The other day, while I was having a shit, I watched a spider try to crawl out of the bath plughole. It had the sort of morose demeanour you’d expect of an arachnid that had just climbed up a soap scum and pubic hair-coated tube. I watched it make its way out of the porcelain basin and drop to the floor before trapping it with a toothbrush pot and then leaving the room. Nothing like that happens in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Instead, Spider-Man: Home and Away is a film about a sixteen-year-old boy with vaguely spider-like powers who wants to impress a billionaire by shooting his web fluid all over bad people’s faces. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) hasn’t seen much action since the events of Captain America: Civil War and is now depressed, reduced to helping general public scum in his neighbourhood. But when a disgruntled labourer (Michael Keaton) starts modifying alien technology to turn himself into a bird or some bollocks, Peter sees the opportunity to prove himself to Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and gain a place in the next Avengers film, where he’s guaranteed a seventieth of the screen-time.
At no point, however, is there a scene where Spider-Man catches a massive fly in his web, vomits digestive fluids everywhere and then devours it. He doesn’t even shoot his webbing from his arse, electing instead to fire it from wrist cartridges, like a vasectomised man trying to fool his lovers with a can of silly string. He’s more of a mildly mutated pubescent, who sticks to walls like most teenagers because his hands are constantly covered in sexcrement. Most of his abilities are actually handed to him by a high-tech morph suit that comes with an in-built GPS and squirrel wings.
It’s more about the ‘man’ part of ‘Spider-Man’ – Spider Man’s man part. Peter frequently forgets how to be a human and how to enter rooms without walking on the ceiling. He fancies a senior student (Laura Harrier) on his science quiz team, but keeps letting her down because web-swinging between buildings is far more exciting than courting. Director Jon Watts places this highly relatable teen theme at the centre of his narrative, which almost allows Home Is Where The Heart Is to deviate from the tired Marvel formula. I would have found it rather refreshing if it wasn’t tonally as bland as a cracker covered in dust.
It’s ultimately made to fit in with the car park grey aesthetic of the Marvel cinematic universe, replacing any proper spider stuff or memorable set pieces with a bit where Iron Man hops out of his hovering robot suit. At least the previous Spider-Man films had some character about them – the Toby Maguire ones having a sort of gothic vibe, and Andrew Garfield’s looking like a neon light had shat itself.
I particularly liked that bit in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 when Electo struck those massive pylon things and each one played a different note from the film’s score. Spidey looked so stylish surrounded by all the electrical nonsense that I immediately went home and stuck a fork in my toaster. In Home on the Range, the most exhilarating scene sees Spider-Man chase a van.
And as far as the story is concerned, after about an hour of watching Peter build a Lego Death Star with his fat friend (Jacob Batalon) and failing to pay attention in class, I realised absolutely nothing was happening. He doesn’t lay an egg sac or anything. It’s only at the very end that he finally gains a purpose and pursues Michael Keaton, who is having a major mental crisis as a result of playing three winged characters over the course of his career.
Some might say that a scarce narrative makes total sense as it’s all about Peter discovering himself, and Tom Holland’s endearingly humorous performance makes for an overall joyous experience, but I would suggest those people have been bitten by the radioactive Marvel bug and are clearly having some sort of fever-induced seizure.