During a recent conversation with a friend, one in which we were in a state of some refreshment, we agreed that dodgy casting of the role of Peter Parker was not necessarily a barrier to the success of a Spider-Man movie, but it left a strange taste in the mouth.
Despite a genuinely lovely chemistry with Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield was, in our somewhat muddled states, far too dashing, charming and attractive, too good of a skateboarder to be a believable Parker. Seeing Garfield swing over buildings, even quipping mid-battle, did not quite put me in mind of every-nerd Peter Parker. He had too much a look of an aftershave model for our liking.
Although arguably appearing in a pair of thrilling (and one awful) Spider-Man movies, there was still something disconnected about Tobey Maguire’s performance across the Sam Raimi trilogy. A slowness approaching dead-eyed lifelessness that was off-putting to watch almost to the point of it being disconcerting. Maguire seemed to weigh up his response to every line of dialogue for an interminable length of time. It was almost as if he had suffered a head injury that had affected his ability to process even the most basic of questions. You could more or less see the gears churning in his head at points. Not that a couple of his outings, particularly Spider-Man 2, were not great fun, it was just that, until now, the principal character in the Spider-Man drama could have been cast a little more astutely.
So a significant amount of our enjoyment of this new, Marvel Cinematic Universe-linked offering would revolve around whether we thought the lead would suit the role. Happily, the casting of Tom Holland, crucially not a million years older than the character he is portraying, seems destined to be one of the best recent decisions by Marvel. It’s not just that the age gap is no longer a factor, it’s that the youthful casting highlights Spider-Man: Homecoming’s biggest asset: that this feels like a teenage Spider-Man movie and not a tinkered-with, cobbled-together Avengers tie-in.
Youthful exuberance rules the roost here, with a feeling that the character has been taken back to a setting and mood that suits, following a few missteps over the years. An extended opening re-visits the events of Civil War but from the point of view of a preposterously excited Parker, making a video blog on his phone. Holland blabbers on like a boy on Christmas morning who has just been given his first pint of beer and promised his first lap dance. It’s charming to see Parker juggle the twin pressures of being a teen and impressing the girls, along with striving to impress surrogate father figure Tony Stark, in his quest for acceptance and promotion to the Avengers. The innate charm of the movie comes, to a massive extent, from Holland’s starry-eyed performance and his ability to make chatting with a computer, seem hilarious.
If there’s a negative to be had, and it’s probably only a half negative, it’s that Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a blue collar villain-of-the-people type character intent on sticking it back to the system that has kept him down, feels a trifle underwritten and undercooked. The movie begins with a diatribe on crooked capitalism and the abuse of power but never quite follows those early jabs with a knockout punch; not that Keaton isn’t excellently sinister and great to watch because he plainly is.
Homecoming is a fun, funny and breezy watch that never feels beholden to, or bogged down by, the MCU.
action, comedy | USA, 2017 | 12A | 5th July 2017 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Jon Watts | Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, Laura Harrier, Jon Favreau