The aptly titled Spider-man Homecoming signifies the second joint venture between Sony Columbia Pictures and Disney's Marvel Studios, as they once and for all aim to establish Spider-man as part of Marvel Studios' ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. The whole situation may seem confusing for some audiences, especially considering Spider-man Homecoming is in fact the sixth Spider-man movie to be made with Sony's involvement. For those who are not up to speed, Spider-man's film rights have been with Sony Pictures since the 1990's, with their first three Spider-man movies being made long before the first official Marvel Studios movie Iron Man in 2008. Since that time Marvel Studios' faithful comic inspired adaptations have received immense critical and box office success, leaving the other major studios in their wake. Disney quickly noticed Marvel's unlimited potential as well as their immensely large bank of characters and intellectual properties, and acquired the production company not long after the Incredible Hulk in 2009. Disney also subsequently took on Paramount Pictures' distribution deal, which ended with The Avengers in 2012. Since that time Disney has been at the helm, with producer extraordinaire Kevin Feige continuing to steer the ship.
Sony Pictures who were in a strong position at the time felt no need to sell their Spider-man rights back to Marvel. Instead, they aimed to capitalise on the resurgent superhero genre by re-establishing their own Spider-man centric universe in the form of The Amazing Spider-man and The Amazing Spider-man 2 starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. While both films experienced moderate box office success, the latter was essentially a critical failure. As a result, fans of the property barracked for Spider-man's return to Marvel Studios, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe going from strength to strength. An inspired and potentially complicated manoeuvre saw Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige approach Sony's Amy Pascal to offer an opportunity to share the character, among other key members of the Avengers, across their films.
The deal would see a newly introduced Spider-man featuring as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Sony footing the bill and receiving the profits for their next two Spider-man movies in addition to allowing Marvel Studios creative control during the production. The deal would also allow Marvel Studios to use the character in three of their upcoming movies, including the next two Avengers films, with Sony reaping the benefits from their character's exposure. This would also allow each studio to share characters where required, with Spider-man finally being able to engage with other heroes within the Marvel universe just like he regularly did in the comics. The first outing for the joint venture was the immensely successful Captain America: Civil War. The film marked the first appearance of Marvel's new Spider-man Tom Holland, as he courageously embodied a distinctly younger version of the wall-crawler, heavily inspired by the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comics.
Spider-man Homecoming follows the story of Peter Parker, not long after his exploits in Captain America: Civil War. There is an element of crossover between the two films, delivered in an immensely creative way that will have millennials everywhere reeling with delight. The strength of this sequence also has a lot to do with the fantastic character performance of Happy Hogan, played by one of the patriarchs of Marvel cinema Jon Favreau. Robert Downey Jr. in the form of Tony Stark also makes his presence felt, brilliantly setting up the character arc that is to follow for Peter Parker. From here Peter's journey follows his desperate quest to impress Tony Stark and become an Avenger. This is while having to simultaneously negotiate his high school social life and his relationship with his Aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei. Meanwhile, in another part of the city, a terrible plot unfolds, as a scavenger known as "The Vulture" harvests leftover relics from previous Avengers' battles, selling them to criminals on the black market to use as weapons.
Spider-man Homecoming as a whole is extremely well constructed. The continuously humorous and heart-wrenching circumstances Peter Parker finds himself in all play their part in re-establishing the Spider-man legacy first introduced in the comics. Each moment is as entertaining as the last, and the narrative drive is sensational. The film also manages to fulfil an interesting character arc for Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, as he aims to rectify the failed relationship he had with his own father Howard Stark through his mentorship of Spider-man. Make no mistake, the film is undeniably Spider-man's story. Downey's screen time is more limited than audiences might expect, but his key cameos are artfully threaded into the plot. These moments are all enjoyable, and his interaction and chemistry with Tom Holland is stupendous. The movie also benefits from a number of surprise Avengers and Iron Man character cameos, which make the film feel all the more integrated into the wonderful world Marvel Studios have created.
Director Jon Watts facilitates Marvel Studios' creative vision brilliantly. Spider-man Homecoming resembles an amalgamation between Sony's strong desire for an action blockbuster, and Marvel Studios' vision of a high school coming of age story in the mould of the John Hughes movies of the 80's. It is executed brilliantly and will keep filmgoers smiling from ear to ear. Audiences with a keen eye for detail will even notice a creative homage to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The movie also seems to offer the sensibilities and youthful exuberance of Robert Zemeckis' Back To The Future. There is even a subtle tip of the hat to Back to the Future 2, as Spider-man Homecoming pays tribute to some of the best films to feature young and humorous protagonists.
Producer Amy Pascal has made many questionable decisions in the past, but she deserves a lot of credit for choosing to work with Marvel's Kevin Feige on this movie. Allowing Marvel Studios to steer the creative direction of the film has provided them with a plethora of opportunities. It has also undeniably enriched the character depth of Spider-man, who always worked best playing off the many other characters within the Marvel comics sandbox. The character contrast in this film highlights Spider-man's unique differences, which have historically made him Marvel's most popular and likeable hero, at least prior to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Tom Holland's iteration of Peter Parker and Spider-man is utterly sensational. He is undeniably the best Spider-man to appear on the silver screen so far. His comic timing is fantastic, and his physicality definitely adds an extra dimension to the courageous and relatable hero. Holland also seems to tremendously understand the character, from the emotional anguish to the formidable humour. His chemistry with the other cast members is also fantastic. It is an outstanding performance to say the least. Spider-man's updated character design is also terrific, from the visual effects all the way to the aesthetic of his costume. It is definitely the best interpretation yet, clearly taking inspiration from the illustrations of John Romita Sr. and Alex Ross.
It has to be said that at times Spider-man's new suit resembles more of an Iron Man suit, with an overwhelming amount of technology, in addition to it's own artificial intelligence in the form of Jennifer Connelly. This is clearly a reaction to Sony's overwhelming desire to have a marquee hero of the same stature as Marvel Studios' Iron Man. While it is a slight departure from the comics, the creative choice does seem to work, with Peter Parker's interaction with his A.I. being incredibly humorous. It is also a logical change to the canon, especially considering Tony Stark's involvement with Spider-man's development.
Michael Keaton as the Vulture is also superb. He is actually scary at times, conveying a sense of focus and irreverence that is very believable. His tough exterior makes his character quite formidable, and his choices and methods definitely challenge the audiences' perceptions of what is right and wrong. The Vulture's character design is also terrific, honouring the source material and building upon the character's legacy. This particular iteration sees his alias Adrian Toomes as a scavenger of sorts, riffling through the remains of past Avengers battles and selling the advanced alien weaponry on the black market. It is an interesting creative decision, which has many parallels with "a vulture" in itself. In short, the unique interpretation works incredibly well, resting heavily on the brilliant performance of Michael Keaton.
The rest of the cast is amazingly diverse, with character's such as Peter Parker's best friend Ned, and his high school nemesis Flash Thompson all playing an entertaining part. Peter's high school crush Liz Allan, played by Laura Harrier, also fulfils her role brilliantly. The relationship is supremely well executed, playing a role in fleshing out Spider-man's unique psychology, as he has to make vital decisions on whether to follow his immense social desires or save the day from a criminal plot. There is great chemistry between the two, and the nature of their relationship is very believable. As a collective. the young cast seem to resemble aspects of The Breakfast Club, which seems to be a deliberate move considering Marvel and Jon Watts' vision of a John Hughes inspired coming of age story.
It has to be said that Zendaya's role in the overall plot is slightly perplexing. Her screen time is limited, for the most part serving the role of cynical comic relief. She conveys this well, but really has little to do. Without spoiling plot points, there does seem to be an agenda for her character, with a revealing moment towards the end of the film. However, the brief reference does seem to be terribly obscure, being no more than just a name drop. It's an odd way of introducing the character, especially considering how much of a departure the character depiction is from the original source material. Considering how faithful the rest of the movie and characters are to the original comics makes the creative decision even more strange. There is potential to save the character, but currently the unique creative choice doesn't pay off.
If Zendaya is indeed playing the character mentioned, it begs the question as to why someone like Hailee Steinfeld wasn't cast in the role? Steinfeld is an Oscar nominee, of the right age, and already has a formidable screen presence. Her performance in last year's The Edge of Seventeen was also brilliant, conveying similar social hardships and high school challenges that also happen to be the focus in Spider-man Homecoming. Zendaya's musical ability definitely offers potential creative options for the future of the franchise, however Steinfeld arguably has more musical prowess, featuring prominently in the music charts right now as well as playing a key role in Pitch Perfect 2. If Zendaya's casting choice is purely for the sake of diversity, then the producers may have missed a golden opportunity to cast a proven performer that would have been able to significantly build on the implied character's legacy. However, this casting negative is only a minor gripe in what is otherwise tremendously fun and utterly fabulous film.
Overall, Spider-man Homecoming is an absolutely fantastic film, arguably one of the best of the year. The movie is so marvellous in fact, that Sony Pictures will be forced to keep up their partnership up with Disney's Marvel Studios after their contract expires. Currently, the collaboration is only contracted for five films. After seeing this movie, audiences will not settle for anything less than significant Marvel Studios involvement with Spider-man and his associated properties in future. From here on out, Tom Holland will definitely be regarded as the quintessential Spider-man. In short, it's a must see at your local cinema.