Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Release date: 5th July 2017/Watch the trailer here

It could be argued that we didn’t need the third big-screen iteration of Spider-Man in fifteen years, but Homecoming comes with a distinct advantage that its predecessors didn’t have: the web-slinging superhero is now a part of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. First introduced in last year’s Captain America: Civil WarHomecoming picks up almost exactly where Civil War left off, with an excitable Peter Parker (Tom Holland) documenting his first foray into the world of the Avengers via a homemade video diary. Two months later, however, and his life is a lot more mundane than he was hoping for: still an ordinary, awkward high school student; his mentor and hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has left Peter in the uninterested hands of his head of security, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, reprising his role from the Iron Man movies), determined for Peter to remain as a ‘friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man’ for the time being.

Not content with merely stopping petty crimes across New York City, Peter can’t help but be drawn to bigger, more life-threatening criminals: namely, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), the owner of a salvaging company who has been using his job as a front to make weapons from the recovered Chitauri technology left behind during the alien attack on New York in The Avengers. Peter’s interference soon attracts the attention of Toomes – known as Vulture due to his bird-like, flying suit – putting the life of Peter and everyone he cares about in danger.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie to date, and a large reason for this is that, for the first time, Peter Parker actually feels like a teenager. Casting the youthful Holland (who possesses likability by the bucketload) in the role certainly helped, but Homecoming is just as much of a coming-of-age, high school movie as it is a superhero one. Yes, there are plenty of big action set pieces, but there’s also the boy behind the mask, awkwardly navigating his way through school as an unpopular kid with his equally-unpopular best friend, the hilarious Ned (Jacob Batalon), all the while trying to deal with his hopeless crush on fellow decathlon team member, Liz (Laura Harrier). Homecoming also details the struggle of balancing being Spider-Man with being Peter Parker: the incredible frustration of staying silent as his classmates discuss how cool they think Spider-Man is; having to miss out on his big chance with Liz because there are crimes that he needs to fight.

Homecoming is also one of the best entries in the MCU so far (and that’s saying something, when there are currently fifteen other films to compete against), partly due to its success in avoiding many of the frequent pitfalls of the Marvel movies. It’s no secret that the MCU has regularly struggled with its villains, but Vulture feels far more fleshed-out than many of the villains that came before him (Kaecilius, Ronan, Malekith and even Ultron, to name just a few). Of course, it helps that they cast Michael Keaton, who was always going to bring a certain level of charisma to the role, but Vulture is also given a large amount of screen-time to explore his motivations and further develop the character. It doesn’t hurt that his big plan isn’t world domination or bringing about the apocalypse via a beam of light in the sky, either: he simply wants to craft and sell alien weapons. By Marvel standards he’s practically harmless, but to Peter, he feels like a very real threat – and so he does to the audience, too.

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Homecoming also succeeds because it doesn’t concern itself too much with setting up the future of the franchise. There are more than enough Easter eggs and cameos to keep any Marvel fan happy, but Homecoming is a largely self-contained film and it benefits from this. The main plot is brought about by the events of The Avengers (and it explores the aftermath of such life-changing devastation in a way that previously only the Marvel Netflix shows have attempted), but there is little in the way of lasting consequences for the MCU. It could have all too easily become Iron Man 4, but Homecoming is restrained in its use of Stark. This is Peter’s film, and thankfully Marvel didn’t forget it: he’s the undisputed hero of Homecoming.

With talk of the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming acting as the Civil War of the next phase of the MCU – once all of the old heroes have been retired after Avengers 4 – Spider-Man likely won’t be remaining self-contained for long. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – Homecoming hints at future villains and the promise of more screen-time for the scene-stealing Michelle (Zendaya) – but for now, it’s nice to enjoy Peter Parker as he should be: a teenager who’s the furthest thing from cool until he puts on his mask (and sometimes, not even then), brimming with excitement at the prospect of being a world-saving superhero – but not before he’s saved his own city first.

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