Here we are again. Another Spider-Man. Tom Holland is the man/boy in the suit this time as a co-operative partnership between Sony and Marvel means this Spider-Man is part of the MCU. As someone who felt the Amazing Spider-Man series was a little bit mediocre at best I approached this fresh entry with optimism that rookie director John Watt could integrate everyone’s favourite wall crawler into the MCU successfully.
So the gist this time is that Peter Parker is still just a kid, fifteen to be exact, and this is more a coming of age high school comedy than a straight superhero film. Tom Holland makes a wonderful Parker/Spider-Man carrying on the great work from his debut in Civil War. His energy and enthusiasm as the eager to prove himself teenager is an endearing portrayal, and Holland is adept for both the dramatic and comedic requirements of the part. Speaking of comedic, this is the most joke heavy entry of any Spider-Man movie, with lots of great one-liners, physical humour and an ensemble who seem to revel in the films funnier scenes. Newcomer Jacob Batalan is the scene stealer as Ned Leeds (Peter’s best friend), the self-described “Man in the Chair”, who assists Peter in both fighting criminals and building Death Stars out of Lego. When the movie balances it’s John Hughes-esque high school drama with Peter’s struggle to maintain his dual identity it excels, his desperation to prove himself to Tony Stark impacting his judgement severely. Robert Downey Jnr is used sparingly in his role as Peter’s mentor and their developing father/son bond is a highlight of the feature. Peter’s foil in this film is the Vulture, a low-level thug underneath the Avengers radar, who wants to provide for his family. Casting Michael Keaton is rarely a bad idea, and he takes a rather run of the mill part and imbues it with a ruthlessness and callous menace the makes him far more interesting than the script alone would suggest. Whilst the character work of the film is superb (I didn’t have time to gush about the fine work of actors Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Donald Glover and Tony Revelori) and the films comedy is pretty damn exceptional it’s the action scenes that are the let-down. Spider-Man has a larger variety of firepower thanks to a Stark designed Spider-suit but the clashes between Spider-Man and Vulture lack intensity and inventiveness, especially at the movies climax. This could possibly owe to director John Watt’s inexperience, this being his first big budget film. Homecoming is also a bit too long (For some reason Marvel like the majority of their movies to come in at the 2hr 20min mark regardless of content) and could do with shaving off fifteen minutes.
Spider-Man: Homecoming ranks around the same as Wonder Woman, a solid if unspectacular entry that nevertheless leaves the franchise in a promising position for the future. Holland is certainly right for the part, and the so-called world building means that in a sequel we can leap straight into Peter’s world without introductions. Not quite up to the standard set by the best films of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy but it’s certainly an upgrade on The Amazing Spider-Man series.
Edgar Wright is basically a nerd God of filmmaking. Not much debate about that, right? Taking traditional genre movies and orchestrating them with the kind of skill worthy of the so-called academy elite but without the acclaim of awards following it up. Whether deconstructing genres with his cornetto trilogy, or bringing a comic book to life in Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Wright has shown his talents time and time again with the kind of devastating consistency few other filmmakers have managed. Having spent a decade developing Ant-Man, with Joe Cornish, Wright left the project as he couldn’t compromise with Marvel’s producer driven approach to the filmmaking process. Baby Driver, being Wright’s first released feature in four years, feels like an explosion of creativity from a director who has been restrained from doing what he loves most.
Following such a stifling period it’s great to see Wright back on the proverbial pedestal with an action/comedy/heist/sort of musical about a young getaway driver named Baby who is trying to leave his criminal life behind, with some difficulty. Cue a magnitude of wonderfully eclectic action set pieces shot with the virtuoso skill that Wright has made a trademark of his movies. Whether it be a high-octane car chase, two young lovers listening to music in a laundromat or Baby walking down the street to get coffee everything feels eventful and wonderfully vibrant. Seriously, Ansel Elgort ordering four coffees and retrieving them for his fellow cronies is far more engaging and inventive than some other films I’ve witnessed this summer. Ansel Elgort is our young protagonist, the charming music obsessed getaway driver, with a smile so irritatingly cutesy that makes you just want to punch him in his perfect face (Perhaps more a reflection on me than Elgort). Elgort’s chemistry with Lily James is instantaneously obvious. Their conversations swift, sensitive and filled with humour and heart. The ensemble is a mix of great talents. Spacey provides the gravitas and authority as the man who won’t let Baby escape his driving exploits, Jon Hamm and Eisa Gonzalez as a pair of Spacey’s favourite go to bank robbers and an explosive Jamie Foxx as the hot-headed Bats. For all the acting greats on display it is Wright who stands front and centre, keeping the action fast and fluent. Choreographed like a musical, all the action is phenomenally intricate and plays out with a rhythmic glee that keeps the heart pumping thoroughly throughout. In the final act the tightly woven narrative begins to unravel slightly with a few questionable character choices that seem out of….erm… character? And it’s definitely not as funny a movie as any of the cornetto trilogy but it speaks to Wright’s talent that this movie, which is basically just Wright blowing off some steam following a difficult spell with Ant-Man, is easily one of the best films of the year.
In a summer filled with sequels, reboots and spin-offs it’s important to champion the original content, especially when it’s this good. Inspired by seminal car based action classics, such as Walter Hill’s The Driver, Edgar Wright has made the car chase movie of the year (Soz Vin Diesel), with a moderately cheap budget. So get down to your local cinema and check it out.