Spider-Man: Homecoming

Year: 2017
Studio: Sony
Director: Jon Watts
Producer: Kevin Fiege/Amy Pascal
Writer: Jonathan Goldstein/John Francis Daley/Jon Watts/Christopher Ford/Chris McKenna/Erik Sommers
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Angourie Rice, Martin Starr, Chris Evans, Stan Lee

Even though this movie had Sony on the label, it was a Marvel film through and through, and to whatever extent they did so, Sony was very smart to outsource it to make sure it got enough Marvel magic to give it a good reputation rather than just a cash cow like the franchise with Andrew Garfield was.

This time, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a kid still at school, more concerned with asking the girl he likes out and how awesome it'd be to be an Avenger than wanting to do the right thing or save the world. After the events of Captain America: Civil War (video blogs Parker's making on his phone show us the leadup to the huge airport battle), Peter's returned to New York to live his quiet life with his loving Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

Taking the high tech spider-man suit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) has given him, he goes out at night to solve petty crimes around his Brooklyn neighbourhood, waiting impatiently for Happy (Jon Favreau) to call him with a mission and finally make him an Avenger.

In classic underdog fashion, it will be forced upon him. In the opening scenes, we see a clean-up crew owned by blue collar disposal business owner Toomes (Michael Keaton) collecting the wreckage left from the battle of New York from The Avengers. Shield agents abruptly descend on Toomes' operation and shut him down, cancelling the contract he has with the city with impunity and throwing him out of work.

Feeling he's owed something for all his effort, Toomes and his top lieutenants keep hold of some of the pieces of alien technology they've collected, figuring it's probably rare and valuable and that they might be able to make money out of it in some way to make up for the lost business.

Years later, with Parker now a high school student, Toomes and his crew have reverse engineered what they started with and are making a killing selling alien technology weapons on the underground market. Toomes himself gets around in an engine- and propeller-driven flying suit with extendable wings that makes him the lead villain-to-be, Vulture.

As Parker frets about ever getting the chance to join The Avengers properly, he gets wind of the strange new tech on the streets and decides to crack the case himself to impress Stark and the gang enough to give him a permanent place in their ranks.

A lot of it's as expected in the huge set pieces, overabundance of CGI and everything else these movies have to contain by Hollywood law. But even though we've seen these jokes and characters a hundred times, the character and dialogue moments are all earnest and sweet enough to draw you in and contain just enough laughs to suit the tone.

There's one sequence I really enjoyed at the three quarter mark twist. A lot of people will tell you they saw it coming but I didn't, and it's handled in a way you hardly ever see in mainstream cinema – instead of a dramatic crash zoom or ominous blast of horn music there's virtual silence, normal conversation going on around Peter as you share his terror at what he's unearthed. Simply because of what you know as an audience member, you're the one providing the drama, not the orchestra, camera operators or even director John Watts.

It also does a good job of cashing on on the current wave of 80s nostalgia because of the success of Stranger Things, etc. Sometimes it's overt like when Peter passes someone watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off on TV or The Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop over the mixtape artwork-inspired closing credits. And sometimes it's more subtle, whether it's something in the chirpy, Amblin-flavoured early teens point of view or even the casting of Keaton, an actor who came to characterise the 1980s.

In fact it's kind of a meta statement about Hollywood itself. Keaton came back to prominenece because of Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) , playing the role of an actor who wants to be taken seriously and whose early success was because of a flying superhero character, and here he is playing a flying superhero character after being taken seriously again.

It also carries on a grand tradition in Spider-Man movies of giving the reins of a huge franchise to an indie director after only one project. Like Watts made the little seen but quite cool Cop Car before this, Mark Webb was known only for 500 Days of Summer before the Garfield Spider-Man series.

The only niggle is how it all falls victim to the arms race principle. This antagonist only arises because of the actions of the protagonists of this world in an earlier film. Just like the US and USSR or gang members and cops enter an ever-expanding cycle of weaponising in response to each other, if The Avengers never existed, none of the rest of it would either.

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