Sony’s Spider-Man Homecoming VR Experience is a free to download tie in to the film that’s out this week, but it annoyingly ends just as it gets good. Out for PSVR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it’s essentially a Spidey-themed shooting gallery in which you suit up in your new Stark designed Spidey suit and fling a few webs around.
The first sequence arms you with rapid fire web shooters and asks you to smash some bottles, the second features web grenades, whilst the third lets you fire sticky webs and pull posters off walls. Each sequence is rated by the suit’s on board computer, Karen, but to be honest you can probably get an A rating on your first try.
Finish the last of these training sections and an explosion in the distance announces the arrival of the movie’s bad guy, Vulture. You get to zip up to crane high above the current play area as Vulture swoops in to attacks. You have to use your webs to stop it from collapsing and you then get to sling a web at a helicopter hovering in the distance and swing through the streets before… it ends.
It’s horribly frustrating, because just as get to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do – swing through streets in VR – the screen fades to black and the credits roll. It’s a tantalising, second long glimpse at just how fantastic a full Spider-Man VR game could be.
Thankfully the movie itself is a rather more lengthy affair and corrects my main gripe about comic book movies – they aren’t comic. From the opening credits, the laughs come thick and fast with a recap of Spider-Man’s debut in the last Avengers movie, but having been shot by Peter Parker on his mobile phone instead. With no origins story to bother about – it’s mentioned in one throwaway line – the movie, like it’s hero, is fresh, modern, and zips along at a cracking pace.
Despite being a late arrival to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the story is cleverly woven in to the fabric of the previous MCU movies, starting just after the first Avengers movie destroyed major parts of New York, with Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes heading up a team that has been tasked to recover the alien technology left after the battle. His contract is cut short when Stark Enterprises take over the job, leaving Adrian without an income to support his family. Fast forward eight or so years and Adrian and his team are now black market weapons dealers, stealing Chitauri alien technology using the Vulture suit and selling it to the highest bidder, no questions asked.
Instead of having huge battles with alien races or cities exploding, the movie keeps things simple. It’s Spider-Man vs. the Vulture, with a number of action set pieces none of which out stay their welcome. However, it’s the scenes between the action that really make the movie, whether it’s Peter trying to learn how his new suit works or the spot-on banter between his classmates. Everything that bogged down previous Spider-Man movies is thankfully absent, including moping about dead uncles and lectures from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), who is much younger in this universe, Italian, and gets chatted up by waiters.
Hardcore Spider-fans may be a little put off that this version of the character, because despite what the glorious theme song tells you, he can’t do everything a spider can. He can clamber about on walls and has super strength, but other traits of the character, such as Spider-Sense are now products of technology rather than a radioactive arachnid. This does make more sense in the MCU, which has flying air craft carriers and super intelligent AI. OK, it also has magic and aliens, but there’s definitely more of a leaning towards futuristic tech.
Despite what the posters and trailers have suggested, Tony Stark is barely in the movie and we instead get his faithful driver/head of security, Happy, making a welcome return to keep the plot moving. There are also a number of cameos from another superhero which get progressively more amusing, and one of my favourite characters from the MCU also pops up. The star of the show has to be Jacob Batalon’s Ned, Peter’s best friend at school who is completely in awe when he discovers his best friend can walk on the ceiling.
If you are feeling worn out by the endless superhero films, then you may be wary of yet another reboot of Spider-Man, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting much. It’s actually turned out to be my favourite movie of the year so far. There are a few small issues – the pace drops slightly a third of the way through and the end battle does go on for just a tiny bit too long –but for the vast majority of the film, I was having a whale of a time.
Put it this way: any film that manages to get 1,700 people in London’s Leicester Square Odeon to spontaneously cheer and give a huge, huge, round of applause when someone simply opens a door has got to be good.
Go see it.
Thanks to Dell, a partner for both technology and marketing for Spider-Man Homecoming, for inviting us along to the Spider-Man Homecoming premier. Don’t be surprised if you spot young Peter Parker using a Dell laptop in the film.