With an authentically awkward star turn from Tom Holland, the latest outing for Marvels web-slinger is perfectly tuned for a teenage audience
Comic books arent for children any more, and neither are comic-book films. Yes, you can take the kids to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the parents next to me, who had brought their five-year-old along, should start setting aside some cash for therapy. The Marvel cinematic universe has a lighter tone, but in the past decade big-screen superheroes have been aimed more at eternal adolescents rather than actual ones the people who can now afford the toys their parents never bought them, who lived to see the secret passions of their youth become studio tentpoles and newspaper thinkpieces.
This is a big part of the reason why Spider-Man: Homecoming, despite being the sixth Spider-Man film in 15 years, feels so fresh and lively. Its the first costumed caper in what feels like forever to be aimed squarely at the high-school crowd it so vividly portrays, replete with an actor who was actually a teenager when he pulled on the tights. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Millennial Spider-Man.
The quiet genius of Jon Watts film is the way it casts Marvels cinematic cash cow, the Avengers, as uncool grownups who just dont get what the kids are up to. Robert Downey Jrs Tony Stark can break the sound barrier in his Iron Man suit, but cant avoid or understand the daddy issues that come into sharp focus around Peter Parker. Chris Evans Captain America makes an appearance, hilariously memefied into a public service announcement in which he tells kids to keep fit and stay in school precisely the sort of paternalistic patter regarded as white noise by anyone under 18.
As Spider-Man, however, Tom Holland feels far closer to the average teenager, smartyet insecure, and with a mouth that just wont stop. Yes, hes as awkward in the suit as he is out of it, but Spider-Man: Homecoming never sets up a hackneyed nerds-v-jocks scenario. Instead, it depicts high school in a way that most people in their teens would see as being perfectly normal.
Its not Peters playing in a band or other school activities that make him uncool, its his decision to quit them. His longtime nemesis Flash is part of the same academic decathlon team as Peter, but hes also the go-to DJ at parties. The characters diversity is presented casually and without comment, and is certainly closer to real-life New York than the monochrome casting of previous Spider-Man outings. The film even opens with an extended nod to teen YouTube culture something that may well seem alien to the sort of people (like me) who are surprised to learn that the scene-stealing Zendaya has 8 million Twitter followers.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a superhero film for a generation that isnt mine, and that is what makes it special. Yes, it is also a cash grab by a studio keen on milking as many demographics as it can, but there is something joyful in seeing a baton passed as nimbly as this, in seeing the characters and archetypes that mean so much to me take on a new lease of life. Its a film that is funny but never ironic, as sweet as it is silly, with characters who can shrug off injury but cannot avoid heartache. I cant wait to see it again.