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Homecoming snares you in its web

The West Australian
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) goes through superhero growing pains as Spider-Man.
Camera IconPeter Parker (Tom Holland) goes through superhero growing pains as Spider-Man. Credit: Sony

MOVIE

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Tom Holland, Micheal Keaton

Director Jon Watts

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Reviewer Ray Chan

It’s hard to believe that this is the sixth instalment in the Spider-Man franchise .. not counting the disco era versions featuring Nicholas Hammond. And within those half dozen, we’ve already seen two other actors play the arachnoid super-hero: Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

So you’d be forgiven for thinking that Homecoming is yet another stale reboot. But don’t pass this up for that reason, because it rocks with an originality and charm that snares you in its web, fittingly enough, right from the start with its jazzed-up rendition of the theme from the animated TV show.

Tom Holland is perfectly cast as the squeaky-voiced young Peter Parker, plucky, naïve, lithe and supple, and newly minted as a reserve member of the Avengers. The production feels fresh and captures our hero the way the comic books originally intended him to be: a teenage hero, not ludicrously ripped nor absurdly handsome, with a sound moral compass battling the insecurities that come with puberty.

It’s a refreshing change from the sort of arrogant geekiness portrayed by Maguire and Garfield, which made them less likeable characters.

Peter’s origin story is wisely left out of the movie; who doesn’t know by now how he got his powers from a radioactive spider? Rather than insult the audience’s intelligence by showing yet another recap of that event, the storyline follows on in the wake of the civil war (Captain America) saga, when Spider-Man helped Iron Man and his band of heroes in resolving the conflict.

He’s now chomping at the bit to be involved once again, but the call to action is long in coming, so he is restricted to battling crime as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, an affectionate nod to the term used oft in the comics.

It’s not the only reference to the original series as envisioned by Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko … director Jo Watts takes great pains to ensure that Spider-Man’s various physical peculiarities – whether it’s dangling upside down, climbing up walls, crouching on knees, or shooting webs from stretched arms - are faithful copies of the postures as drawn in four-colour form.

The main villain is the movie is played by Michael Keaton, who as city contractor Adrian Toomes, loses his gig cleaning up after one of the Avengers’ battles in New York. Seething over lost money and jobs for his team, he helps himself to some leftover extra-terrestrial technology in the debris and builds a winged suit to help him pull heists on various companies.

The antagonist is based on Spidey’s comic book nemesis The Vulture, although Toomes is not named as such until the end of the film, where is only referred to as a “vulture-like” person. For this reviewer, the exoskeleton is somewhat disappointing and resembles that of the Falcon’s. A more natural feathered ensemble, as depicted by Ditko, would have looked far more impressive.

Spidey and Toomes are first involved when the latter splits the Staten Island Ferry in half, forcing Peter to try and save the passengers. He fails and requires the assistance of an Iron Man robot to render assistance, leading Stark to declare that Spidey is not yet fit to join the Avengers, and in turn encouraging the webslinger to continue his solo crimefighting.

(Incidentally, most of the movie was shot in NSW and Victoria. One can only wonder if the ferry scene was filmed around Sydney harbour.)

Religious fans will also enjoy the unexpected appearances of two other enemies, the Shocker and the Scorpion, and indeed they’re just among the many cameos that show up in the movie. Minor characters galore abound, from Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, to Jon Favreau as Stark’s neurotic chauffeur Happy, to Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, to Chris Evans in a very amusing series of Captain America public service announcements.

There’s one great moment of glory in this movie that long-time comic readers will savour. In the final showdown between the two, Toomes buries Spider-Man under piles of rubble. How he escapes from that predicament has long been hailed as the most iconic scene in the hero’s comic book history.

Homecoming bears the signature light-comedic tone prevalent in offerings such as Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy, a treatment that meshes well with the overall much darker Marvel Cinematic Universe. It travels at a comfortable pace, not getting bogged down in endless scenes of devastation and destruction, while engaging the audience with moments of angst, wit and humour.

Homecoming is truly the movie where Spider-Man finally comes home, raising hopes high for the inevitable sequel.

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