#REVIEW: “SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
After fighting alongside The Avengers, Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) has returned to high school and is waiting on his next mission from Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). When Peter discovers Adrian Toomes/The Vulture’s (Michael Keaton) operation selling illegally-modified alien weaponry, he begins to investigate – but may be in way over his head.
Spider-Man: Homecoming’s script is credited to six screenwriters (Director Jon Watts among them), and surprisingly benefits from having multiple voices behind it. Yes, it is littered with references and homages (including Composer Michael Giacchino’s wicked take on the classic 1960s theme song), but it’s a mostly streamlined story told through Peter’s teenage point-of-view. It avoids retelling the same origin story we already have memorized from the previous five(!) Spider-Man Films, and tries to be a little more unique in its depiction. This rendition stays firmly entrenched within its high school setting – focusing just as much on Peter’s teenage angst and homework assignments as much as it does on his heroics, if not more so.
The key reason Spider-Man: Homecoming works so well is Holland. He is absolutely spectacular, giving the Film an infectious and anxious energy that was missing from Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s portrayals. He runs through a gamut of emotions, but gets to have a lot of fun molding and reshaping the character into something all his own. He nails Peter’s quick wit, but also nails the immaturity and inexperienced nature needed to make this Spider-Man a hero we can cheer for.
Keaton manages to all-but overshadow the titular hero, completing his transition from Batman to Birdman to The Vulture all in one fowl swoop. He has a menacing aura from the very moment he steps on-screen, and maintains a level of intensity unmatched by Marvel’s villainous brethren. He brings emotion, gravitas and suspense to each scene, no matter the circumstances. His blue-collar character is dangerous not because he wants to rule the world, but because he wants to support his family whether his actions are illegal or not. It’s a very grounded and different approach for a Marvel villain, but one that Keaton flourishes in.
Supporting turns from Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Laura Harrier and Tony Revolori are all well done, but the Film’s secret weapon is the relatively unknown Jacob Batalon. He plays Peter’s best friend Ned, and acts as a conduit for the audience. He gets all the best lines, gets to ask all the burning questions and gets to have the most on-screen fun. He easily steals the show away from everyone. And while he appears significantly less than I expected, Downey Jr. is still just as good at playing Tony Stark as you remember.
Where Spiderman: Homecoming tends to fumble is with its tone. It wants to play ode to the legendary John Hughes era of teenage dramedies and succeeds for the most part. But whenever the storyline starts veering away from casual innocence, the Film pivots drastically to ensure everything on-screen remains light, breezy and most of all, fun. Every piece of dialogue seems geared towards a joke or three, and any darker elements are introduced and then ignored mere seconds later. A character is literally vaporized in one scene, and somehow the appropriate response is for the characters to crack a joke and move on. It makes for a somewhat jarring experience in some cases, and makes the Film glossier and less genuine than it should be.
While some of the CGI could have used some fine-tuning – specifically to improve the cartoony look of Spider-Man whenever he’s doing whatever a spider can – my only other point of contention is in the lackluster action scenes. They are well composed, but they just are not as thrilling or as exciting as the story around them. I kept waiting for a show-stopping battle, but it never arrived.
It is a minor miracle that Spider-Man: Homecoming is as good as it is. The shortcomings in tone and CGI are more than made up by the great story and wonderful cast. Holland is the perfect cinematic rendition of Spider-Man, and Keaton gives the strongest performance of any Marvel Cinematic Universe villain to date. Many fans have been waiting decades for a Spider-Man film like this, and they will not walk away disappointed.
Sony Pictures Canada swings SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING into theatres Friday, July 7, 2017.