Completing a trilogy of Spider-Man films in the Tom Holland era, the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has its work cut out finding a different angle, paving the way for a more mature outing going forward.
Director Jon Watts and the writing team have thrown everything at the film, utilising the MCU favourite and no doubt lucrative buzzword, “multi-verse” to create diverse time lines. This enables our college age Peter Parker to battle old Spider-Man favourite foes, “The Green Goblin” (Willem Dafoe), “Dr Otto Octavius” (Alfred Molina), “Electro” (Jamie Foxx) among others.
After a somewhat slow start, even a young Spider-Man has his limits and needs help which arrives in a surprising form that many might anticipate but are most welcome. The new “assistants” are clearly enjoying themselves riffing on their past glories and in one case acting everyone off the screen.
Parker continues to be grounded by his continuing childhood friendship with “Ned” (Jacob Batalon), stand in father figure “Happy Hogan” (Jon Favreau) and Parker’s burgeoning young love affair with “MJ” (Zendaya).
Arguably the largest stabilising influence remains “Aunt May” (Marisa Tomei), a rock without which Parker might be left to fight his biggest challenge yet, the real world. At present this remains in the future, especially when “Dr Strange” is involved. Strange creates havoc following Parker’s request to correct the headlines “everyone knows who Spider-Man is”, as the Parker’s wish list constantly changes as the spell is being cast.
What could possibly go wrong?
Holland of course can do this in his sleep by now and does not disappoint, although arguably too old for this younger skewed caper, he looks ready to move onto more adult fare. The rest of the cast all acquit themselves well enough, with Defoe and Molina stealing a significant amount of screen time, Defoe especially chewing any scenery he can find.
As expected the effects comprise a large part of the long running time, an “Inception” style city folding sequence is cool but remains largely unnecessary, and could have been trimmed. How much actors are required to play a part in a significant number of actions scenes, clearly made up of ones and zeros within a mainframe, is open for debate.
When the story slows to refocus on character development between multiple character fights, the film has time to breathe. Subsequently managing to be unexpectedly poignant in places, which in turn provides a well earned send off for this young adult (YA) orientated version of Spider-Man.
Where the characters go from here and in what form remains to be seen, as the options remain open for Holland to continue. Alternatively another actor could take up the mantle, with an opportunity to further diversify the MCU, obliquely mentioned by Electro at one point.
A decent send off and incidentally the biggest box office draw in a widely impacted COVID blockbuster season.
Proof if needed, that fans still want to see their heroes on the biggest screen possible, even when the greatest risk is being taken by the audience themselves.