Spider-Man: Homecoming 

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I’m a little confused, maybe one of my American friends can help me out with this. Doesn’t Homecoming happen at the start of the academic year? Isn’t it there to celebrate everyone at college getting back together after the Summer break? Doesn’t it normally involve a carnival and a football game? In this film it seems to happen at the end of the final semester and it centres round a dance. Isn’t that prom?

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Anyway, it’s a perfect title for this film – not because of the student social that features in the story but because this marks Spider-Man’s proper return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is reunited with his friends having spent some time away as a character for a different studio (not that Sony have released their cash cow, this seems to be a joint venture) but now he’s home. Spider-Man has always played well with others, both in the comics and the cartoons (remember Firestar and Ice-Man?) and watching this film you suddenly realise that’s what was wrong with those other Spider-Man movies. He’s not a loner unable to truly connect to those around him, he’s not tortured by having to keep his secret, he’s not Batman. He’s a team player, he’s friendly, he’s known for it. 

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Unlike this particular web-slinger’s debut in Captain America: Civil War, the only other superhero he gets to mix with here is Iron Man but one super friend is better than none and he sparks well with Happy Hogan as well. Cap is also peripherally involved in the most brilliant way. Amongst his own social and family circle he still has his aunt, played refreshingly differently by Marisa Tomei, and his school friends all of whom he bounces off well. Both Zendaya as Michelle and Jacob Batalon as best friend Ned work well in this dynamic. 

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It isn’t just people that our hero is bouncing off though, he hits walls and cars and dustbins all the way throughout the film too. This is not the slick and graceful Spider-Man we quickly got from Tobey Maquire and Andrew Garfield; he is struggling to find his feet for most of the film. The thing is you see, he’s fifteen. He’s not a natural at this stuff yet, he’s fumbling through, and that’s an endearing aspect we’ve not really seen from the character before. I mean, he does the flips and everything but certainly the film is not as obsessed with watching the red spandexed CGI figure swinging and swooping around cityscapes as has previously been the case.

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So yes, this may well be the best screen version of Spider-Man we’ve had and this is allowing for Sam Raimi’s first two movies which were very good. The thing is though Spider-Man: Homecoming is partly good because we already have Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. We know the set up so this film doesn’t have to waste time on the origin story. This whole bitten by a radioactive spider episode gets about four funny lines in the script and that’s it. There is also nothing about what happened to Spidey’s parents or Uncle Ben. Here Spider-Man’s origin revolves around him filling his time stopping petty crimes while he waits for the call to fight with The Avengers again. It isn’t building up to a climax, its building down from one and it’s all a welcome change. Incidentally the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern style flashbacks to what was going on behind the scenes of the epic airport battle in Civil War are a treat and there’s a similarly satisfying look at the post Avengers 1 New York clean up. 

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Unburdened by presenting the back story this film genuinely feels like something fresh even though it is so dependent on what we’ve seen before. Because we are very familiar with Spider-Man’s MO the film can play with this a little too. Ever wonder how Spider-Man travels around when there aren’t any buildings to swing from? Wonder no more. Curious as to whether Spider-Man gets tired climbing really really tall buildings? You won’t be after this. Want to know how get gets into that tight suit so quickly? The answer is here. What we have is the MCU’s winning formula of great character, humour, story, action (and references to their other movies) finally applied to Marvel’s most popular character.

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Another thing that is great here is the mix of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. One of the criticisms of Andrew Garfield’s incarnation is that the actor was great as Parker but not so good as his alter ego. Well this time round there is no separating the two, they are always the same guy and Tom Holland nails it. He completely owns this part that has been played by two other men in five other hugely successful films. 

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Of course with a great hero comes the responsibility to provide a great villain, something that Spider-Man movies have fluffed or over complicated in the past. Fortunately here the film also succeeds. Michael Keaton’s return to superhero cinema is triumphant and he brings the same sense of resigned duty, stubbornness, proficiency with technology and commitment to family to Vulture as he did to Batman, albeit playing for the dark side. Keaton’s Adrian Toomes could almost be an alternate reality version of Bruce Wayne where his parents weren’t honourable, weren’t rich and weren’t killed and where his biggest personal tragedy was getting stiffed on an all or nothing business deal. There is one quite contrived way of getting the good guy and the bad guy together at the end but it plays out well so that’s forgivable. 

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Basically Spider-Man: Homecoming is another home run for the MCU. It feels a little bit dialed back after the epic battles of Civil War, the magic of Doctor Strange and all the nonsensical space stuff in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and it is all the better for it. It is witty, it is fun and it is full of people you care about. Even after the success of Wonder Woman, Marvel Studios are still putting all of the competion to shame and if they can continue to turn out movies like this then I hope they keep making superhero films for ever. Roll on the sequel, Homecoming, Prom, Thanksgiving, High School Musical, whatever it is.

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Is this one for the kids?
Spider-Man; Homecoming is a 12A but it is not at the high end of this certificate so is a great film for kids. One guy gets a little bit disintegrated but it isn’t really upsetting and even though Spidey gets a beaten up this isnt graphic either. There is some mild profanity and at one point it looks like Marvel are finally going to drop their first F-bomb but they step back from this as they always do. It’s actually a pretty funny line.

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The Ripley Factor:
Recently I’ve drifted away from my original criteria for assessing the Ripley Factor so here they are again:

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Do the female characters exist only to define or motivate the male cagarcters?

Are the women in the film believable as real people?

Are the women in the film objectified in a way that does not balance with the treatment of the men?

Does the inclusion of women in the film feel like tokenism?

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There’s no objectification although the hotness of Aunt May is mentioned a couple of times. Both May and high school crush Liz are only there to serve Peter’s story in one way or another but Zendaya’s Michelle is independent, out spoken and well written. She is the most interesting female character and one that will no doubt become more significant in future films. She’s pretty too but not overly made up and actually looks quite a lot like a regular high school kid. I’m fairly sure she’ll get some kind of make over sooner or later but I hope they don’t lose her authenticity.

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