“If You’re Nothing Without the suit, then you Shouldn’t have it” – Spider-Man: Homecoming (Film Review)

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.

Image result for spider-man homecoming

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.

3/5

Captain America: Civil War

Following upon from the success of Captain America: Winter Soldier is a sequel, once again directed by the Russo brothers, adapting Mark Millar’s famous Civil War series to the big screen. The thirteenth feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, backed by Disney, will this turn out to be the unlucky entry in the highly successful franchise?

Following on from the events of Age of Ultron, after another incident involving the Avengers ends in some high profile collateral damage, the UN demand a form of accountability in the form of the ‘Sokovia Accords’. This would mean the Avengers would only be allowed to intercede in international matters when called upon by a supervising committee. The Avengers are left split by this with one side agreeing with Captain America, siding against the accords, and one group siding with Iron Man, who wishes to follow the demands of the U.N. The issue is complicated further when the signing of the bill is seemingly bombed by The Winter Soldier, Captain America’s brainwashed best friend, resulting in numerous deaths, including the killing of T’Chaka the King of Wakanda.

Much like Batman vs Superman there is a lot of plot to weave through in Civil War, however unlike BvS this film balances its characters with much more success. By no means does everything flow perfectly, but the ideological clash of the characters is kept clear and concise, assisted by us having gotten to know these characters in previous features. Evans and Downey Jnr continue their fine work as the clashing pair, the figureheads of the Marvel Universe, and this feud has been brewing throughout the Avengers series. Recalling so many characters from the MCU could threaten to destabilise the movie, but as we have met so many of the characters before their importance in the story is flexible, with invested characters taking the foreground. For example Ant-Man appears in the film, in little more than an extended cameo, he has little grasp of the larger situation but his fleeting appearance is highly entertaining. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is one of the new additions to the gigantic ensemble and although Boseman does have a charismatic presence there is so much going on in Civil War that we never really get to connect with him. Although it must be admitted that getting to see more of the character in his own feature, under the direction of Ryan Coogler, is an intriguing prospect. The much hyped appearance of Spiderman within the MCU has been one of the most talked about aspects of Civil War and it is a pleasure to report that Tom Holland did a fantastic job as everyone’s favourite wall crawler, capturing the youthful enthusiasm that makes the character so popular. Credit goes not just to the actor, but also to the writers/directors for funnelling fresh creative life into a character going through his third incarnation in only fourteen years. Having referenced the writing it would be ill of me not to discuss the work of Christopher Markus & Stephen Mcfeely (Yes that is his real name, and it’s awesome) on their fourth Marvel project. They have written the screenplays for the entire Captain America trilogy, and their ability to translate a character many would have dismissed as ill-fitting for a modern audience, due to the perception of him being dated, has turned Captain America, alongside Iron Man, into the flagship character of the MCU. Marvel have long been accused of under developing their villains, their film’s tend to focus on the protagonists by design, and Daniel Bruhl’s performance is a brief one as Helmut Zemo. However I will say I was impressed by what I did see of the character, and his motivations complement the film’s themes in the larger context. With a cast so large I will give small mentions of praise to the continued impressive displays of Elisabeth Olson, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson and Emily VanCamp. Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is more of a plot piece than a character and I hope to see him explored beyond simply being a brainwashed weapon in the future so we can see more range, especially if, as expected, he becomes a larger part of the MCU in the future. With a range of action scenes I was impressed by the Russo Brothers use of variety, the earlier fight scenes being very organic, using a handheld camera to amplify the ‘street level’ of the conflict. Later when the two superhero sides showdown the style changes to a much more fixed fluid motion to allow us to enjoy the wide open spectacle of what amounts to an MCU Royal Rumble. Henry Jackman, one of my favourite composers, once again delivers a stirring powerful score and it’s no surprise he was called back on board following his fine work on The Winter Soldier.

With such a massively packed movie I have had to disavow my typical word count just to get close to covering most of the parts of Civil War I wished to discuss. Containing such a monumental amount of content and balancing the narrative, character motivations and plot of the film as well as the Russo’s have is a great accomplishment. That the film is therefore unable to completely satisfy all components that hold it together is a small criticism for such a well-made feature but one that needs to be recognised. There is another nagging issue that I cannot elaborate on as it would take us into spoiler region, something I am unwilling to do so soon from release. Suffice it to say it revolves around another common complaint levied at Marvel films in the past that with each passing feature becomes a slightly more aggrandising concern. For now though Civil War is a feast of what fans of the genre will love best, definitely worth seeing, whichever side you’re on.

4/5

Review by Alexander Halsall