FILM REVIEW — SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

As Marvel welcomes Spidey back into the family with open arms, what should have been one of the best Spider-Man films has sadly ended up being nothing short of forgettable and feeling more like a Disney Channel exclusive rather than a Marvel cinematic film.

Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place post Captain America: Civil War and is predominantly set in Queens but therein lies the problem. While we are very used to seeing Spidey swing around New York City, this change of scenery reduces him to being a glorified neighbourhood watch which is hardly exciting. Action sequences were few and far between and the hum drums of Peter Parker’s life (although crucial to any Spider-man story) were overemphasised and less than tolerable.

While many are heralding this film for its smaller scale and homeliness, it felt like these very facets were lugging the story down from progressing at a faster pace. The parallels between Peter Parker and his alter-ego were felt onscreen in that the tone and pace changed each time he donned the mask and switched back to a being a dramatic piece when we resumed with Parker’s life. With a run time of 2 hours and 13 mins, these lulls were felt and boredom often crept in. Tony Stark popped up numerous times as Peter Parker’s guiding light and while these scenes were welcomingly entertaining in that they gave true insight into character of Peter Parker, the follow-up scenes of Parker just living his high school life and obsessing over being in Tony Stark’s good books often pulled the handbrake on the main plot.

In Homecoming, Peter Parker is merely 16, considerably younger than his previous on screen renditions. It must be said that Tom Holland at 21 years of age plays a brilliant Spider-Man, but as a 16 year old, the older more mature versions of the character are sorely missed. This creative decision to have such a young Spider-Man snag the interest of a younger audience in an already aging fan-base (seeing as how Guardians of the Galaxy does the opposite by hitting the sweet spot for 80s and 90s kids) stinks of Disney’s meddling and honestly has potentially ruined Spider-Man’s Marvel Cinematic Universe debut. As the film panders to the 12–16 audience in the cinema, it simultaneously tries to satisfy the adult audience only to end up with a tonally jumbled quirky mess that is neither here nor there and almost devoid of humor despite its numerous attempts.

Action sequences in Homecoming boil down to about 4 major events which all things considered on paper shouldn’t be an issue as Iron Man only had a handful of action as well. Although the action sequences are well executed and high-budget enough, they sadly don’t stand out among Spider-man’s predecessors. Except for the climax, most of the action sequences are small scaled. This only played further into how this film felt more like the safe and calculated decisions of a straight-to-TV film rather than a feature. As far as the climatic boss-fight of the film goes, as interesting and action packed as it was, by that point you’re driven to a point of boredom that it is sadly too little too late.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and even Marc Webb’s double presented us with plenty of memorably iconic scenes. From Spider-Man grabbing Mary-Jane and dodging a slow motion car hurtling through a coffee shop to dodging clock pieces being hurled by an eight-armed Doc Oc on a building facade, these are just some of the Spider-Man action sequences that remain memorable and entertaining. Homecoming on the other hand disappointingly fails to stand out and take its place beside its predecessors given its smaller scale. Given the fact that an origin story was avoided in this film, the excuse that it is the first of a long series is not one that I think can apply to this instalment.

It was a major controversy when Donald Glover (who was used as a model for a ethnic Spider-man revamp) campaigned to be the new Spider-Man and was denied the role. While Glover does appear in Homecoming in an under-utilised cameo, the suspected reason as to why he did not get the role of Spider-Man was probably because Spider-Man is traditionally white. Mary-Jane on the other hand, is now a brunette woman of colour as opposed to the traditional redhead that we have grown accustomed to. I wonder why if Spider-Man cannot be black, Mary-Jane instead can be ethnic. While I personally have no issue with an ethic Mary-Jane, I have always been of the view that changing genders and ethnicities in this way is a lazy attempt to change what is traditionally canon instead of revamp the source material (as has been done in the Marvel camp recently [Thor is now female in the comics and justifiably so]). Instead of forcing the illegitimate change of a character in this manner, it is far more credible to write in a new character from the source material like Donald Glover’s Spider-Man. Better yet, the studio could have easily written a new character which is birthed from her on-screen appearance much like Harley Quinn’s origin was from the Batman Animated Series as opposed to a comic book.

Ultimately, the final issue with Spider-man: Homecoming is the issue of canon. Not even going into the fact that Peter Parker is basically using a wonder-suit akin Iron Man’s with webs, the essence of Spider-Man was forgotten. Throughout Homecoming we see this version of Peter grovelling to Tony Stark to take a seat at the table with the Avengers. But, honestly, a true Spider-Man wouldn’t care less given the thread by which his life is already hanging on. With an already full plate of crime-fighting, school, a crumbling relationship with a girl way out of his league, his photography job for the Bugle, and putting in face time with an already suspecting and lonely aunt, the praise of another hero is hardly his concern. Yes, I understand that a 16-year-old would only relish to play with the big leagues but it felt like Homecoming in dwelling on this, missed the bigger picture. — ★★☆☆☆