For the third time in 15 years we have a new Spider-Man and this time he is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU from here). Thanks to an agreement between Sony and Marvel, Spidey is finally allowed to live in the same world as the Avengers, but only on the proviso that Marc Webb’s films with Andrew Garfield are consigned to history. So, how good is the new Spidey? Unfortunately I would say his score card is very mixed.
Picking up from Captain America: Civil War we first see our new Spider-Man excitedly watching phone footage of his adventures with the Avengers. It is good fun and sets the tone for this high school Spidey who is full of wise cracking humour. There is no origin story, no tale of Uncle Ben or “with great power, comes great responsibility”. On the flip side of that we see Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) as a contractor cleaning up the city after the events of the original Avengers film hung out to dry and forced unto using alien technology to create weapons as a means to provide for his family. Of course for those familiar with the comics Toomes will become the Vulture and he is destined to battle with Spider-Man.
So far, so good? Tom Holland is great fun as Spider-Man. Young enough looking to pass as a high schooler, great at wise cracks and athletic enough to look the part. Keaton is great as the Vulture, someone pushed down the wrong path by circumstance, but morally ambiguous enough to snap up the opportunity. Where it fails though is in the relationships Spider-Man has with those around him. It is far more excited about the fact that this is Spidey in the MCU and his relationship with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau returning as Tony Stark’s bodyguard) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) than it is with his relationships with Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) and his high school friends. As a result we do not really see the bonds to his home life that matter the most. Aunt May is barely seen throughout and there are no moments showing the deep relationship between the two. Peter Parker’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) just gets to be more comic relief and advertise Lego. And love interests Michelle (Zendaya) and Liz (Laura Harrier) and school bully Flash (Tony Revolori) also have minority parts with perhaps Liz only getting any moments to shine.
This is exacerbated further by the fact that anyone who has seen the trailer knows the story arc between Spidey and Iron Man, thanks to another example of a terrible trailer showing all the major plot points. But at no point does the Spider-Man/Iron Man relationship compete with Sam Raimi’s Spidey/MJ/Harry Osborn dynamic or Mark Webb’s Spidey/Gwen Stacey dynamic.
So, thank heavens for Tom Holland and Michael Keaton then. Because they both really work hard to make this work and when the Vulture is soaring I think the film is at its best.
Oh, and as with all films in the MCU, hang around for a mid credits and post credits scene.