Tony Stark as an extended cameo. Even Happy (Jon Favreau) seemed to appear more than Tony Stark did. Robert Downey Jnr has some nice father/son-esque chemistry with Tom Holland, and personally this is something I'd like to see developed further in Avengers: Infinity War. There's some fun cameo appearances from Captain America (Chris Evans) too, in a series of cheesy 1940s self-help videos shown at Peter's school.
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The best one is right at the end - a post credits scene where Captain America gives you a lecture on patience. It's well worth sitting through the credits for, and is almost as entertaining as Stan Lee's numerous cameo appearances in the MCU - speaking of which, Stan Lee's cameo as a disgruntled neighbour is probably one of my favourites.

Overall...well, how do I sum this up? I may have been busy, but this review has suddenly become the equivalent of a Peter Jackson movie. There's just so much to say about Spider-Man: Homecoming, so much that can be discussed about its merits as a piece of truly fantastic writing that it feels less like a standard superhero movie and more like a cinematic masterpiece comparable to other films in the genre held in high regard such as The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Spider-Man: Homecoming sees the main character go on a journey that feels human and relatable; we've all been or at least known that person who has strived for something more, and like all great movies whilst our protagonist comes to realise that what he 'needs' is very different to what he 'wants', the antagonist (in this case, the Vulture) is what would have happened had our hero refused to change - the dark side to Peter's light. Ultimately, however, it's 'Peter the kid superhero' that makes this MCU entry stand out from the others. This is a unique perspective for the MCU, away from the adult heroes who are billionaires or Asgardian Gods and towards the everyday person. The villain too is an everyday person. Who needs MCU Venom when you have a total reflection of Peter in Adrian Toomes?