Swinging Back Up To The Top
♦Tripwire’s Senior Editor ANDREW COLMAN checks his webshooters, adjusts his mask and takes a look at Sony’s latest Spider-man reboot, Spider-man: Homecoming…
Director: Jon Watts
Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau
The news that a second reboot of the Spidey franchise was on the cards didn’t exactly evoke enthusiasm at Tripwire Towers. You might say that despite the character being far and away the most important with Marvel collectors (have you seen what Amazing Fantasy 15 is going for these days??), in terms of Marvel Cinema he was old hat, a property that had receded into vapid inflexibility, the same mythology and cookie cutter villains trotted out for ever decreasing returns. However Sony’s deal with Disney / Marvel meant that this time, old webhead could have a sprinkling of that magic fairy dust that has constantly regenerated our interest in Marvel movies, which meant that awful romantic or angsty interludes would be kept to a minimum, with the emphasis on humour, fun, knowingly self-referential nods to the source material and the odd dash of irony taking precedence.
And to paraphrase Captain Picard, the show-runners have made it so. Jon Watts, Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal have worked the oracle, turning out a film that hits most of the right notes from the off, while effortlessly capturing the spirit of Lee, Ditko and Romita’s classic 1960s run. Although very much rooted in the present, the character of Spidey (Tom Holland) on this occasion is now the mawkish, immature high school outsider from his early days, although he is barely the bespectacled nerdy Parker of old. His supporting cast are loose amalgams of the Silver Age players, refitted in a rather more PC fashion – his nemesis Flash Thompson is no longer the lantern-jawed alpha but a deviously clever misshape, his love interest Liz (Laura Harrier) and his best friend / sidekick Ned (Jacob Batalon) only tangentially connected to Lee and Ditko’s characters.
The plot generally involves Spider-Man playing truant from his handlers and mentors, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr, clearly enjoying himself despite reprising the role yet again, although the vast remuneration for his superannuated cameo will have helped) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, better than before as the presentably gruff and irascible bodyguard). This time his nemesis is played by Michael Keaton, always reliable as the psychotic, wild-eyed villain (he’s had one or two such roles before). On this occasion he’s playing Birdman, I mean the Vulture, a man who has appropriated Chitauri technology to build a steampunk winged suit replete with weapons capable of defeating our teenage wall-crawler. Assisted by the criminally underused Bokeem Woodbine as the Shocker, The Vulture’s (aka Adrian Toomes) main objective is to steal from the Department of Damage Control and also from Tony Stark himself.
Such dastardly schemes are cleverly woven into Peter Parker’s school endeavours, resulting in the usual graphic destruction and life-threatening derring-do, mainly with his classmates as the mandatory potential victims. What keeps the four color fun ticking over is that on this occasion Peter’s friends are more than just ciphers, and even though there are the obligatory plot markers, they actually add to the story rather than mindlessly detract. The breakneck, offhand pace of the film might’ve been a little tiresome but for the above average script and occasionally inspired homages, such as the one lifted from Amazing Spider-Man 33 (dedicated geeks, I mean aficionados, will spot it). Our hero’s desperate need to maintain his secret identity actually seems like a departure for such a movie, even though it was a staple of early Marvel.
I expected little prior to the screening, but this film is up there as possibly the best of all Marvel projects – there are more amusing one-liners than any previous entry, with the narrative deftly handled, not to mention one or two genuine left-field moments (although it never strays into Deadpool territory). Yes, it’s contrived and more than tests ones disbelief suspension, and is unapologetically shallow, but that is the point. At no stage of the film does it do anything than provide entertainment with panache, which in these dispiriting times is as much as we can ask for. This is pulpy, unpretentious, lightweight fare, covering familiar terrain. But frequently it evades the usual drudge and plodding formula, succeeding in being cinematic while capturing the spirit of comics. Spider-Man is back!!
Spider-man: Homecoming is out from today in UK cinemas and in the US from Friday 7 July 2017