Rattling along with more twists and turns than the Le Mans rally circuit, young director and Marvel debutant, Jon Watts, has injected some Eighties-John Hughes/Spielberg fluff into the superhero spectacle. And it is as welcome as an ice cold refreshment on a warm summer’s day.
The success of Spider-Man: Homecoming comes as something of a surprise. After all, Tom Holland represents the third actor to climb into the lycra suit in only 15 years. It’s a post that is even more volatile than that of an incumbent UKIP party leader. In an attempt to overcome any reservation and uncertainty, this outing draws in a prominent appearance of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark to add star wattage, encourage continuity of the brand and a bit of extra twinkly-eyed charm.
Matters are set sometime after Captain America: Civil War. Peter Parker, under the guidance of Stark Enterprises, tries to balance his high school life at the same time as he nurtures his blossoming superhero ambition. Currently a rookie entity fighting crime on the streets of New York City, out of the urban hubbub comes a new villain in the shape of Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Keaton, evidently relishing the galvanising impact of his post-Birdman flush of success, imbues his character with the sort of hair-raising nefariousness that captures the imagination.
The film is fleet-footed in its passages, but coherent too. The friendship between Parker and his geeky cohort, Ned (Jacob Batalon), engenders empathy and warmth. There remains a politically questionable air hanging over the stereotypical appearance of the geeky Ned. It is one that plays on the same sort of charming overweight misfit seen in The Goonies with Chunk and a whole host of other old movies.
In spite of this fact, and in spite of all the changes of cast, the good news remains that Tom Holland’s appearance does not hinder or nullify the charm of (arguably) Marvel’s most entertaining of superheroes. This doesn’t feel like Queen fronted by Paul Rodgers. This feels a natural fit and closer to the real deal. Like nearly every entry into the Marvel canon, Homecoming could do with a trim and wouldn’t suffer, narratively-speaking, if it shed an act or two (Washington monument springs to mind), but for a studio who vehemently believe in a co-opted maxim ‘more is more’, this still fizzes and pops with abundant entertainment.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas from 6th July 2017.