Thursday, 27 July 2017



Someone must have quietly passed a law stating that there shall at all times be a Spiderman film either on release or in production. There's no other explanation for rebooting the character yet again - the third restart and (if you count the cameo in Captain America: Civil War) the seventh appearance in just fifteen years, now shoehorning him into the Avengers universe. (It's as if the Bond films just kept remaking Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace with all new casts, and then did it yet again after 007 had a quick walk-on in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) It's hard not to conclude that they're going to keep on pressing the reset button until they get Spider-Man right, and they still haven't: while there are definitely things they're doing right there's so much wrong that on balance it ends up another failure. It's not even something I can call a disappointment since my hopes weren't that high in the first place.

The two things they've done absolutely right with Spider-Man: Homecoming are [1] not to make it an origin story so we can skip the radioactive spider bite and kindly Uncle Ben getting killed off yet again, and [2] bringing Aunt May down in age so she's not a grey-haired old biddy any more. (I understand that's how she appears in the comics but she's not his grandmother, for goodness' sake.) The villain this time is The Vulture (Michael Keaton), shafted out a contract to clean up the debris of whatever the hell happened at the end of Avengers Assemble: he smuggles out some of the mysterious alien gloop and starts making and selling his own weapons to criminals. Peter/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) wants to stop them but Tony Stark doesn't think he yet has the temperament to take on anyone but local muggers and bullies...

Much of the film is devoted to Peter Parker's high school experiences: we've got a crimefighter in a hi-tech combat suit spinning webs across the city, but we're spending half the movie watching his fantastically tiresome crush on Liz and whether he's in or out of the quiz team. Which isn't necessaily a bad thing: the film feels pitched younger than the other versions. The makers have indicated they were riffing on John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink, which does at least yield the film's best moment, a terrifically tense scene with Liz's father as he drives them to the school dance. At the other end of the scale are the whizzbang action sequences, particularly the climactic fight in and around a burning, out of control aeroplane in which Spidey is practically indestructible (especially absurd since, unless my memory has been shot completely in the last few days, he's wearing his homemade suit rather than the fantastic Stark suit).

There's some enjoyment to be had elsewhere, but it's mostly the kind of sitcom fun with Jon Favreau as his handler who isn't interested in handling him, while Tony Stark is even less likeable than usual (and he's not very likeable even at the best of times). Inevitably, of course, there's a tease for a continuation which may be either the announced 2019 Spider-Man sequel or next year's Infinity War Part 1, which apparently stars absolutely everybody except Barbara Windsor and the Honey Monster. Either way, that law about keeping Spider-Man films going all the time isn't about to be broken any time soon, which is a pity because he, and I, could do with a break.


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