SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Tom Holland rebrands Spider-Man, seemingly against the odds, and offers a new and fresh take on a character we did not realize we ever wanted to see again on the big screen.
Though it apparently took six screenwriters to pull this off, Spider-Man: Homecoming offers us a clever take on the superhero in high school, giving us a great supporting cast and unique twists to the Spider-Man saga.
Thoroughly enjoyable, charming, and fun, this pushes past lesser Marvel movies and positions itself as a rather surprising standout in the 2017 Summer Movie season.
The bug-a-boo for nearly all superhero movies is a weak villain. Keaton is good in the movie, but his character could have used more depth to be truly memorable.
Superhero fatigue is real, and even if I was swayed by this film, others may not be and Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to potentially have a tough time convincing naysayers to try all of this web-slinging nonsense yet again.
You cosplay Marvel v. DC civil war battles and DC always wins.
My walls of resistance were mighty tall for Spider-Man: Homecoming, a third attempt this century to launch the Spider-Man franchise. Thus far, we have had three films starring Tobey Maguire, two films with Andrew Garfield, and after a promising arrival in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland takes the reigns for this new take on the web-slinging superhero.
It would take numerous blog posts to breakdown what happened after Maguire’s Spider-Man 3, and the behind-the-scenes aggravations which cannibalized Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man, but all roads have brought us here. And as the 16th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”), the idea of a new Spider-Man only amplifies the superhero fatigue that has started to plague a lot of us who simply lack the time, energy, and effort to keep up with all these universes: Marvel, DC, X-Men, the new Dark Universe, the actual universe, and on and on.
However, after a few minutes spent with Homecoming, we see that this movie feels different than not only its Spider-Man predecessors, but any of the Marvel movies which have come before it. Holland is a wonderful choice to inhabit the red and blue because he looks and feels like a teenager, in ways Maguire and Garfield never did. Doubling down on his zealousness to play this character, the team of six screenwriters (SIX!?!) re-position this franchise as emanating out of simmering teen angst and insecurity. This is a rather bold move, and deftly avoids the standard origin story reboot we all expect nowadays, introducing this new iteration of Spider-Man in a unique and clever way.
Holland’s charm and effortless charisma help guide us into a film that does, eventually, adhere to the superhero blueprint pretty faithfully. A few months after the epic final battle in Captain America: Civil War, which we learn Holland’s Peter Parker captured footage from it on his cell phone (natch…), Parker is touting an internship with Stark Enterprises, and trying to keep his alter-ego and superhero abilities hidden. His best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), is fitfully consumed with Peter’s secretive work with the company, and Parker is a member of his high school’s Decathletes, a diverse motley crew of academically elite students prepping for a big competition.
Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his assistant Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) hold their young recruit at arm’s length, but Parker continues to cultivate the learning of his own abilities and talents on his own, for better and worse. This is essentially Parker’s coming-of-age story, and Holland handles the “I’m Not A Boy, Not Yet A Superhero” ideology of the film convincingly well.
There’s a villain of course, in the form of salvage and scrap metal dealer Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). He sees the government shut down his operation when his company uncovers wreckage not of this Earth from a post-Civil War cleanup. This leads to a cumbersome advancement of the Toomes’ subplot, which admittedly dovetails rather nicely with Parker’s own non-spidery high school life.
(Those familiar with all of this from the comic books, let us non-comic book reading plebs have our fun.)
Though Keaton’s character becomes yet another superhero villain who just isn’t strong enough to truly be seen as a credible threat, the action sequences round into shape nicely, though Spider-Man’s CGI can look a little click-and-drag in early scenes – surprising for a Marvel film and the $175 million production budget director Jon Watts and team had at their disposal.
After seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming, a film critic on Twitter described the movie as a John Hughes-style superhero movie. After seeing it, the description is spot-on.
Homecoming reminds us that these Marvel movies can again be fun, not take themselves too seriously, and still advance the story along. The cockiness that has worn weary from Downey, Jr.’s Stark is balanced here by the “Come on you guys!” enthusiasm of Holland’s Parker. The politics of high school, and the cliquish borders that can form, are deconstructed by presenting a mosaic of students who offer the most diversity we have seen to date in a superhero film.
The film’s dedication to characters pays off great rewards. Zendaya, as the quick-witted Michelle, fires off barbs and jabs with ease, keeping Parker off-kilter, and great concern is spent on making us care about the people who make our hero-in-the-making who he is. The stakes become a bit more significant when Parker is wrestling with feelings of love for the first time, staying committed to his friends, keeping important secrets from his best friend and family, but also growing and maturing into someone Stark and Hogan, and perhaps other Avengers, can be proud of.
Many of us were smiling ear-to-ear through a number of scenes where the superhero facade falls away and we are just watching a young kid try to find his way through the world.
Spider-Man: Homecoming may not be the movie we wanted, but defying the odds, it serves as an upper tier entry in the superhero genre, finally connecting to a youthful enthusiasm the core Marvel films have acknowledged but never quite embraced.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey, Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Bokeem Woodbine, Donald Glover, Chris Evans, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Abraham Attah, Angourie Rice, J.J. Totah, Martin Starr, Garcelle Beauvais, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Connelly (voice).
Director: Jon Watts
Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.)
Release Date: July 7, 2017
Marvel Studios, Pascal Pictures, and Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing.
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers (screenplay); Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (story); based on the comic book series “Spider-Man” created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.