The film begins with the iconic 1960's Spider-man theme song, which is enough to send tingles up the spine's of long-serving fans. There’s plenty of fun to be had watching this wet-behind-the-ears Spider-Man bumble around the city trying to prove to himself - and Tony Stark - that he is worthy of being an Avenger. Although one does wonder how Tom Holland’s interpretation of Spidey ever held his own against Captain America, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in ‘Civil War’ when he clearly has trouble fending off four regular thugs holding up an ATM.
Holland is hands-down the most appealing Spider-Man/Peter Parker to date, avoiding the stuttering of Andrew Garfield and the sulking of Tobey McGuire. As per Marvel Studios standard, the visual effects are world-class, the performances strong across the board and the direction is very assured, which is what we expect from a studio working at the top of their game. Critics and audiences alike have given the film a big thumbs up, but one can’t help but feel it’s because this is simply the best Spider-Man film to date, and not because it’s a truly fantastic film in and of itself.
The largest flaw with Spider-Man: Homecoming is its lacking in the emotional stakes. The movie is always reminding us that Peter Parker is ‘just a kid’, and for better or worse it often plays out like a sweet, self-aware, coming-of-age comedy. It certainly delivers in spades for its target demographic (and no doubt Spidey fans), but mature viewers may find it too immature to satisfy. I compare the film to the giant Lego Death Star owned by Peter Parker’s best friend: it’s an impressive toy to the child or Lego enthusiast, but adults whose Lego days are far behind them might find it hard to get excited. Centred around high-school teens “struggling” with their middling first-world problems, it’s as dramatically juvenile and shallow as its onscreen characters and it can be hard to get emotionally invested for its lengthy run time.
Adding to the problem is Spidey and co. constantly throwing out quirky quips during death-defying situations; the tension is immediately dissolved and you never feel that anyone is in mortal danger. For example, Spidey rescuing a group of people from a falling elevator doesn’t generate an ounce of the tension created by a similar scene from 1994’s ‘Speed’. But to its eternal credit, Spider-Man: Homecoming does keep the action snappy and the inevitable B.D.E (Big Dumb Ending) is quite contained by the usual Marvel standards.
The original Spider-Man trilogy significantly triumphed in the music department, and Danny Elfman’s original theme was always going to be hard to top. Sadly Michael Giacchino’s efforts do not compare. Like the characters, the new signature theme is rather shallow and becomes downright grating towards the end, which is surprising considering how dependable Giacchino has proved himself to be in the past.
But these are minor quibbles and as a whole, Spider-Man: Homecoming delivers what it promises. It is a great start to a new incarnation that was sorely needed after Sony’s last three strikes, and hopefully one that will stick around for many years to come. It will be satisfying to see this character mature and the emotional stakes rise. Whilst we don’t want the brooding angst of the DC Universe, a healthy dose of true human conflict would be the shot in the arm that will take Marvel’s Spider-Man from good to great.