Thursday, 6 July 2017

Review: Spider-Man - Homecoming (first-pass / spoiler-free)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (3D / first-pass / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 133 mins / Dir. Jon Watts / Trailer

So, no double-bill, no midnight-screening, no cup-toppers or popcorn bucket tie-in merch? This is a suspiciously low-key release from Marvel Studios, particularly considering the friendly neighbourhood webslinger is practically royalty as far as their back-catalogue goes. Did Marvel/Sony perhaps become wary of audience reboot-fatigue? Did they even think were sitting on their first dud? Had the studios viewed the final edits after committing to a release date and wished they could quietly slip the film out to minimise the reputational damage?

6:27pm on the 5th July was to be the moment of truth.

And I say all this as someone who was, if not outright cautious, definitely reserved in my excitement about the project, despite being a fervent armirer of Marvel Studios' output. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the natural home for Spider-Man of course, but since Sony currently own the film-rights to the character and his immediate co-stars (it's a long story), the cross-functional team-up felt to me a little like an abandonment of an already blossoming franchise. The re-cast Peter Parker took his first steps into Marvel's larger sandpit in last year's Civil War, and while he was a perfectly acceptable addition, there wasn't really enough screentime there for me to be relieved by that point.

But Spider-Man: Homecoming is nothing short of outstanding. Perfect MCU.

The first act feels a little uneven, like breaking in a new pair of shoes. The film opens with the Sony ident and a muted reworking of the Marvel-fanfare playing under it*1; but then we get the Marvel Studios ident in due course, this time with a more familiar accompaniment. And all throughout the first third of the film - despite a liberal dosing of MCU continuity tie-in - this feels very much like a Sony Spider-Man™ flick. And there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not really why the audience are sitting watching. Once key characters and plot-points are established, the film almost instantly feels like part of the wider Marvel universe. It has the wit, humour and heart of the best of Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. And unlike Parker's debut movie appearance last year, there are relatively few established characters on-hand to wave hello to the audience. Homecoming marks its territory quietly and effectively.

And it's not blatant-reboot territory, either. Peter's actual origin story is hinted at but left largely off to one side, and there are a couple of very deft visual homages to both the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield movies*2. Nothing glaring, they're just there at the right moment. This retooling of the hero isn't as faithful to the spirit of the comics as Sony's 2014 outing, but it's the version of Spidey which the MCU needs. Tom Holland is fantastic as both Parker and Spider-Man, still coming to terms with his powers and his new suit. Opposite him, Michael Keaton is perfectly cast as his nemesis - one of the few MCU villains who has actual character from the beginning. The supporting characters are admittedly less fleshed-out, then again it's not their story (oh and Marvel: "chunky Asian comedy sidekick" worked well with Benedict Wong in Doctor Strange, and Jacob Batalon pulls it off in fine style here, but enough now, yeah?).

Despite the assured success of this particular studio cross-over, I can't see the X-Men making the transition to the MCU any time soon. Deadpool on the other hand, will probably be the subject of some frantic Hollywood phone conversations in the very near future*3.

But it's still sinking in at the moment. I'm sure I'll have more to say after I've watched it again. Soon. In the meanwhile, go and see this film.

The title has it dead-on: Spidey's home

And the business-end:
• Is there a Wilhelm Scream? I think so.
• Is there a Stan Lee cameo? Yes.
• Is there a mid-credits scene? Yes.
• Is there a post-credits scene? Yes.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Tonally, the film's very Iron Man, and not just because there's fair amount of Tony Stark in it.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
More than.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's a high-watermark for the central cast, for sure.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Depends why, but probably.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Pretty sure I heard one in 'the ferry scene'.
A second-pass should confirm either way

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: As well as some on-screen Lego Death Star and vintage Kenner X-Wing love, the young-and-upcoming Lando Calrissian is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Michael Giacchino's back on scoring-duties, and while he works in themes and motifs from previous Marvel composers (namely Jackman, Tyler, Elfman), there's a notable amount of Rogue One's styling in there as well. I swear it's like he has to have two projects on at the same time[ BACK ]

*2 There's also a superb callback/reference to The First Avenger, but this spoiler-free review prevents me from going any further. I grinned like an idiot, anyway. And fair play to them for inserting that jibe about an invisible jet, coming a month after Wonder Woman's big-screen debut… [ BACK ]

*3 We've also not yet gotten full confirmation if the recently announced Venom project starring Tom Hardy will take place in the MCU or Sony's own Sinister Six timeline. Personally I'm hoping for the latter because as much as I loved Homecoming, I want to see Andrew Garfield back in the suit at some point, too. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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