Total Film, the UK's smartest movie magazine, is part of the GamesRadar+ family, with unique insight and fresh perspectives on the biggest and most interesting films of the year. Here's Total Film's review of Spider-Man: Homecoming by Editor-at-Large Jamie Graham, giving you another in-depth verdict on one of the biggest movies of the year.
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Total Film magazine's Spider-Man: Homecoming review
Verdict: Spidey’s got a spring in his step once more. The planned sequels will re-join him for junior year and then senior year. We’ll happily enrol right now.
Do we really need a second Spider-Man reboot in five years? Sure, the tyro web-slinger’s exuberant cameo during the airport smackdown in Captain America: Civil War was fun and, crucially, fresh, all zestful gymnastics and zinging gags, but really, haven’t we seen Spider-Man do whatever a spider can over three Tobey Maguire movies and two Andrew Garfield films? That famous red-and-blue onesie is smelling an itsy bitsy bit noxious.
Well, unitard + rightful universe (this is Spidey’s first solo screen outing in the MCU) = an adventure washed of fatigue and spritzed with Febreze. Picking up pretty much where Civil War left off, we find a 15-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) juggling schoolwork and spandex as mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tells him to build up his game by helping the little people. By day he hangs out with best bud Ned (Jacob Batalon) and snarky Michelle (Zendaya) while crushing on bright and beautiful senior Liz (Laura Harrier). By night – or rather between 2.45pm, when school lets out, and 10pm, lest Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) worry – he too-soon kicks off his training wheels and embarks on a mission worthy of a fully-fledged Avenger: to clip the mechanical wings of The Vulture (Michael Keaton).
Keaton brings intriguing baggage to the part having played Batman and Birdman, and is made more interesting still by his antagonist possessing a legitimate gripe against Stark, who’s profited from the clean-up of New York following the alien invasion seen in Avengers Assemble. Compare that to the man inside the battle-armoured bird – Adrian Toomes is a blue-collar construction boss when we meet him sifting through the rubble soon after that very attack. His business is crushed when the suits take over; fast-forward eight years and so what if he’s pilfered some of the Chitauri tech to fashion kickass weapons for the highest bidders, taking wing in the process? How is that different to Tony’s funding of Stark Industries?
Such piquant psychology and grounded storytelling is the very foundation of Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming. Taking its cue from the first dozen or so Amazing Spider-Man comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the early ‘60s, the Ultimate Spider-Man arc of the noughties and John Hughes’ ‘80s teen movies, this is a contained, emotionally centred tale about finding yourself. “I’m nothing without this suit,” a distraught Peter tells Tony, to which his inevitable reply is, “Then you shouldn’t have it.” Yes, it features a vertiginous set-piece atop the Washington Monument; sure, the Staten Island Ferry splits vertically in two; and hell yeah, there’s climactic sky-high battle thrown in, but it’s also a character drama set largely in Queens and a recognisable high-school.
So good are these quiet, quotidian moments that you can’t help wishing they lasted longer. At one point Peter attends a house party only to suit up and rush off before he’s even spotted a keg, while the homecoming prom referenced in the clever title is similarly short-changed. Hughes’ movies are, undoubtedly, in the film’s DNA – there’s even a genius visual gag that riffs on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – but not so much as the promo talk had us believe. This is, first and foremost, a Marvel movie, just with a younger hero.
And what a hero. Ebullient, fretful and permanently awestruck, Holland is a delight as both Parker and Spidey, for his USP as the MVP in the MCU is his athleticism. This, after all, is the actor who leapt on the scene with a grand jeté by playing the title role in Billy Elliott The Musical. Here, his dance training allows him to be his own stuntman when the mask is in place, and Watts proves an able partner by largely avoiding videogame shots to enhance that grounded feel – at least until the inevitable Spidey vs Vulture climax, which like so many superhero finales before, becomes something of a stretched-out slugfest. Briefer and better are Holland’s over-eager interactions with Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau as security heavy Happy Hogan. Never mind Tobey Maguire’s jazzy street-strut – this is what Spidey having fun really looks like.
And fun is what Spider-Man: Homecoming is really all about, from Peter trying to get to grips with his new Stark-fashioned tech-suit replete with its own AI to a hilarious post-credits sting that caps a running gag involving one of the other Avengers. Holland, like his character, is clearly having a blast throughout, and you’ll know just how he feels. Jamie Graham