By the time of The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s premiere, there had been major shifts in comic book inspired cinema, not to mention blockbusters in general. With the success of Marvel Studios’ shared cinematic universe of Marvel characters which had kickstarted in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, it wasn’t enough for a studio to merely have a franchise, it had to be part of a larger cycle of films. Many studios such as Warner Bros., Universal Pictures and Sony themselves had tried to emulate this; the latter with their own Spider-Man rights, as evidenced by the sheer number of easter eggs and foreshadowing of future storylines in Marc Webb’s second web-slinger film.
Those easter eggs came to nothing after the perceived box office disappointment of the second in The Amazing Spider-Man cycle, prompting Sony and Columbia Pictures to go hat in hand to Marvel Studios, which had since become part of Walt Disney, thus prompting a rare moment of solidarity between Hollywood studios when one powerhouse would produce a movie for another.
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Spider-Man: Homecoming would, however, not be the first time that Peter Parker would appear in a film produced by Marvel Studios, with the previous year’s Captain America: Civil War marking the first appearance of the famed web-slinger in a Marvel Studios’ film, as portrayed by Tom Holland.
The following year would follow up with the first solo Spider-Man film produced by Marvel Studios, essentially bringing Feige back to the Spider-Man fold albeit this time using the shared universe that he had helped bring to the screen over the previous nine years.
Many directors were rumoured, with Jon Watts, who had directed the well recieved indie Cop Car, being the one who would direct the film, with a screenplay put together by six credited writers, including Watts and Game Night‘s John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.
While previous Spider-Man films had started with Peter Parker in high school and then fast forwarded through his teen years to adulthood, in Homecoming the decision was made to keep Parker as a high school student, thus prompting the casting of the youngest Spider-Man yet in the shape of Tom Holland.
With Spider-Man now a fully-fledged part of the MCU, it meant that the character and the film would get to hang out with other established characters, with a supporting role for Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, and cameo appearances from Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and, in a movie highlight, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in one of the best running jokes in an MCU film, along with references to previous films.
With a reboot of the character yet again in a short number of years (the Holland iteration would make his debut a mere four years after the debut of Andrew Garfield) it would be so easy to roll one’s eyes and wonder why Marvel and Feige didn’t opt to go for Miles Morales as the new web-slinger to make any reboot feel fresh and different to what came before (Miles would have to wait another year for his big screen debut through, arguably, the greatest Spider-Man film of all).
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What makes the film feel fresh and different to previous incarnations is its breezy tone. Sticking to the high school setting instead of trying to get the character to graduate as soon as possible (there’s a graduation moment in the middle of Raimi’s first film, and Webb’s second film opens with a graduation), it opts to go for a tone that could be best described as ‘John Hughes does a superhero movie’.
Being a Marvel produced film from 2017 means that the action and story are high octane and filled to the brim with continuity and links to previous instalments, including a villain whose motivations are put into gear due to the events of Avengers Assemble. Even better, it casts a great actor as the villain and doesn’t proceed to waste them.
There is a lovely sense of irony in seeing Michael Keaton play a villain in a superhero film, and upon first viewing it appears as if he’s playing the same type of bland villain that was sometimes a staple of the MCU, even in the better films, but the plot then throws in a humdinger of a twist that it builds upon brilliantly, including one of the best bad speeches delivered to a titular hero in recent memory, not to mention a key reveal that may very well be one of the best moments from the MCU.
It’s not all perfect; the final set piece is literally one of the murkiest action sequences put to film, and emotionally it can never quite top its start of the third act twist. But given that Homecoming had many rolling their eyes at its mere existence, it turned out to be not only a good movie, but has many moments that might make it a great one.