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CINEMASCOPE: BRINGING IT HOME

July 16, 2017

Spider-Man Homecoming is the sixth film starring the webslinger since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, star Tobey Maguire caught the imagination of comic book fans in 2002, and another attempt at restarting the franchise after the last reboot starring Andrew Garfield was abruptly called off when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) failed to hit monetary heights.

Of course, as a fan who grew up consuming Spider-Man comics, shows and various games, I have never missed a liveaction film featuring Peter Parker and his alter ego, and I have to say I’ve never quite been satisfied with the characterisation of the character until Homecoming. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise, since rights holders Sony have worked closely with Marvel Studios to work on the film so as to work the character into the highly lucrative Marvel cinematic universe. Until Homecoming, Spider-Man has been in his own separate world run by Sony. And if anyone can handle a Marvel property, it’s Marvel itself.

Although Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were okay, they, alongside the scripts they had to work with, could never quite capture the duality of the cocky yet self-doubting superhero. Maguire had the sincerity down pat, while Garfield had the heart, but neither had the multiple layers that make Peter Parker the beloved character he is. On the other hand, Tom Holland is Spider-Man.

Spider-Man Homecoming features plenty of engaging action

One of the smartest things Homecoming does is take Peter Parker back to high school, not long after he’s been bestowed his spider-like powers from the lab accident. This is clever, because no one wants to re-tread the Spider-Man origin story, and no one especially wants to hear “with great power comes great responsibility” again. At the same time, by going to Peter’s formative years, we witness the defining characteristics of the wall-crawler that perhaps an older version may have matured beyond. What’s more, in Holland, we get an absolutely terrific performance as a 15-year-old who is naïve, brilliant, earnest, at times overconfident and, at times, completely unsure of himself.

And when he puts on the mask, he’s even better, mouthing off like the Spider-Man we know and love.

The six scriptwriters here not only give us strong characterisation and a decent story where our hero is trying to impress Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his potential girlfriend Liz, but a narrative that is at times hilarious. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud so often in a superhero film or even a comedy for that matter.

One of the smartest things Homecoming does is take Peter Parker back to high school, not long after he’s been bestowed his spider-like powers from the lab accident. This is clever, because no one wants to re-tread the Spider-Man origin story, and no one especially wants to hear “with great power comes great responsibility” again.

That being said, the main storyline in Homecoming is merely serviceable when it perhaps should have been more compelling.

In it, we meet Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton), a salvager who turns into an arms dealer after coming across alien technology from the New York battle at the end of The Avengers (2012). Here, Peter desperately tries to stop Toomes and his men from spreading these deadly futuristic weapons across New York, but doesn’t quite get the mentorship from Stark that he feels he deserves.

Homecoming features plenty of action, which is mostly engaging. The sequences involving Spidey acrobatically saving the day on a ship falling apart at the centre, and climbing the dizzying heights of the Washington Monument to pull off a stunning rescue, are exciting to watch but the uninspired finale seems to carry some uncharacteristically subpar CGI.

Thankfully, as a character, Peter Parker/ Spider-Man is always on song and gives the endearing film the memorable ending it deserves.

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, language and brief suggestive comments

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 16th, 2017