Mark Newbold gives us his opinion on the new Spider-Man movie…
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe first got off the ground with Iron Man back in 2008 it was a gamble. Iron Man was far from a top-tier character in the vein of a Batman or Spider-Man and Robert Downey Jr was widely perceived as a has-been in the film community. Thankfully the stars aligned. Downey owned the role, Jon Favreau nailed the direction and ILM broke new ground with some stunning VFX. In short, it couldn’t have got off to a better start.
9 years and 15 connected films later the risk of franchise fatigue is a very real threat, something that other franchises such as Star Trek have seen in the past. Marvel have been smart in connecting their individual character movies so neatly, adding a dash of flavour to stand-alone movies and bringing in characters from other movies. Tony Stark turned up at the end of 2008’s Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury at the end of Iron Man 2 and so on. Those crossovers increased to the point that by the time Captain America: Civil War arrived it wasn’t just the Avengers films that brought a vast cast of characters together, the single character films did as well.
Civil War also brought something that fans had been hankering for since the beginning of the MCU proper. Just a year before Iron Man, Spider-Man 3 had ended the Sam Raimi trilogy. Fans hoped for a deal to bring Spider-Man over to the main Marvel Universe but it was not to be. Two further criuminally underrated and very successful Andrew Garfield led films followed before a younger, teenage Spidey finally arrived in the MCU in Civil War and made an immediate impact.
And now Spider-Man Homecoming.
With 5 films over the last 15 years it would be easy to think that the appetite for another isn’t there, but bearing in mind that all 5 films made north of $700m worldwide, that’s clearly far from the truth. A winning performance by Tom Holland in Civil War whetted the appaetite for more and Homecoming delivers in spades. With Downey Jr and Favreau joining Holland in establishing the MCU corner of the Parkerverse (let’s forget for now the Sony plans to make a Sinister 6 film and a Venom spin-off without Spider-Man’s involvement) this film is a joy.
Holland, 20 years old from West London, totally nails the youthful vibe of 15 year old Peter from Queens. He’s slightly clumsy, both as Peter and as Spidey who is still learning his craft, finding his strengths and skills and his part in society. We’re not introduced to the finished, polished Spidey from prior films. This kid is at the beginning of his journey, a YouTube star who got the attention of Iron Man…and then faded slowly back into the mundane chore of daily life.
Civil War was his 15 minutes in the spotlight and 2 months later Peter is still waitign for that call to join the Avengers, a call that doesn’t come. School, friendships, family, they all occupy his time waiting for his big break. That ‘break’ comes via one of the MCU’s most menacing villains yet, Adrian Toomes as played by the best of all the big screen Batman’s, Michael Keaton. Here’s a villain you can identify with, have sympathy with. His livelihood stolen from him by the city and given to Tony Stark, he swoops into a life of crime using tech left over from the attack on New York in the original Avengers. He’s relatable, a man fighting to protect his family, just like we know Peter will as he grows.
Peters friends are a joy. His best pal Ned (Jacob Patalon) is as essential to the story as Michael Pena’s Luis was to 2015’s Ant-Man. Infectiously enthusiastic, Ned learns of Peter’s identity early, keeping that secret right through the movie (it takes the very final WTF scene of the film for another family member to find out his secret life).
Zendaya is a sarcastic, dry presence in the film, always present and aware of what’s going on but in no way a love interest for Peter, despite having the same initials – MJ – as Peter’s most iconic romantic partner. With a winning group of friends, familiar faces in smaller roles (future Lando Calrissian Donald Glover, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Tyne Daley, Lacey in the classic Cagney and Lacey), a top-notch villain in Keaton and the crutch of Downey Jr, Favreau and the return of Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts you have a recipe for a very high grossing movie.
The scene is set for the return of a more confident and mature Spidey in Avengers Infinity War, but let’s hope he doesn’t grow up too fast. One of the joys of Spidey in a group setting is the non-stop backchat, a constant verbal stream that not only knocks the enemy off-guard but often irritates his allies (ask Wolverine or Hulk for evidence of that). Indeed, the thought of this 15 year old Spidey and a 40 year old Deadpool or a however-old-he-is in 2017 Wolverine is delicious, but thanks to 20th Century Fox having no deals in place with Disney that’s something we probably won’t see, (but guys, please start talking as this reviewer wants to see the Fantastic Four finally done properly). Spider-Man sitting on the shoulder of Hulk as he battles Thanos, swinging into battle with Thor and Captain Marvel, (who we may see introduced ahead of her 2019 solo movie), is something to relish.,
The film opened with $117m in the States, $257m worldwide, so a figure north of $650m looks likely as does a strong North American run. The film had the largest opening for a single character intro into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, topping the $98.6 million brought in by Iron Man back in 2008, a film which ended 2008 as the highest grossing movie in the States ahead of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which finished the year worldwide second only to The Dark Knight).