Tuesday 4 July 2017

Film Review: Spider-man - Homecoming

Spider-man’s latest solo film promises a bright future ahead, even if we have to sit through some same-same stuff to get there.

A short while after being recruited by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back slumming it at school and daydreaming of his next mission with The Avengers.

Peter blows off homework after school each night to don his spandex Spidey suit and fight crime throughout Queens – but when he comes up against Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a career criminal in possession of a high-tech vulture-like suit, he might have just bitten off more than he can chew.

After 2014’s The Amazing Spider-man 2 effectively flushed the webslinger down the drain, Sony and Marvel struck a deal to incorporate the popular character into the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe; the resultant compromise is Spider-man: Homecoming, another reboot (the second since 2002) that thrusts Peter back to high school and trades one young Brit for an even younger Brit. Thankfully, this young Brit is even better than the last – in Holland, Marvel have struck gold, with the 21-year-old personifying the goofiness and charm of Peter Parker in assured fashion.

Channelling classic John Hughes films from the 80s, Homecoming shifts the focus onto Peter and his quirky crop of friends, complete with The Breakfast Club parallels and a plain-as-day homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

In Peter’s posse you’ve got Ned (Jacob Batalon), the goofy best friend; Michelle (Zendaya), the sarcastic social outcast; Betty (Perth’s own Angourie Rice), the preppy goody two shoes; and Liz (Laura Harrier), the senior stunner and object of Peter’s affection. This troupe extends to others as well and is the strongest aspect of Homecoming – the humour and heart hits home (pun intended) as the kids squabble and banter with one another over Spanish quizzes, house parties and field trips.

Things start to get a little shakier when Homecoming has to do the ‘Marvel stuff’ and serve up some action. The biggest flaw with this film is that the daring-do is fairly so-so – I never felt like Peter or those around him were ever in any degree of peril. That said, the set pieces – one in Washington, one aboard a NYC ferry and another on a cargo plane – are well staged, even if the third act drags.

Keaton’s villain is one of the better ones we’ve seen from Marvel; his melding of unnerving malice and an honest schmuck persona makes for a nice match. Downey Jnr’s contribution is minimal, with most of it glimpsed in the pervasive marketing material – that said, it was cool to get a taste of how Spider-man fits into the broader universe going forward.

Michael Giacchino’s score is superb, the colour palette pops and the humour is once again on point, something that is par for the course with Marvel at this stage. My main misgiving with Homecoming is that it suffers not because of its own failings but because it is hard to shake the feeling of ‘been there, done that’. 

Holland is far and away the best iteration of the character and the Marvel formula gives everything a vibrant sheen, but Spider-man: Homecoming is still too much alike its predecessors to truly enthral and inspire. Not definitively the best and far from the worst, Spider-man: Homecoming finds itself dangling precariously in a middle ground that leaves us hanging for the next entry without much to chew on in the present.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

Filled with humour and bundles of coming-of-age heart, this latest iteration of Spider-man works best when he is juggling teenage angst and homework with bank robberies. The action is decent, the integration with the wider universe is good and the casting is excellent. Mix all that together and you've got a solid template from which to build this into the best and most comprehensive Spidey series we've seen yet.

Spider-man: Homecoming is in cinemas across Australia from May 6.

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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