July 12, 2017

Ever since his comic-book debut in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15, and later his feature film debut in 2002, Spider-Man has established himself as a household name, currently ranking as the most profitable super-hero (when taking into account box-office revenue and merchandising etc.) in the world today. In the character’s 55-year history, it seems that the saga of the web-slinger, fighting crime while simultaneously navigating the trials of high-school and adolescence, has resonated with audiences.

In the last 15 years, the franchise has undergone three reboots, each helmed by different directors. Sam Raimi’s original trilogy recieved mixed reviews, peaking with 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Marc Webb’s subsequent take on the franchise (in 2012, and later 2014) was, however, somewhat lacking. While Homecoming adds new dimensions to the character and rejuvenates the hero’s tale in such a way that younger audiences can relate, the story itself was hindered by a bland plotline and ever-too-familiar tropes.

A change that distinguishes this addition to the masked crusader’s lore is the setting. Peter Parker is 15, younger than he’s been before, taking on petty criminals in the infamous New York City borough of Queens. Fans were spared the death of Uncle Ben, a staple feature of the character’s origin that has been either featured or referenced in each film to date. The event arguably influenced his decision to pursue a life of crime-fighting, echoing the ever-memorable: “With great power comes great responsibility.” To breath life into Jon Watt’s vision of Spider-Man’s teenage years, he enlists 21-year old British actor Tom Holland, Zendaya (formerly known as Zendaya Coleman), Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei and veteran actor, no stranger to super-hero flicks, Michael Keaton. To remind viewers that the film is canon in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, we’re treated to appearances from Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Jon Favreau’s ‘Happy’ Hogan. References to other figures in Spidey’s history, as well as that of the Marvel Universe are frequent.

The film’s stand-out performance was delivered by Michael Keaton, who brings a darkly-comic edge (developed during his tenure as a Tim Burton collaborator in the Batman films and Beetlejuice) to his menacing portrayal. Although his character lacks depth, as a result of a rushed backstory, he provided the perfect counter to Holland’s Parker in this coming of age tale.

As to be expected from a Marvel film, the action setpieces were spectacular, well worth the 3-D experience, while refraining from a too heavy reliance on CGI, as most action blockbuster filmmakers are prone to do. The dramatic shots that usher in Keaton’s sinister ‘Vulture’ are a reflection of the close attention to detail by the SFX designers. The audience is frequently reminded of this fact as in the Washington Memorial sequence with its daring camera stunts and dazzling visual effects.  Spidey fans will notice references to earlier renditions of the character i.e the parallel between the elevator kiss, and a familiar segment from Raimi’s original outing that prompts us to take a look at the cinematic legacy of the character.

The film is littered with constant allusions to Parker’s age, that place the film in perspective when compared with recent super-hero ventures. Batman and Superman are adults, and resultantly their on-screen features highlight mature themes and exude a dark, gritty atmosphere. The contrast is evident in the nature of Peter Parker’s character. He doesn’t come from wealth, nor has he a rigid set of principles that dictate his actions. He’s simply an ordinary teenager, specially gifted, and trying to do right by his Aunt and mentor/idol Tony Stark.

The obstacles he is presented with, aside from dastardly super-villains and their elaborate schemes, are those that all of us have faced at some point in our teenage years; romantic encounters, social pressures etc. Despite the basic plot and forgettable side-characters, the film’s  youthful aura will appeal to a new generation of audiences. And who knows, there may still be potential for the film’s hero to develop in the future.