Holland is a breath of fresh air, and comes the closest to the comic book character.
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr
Director: Jon Watts
Earlier this year, the Marvel factory churned out a surprisingly marvellous Logan, a superhero movie that engaged with not the origins but the death of its protagonist. It inhabited a very self-reflexive universe wherein we find children playing with X-Men toys and other merchandise. But why is Marvel a factory, you wonder? Because it repeats what seems to work once. The latest reboot of Spiderman, too, is generated using this formula. High school children are obsessed with the Avengers. It reminded me of the late 1990s when Looney Toons tazos in Lays’ chips were all the rage amongst children. Here we have teenaged girls playing Marry, F***, and Kill with characters from the Avengers; any acquaintance with these characters makes one the object of envy; the film even opens with a child’s drawing of the Avengers. Captain America makes a cameo in the form of PSAs. Mythical characters are aware of the myth surrounding them, and the said mythical status is used to fuel it further. Factory, also because the mid and end-credit scenes are becoming gimmicky. Peter Parker is a 15-year-old high school student, brilliant at academics, but also somewhat shy and clumsy, and hence not the most popular person in school.
His “internship” with the Stark Industries and his secret identity as Spiderman at times invites sharp jibes from his bullying classmate, Flash (Tony Revolori). His origin story is eschewed in this reboot. Whatever happened with the radioactive spider and Uncle Ben is only mentioned in passing. Peter is accompanied by his equally brilliant friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who is hilariously awe-struck by his best friend’s superpowers. “Do you lay eggs?” “Do you spit venom?” articulate his curiosity about Peter’s double-life. Iron Man and the rest of Avengers feel that Spiderman is still wet behind the ears, and therefore should remain on ground for the time being. He puts Happy (Jon Favreau) in charge of any correspondence, if necessary, but as adults, they deem it silly to seek out a kid’s help. But our protagonist, raging as he is with teenage hormones and angst and a desire to prove himself worthy of the A-grade, starts saving the day by inadvertently wrecking it himself in the first place. He catches a “thief” who tries to get into his own car, and saves a bicycle from getting stolen. His big, heroic stunts are undercut with his inelegance. Something worthwhile at last comes his way when Adrian Toomes’ (Keaton) men try to blow up an ATM.
Toomes, a former constructionist, gains access to Chitauri technology and within eight years establishes and expands an underworld empire that deals in weapons. In a nod to his character from 2014’s Birdman, he soars high in the sky wearing armoured wings. Toomes/Vulture is not propelled by motiveless malignity. He does not harbour any ambition to dominate the world. What he wants is to keep generating enough to make his family happy. He feels wronged by the government and the likes of Tony Stark, the elite who get away with everything and leave little for the working class. To my mind, he is not very different from Breaking Bad’s Walter White. Where he does differ, though, is in his moral code. Spiderman saves Toomes’ daughter’s life, and he therefore returns the favour.
Homecoming is a coming-of-age narrative for Peter Parker. He becomes more aware of his powers, often aided by hi-tech costume designed by the Stark Industries, although even in a world as fantastical as this, it seems quite inorganic. Holland is a breath of fresh air, and comes the closest to the comic book character. He is energetic and affable, but is restrained enough at the right moments so as to never look like a five-year-old on a sugar high. His rendition of Parker subtly conveys the conflicts of his teenage mind — juggling romance, academics, his loving but annoying Aunt May, and his superpowers. At the end of the day, the biggest test for him is to put to action the catchphrase from 2002’s Spiderman: with great power, comes great responsibility.
The writer is programmer, Lightcube Film Society