‘Spider-Man Homecoming’ almost the Spidey flick we deserve

by Tim English on July 8, 2017

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero and Spider-Man 2 is one of my favorite (and I still think one of the best) superhero movies ever. But we are going on our third incarnation of the wall crawling, web slinging friendly neighborhood, and it’s been kinda downhill for most of last 10 plus years for Sony’s web head.

Fresh off his introduction last summer in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man is ready to fully embrace a role in the machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it seems like they have come pretty damn close to delivering the perfect interpretation of the iconic character in Spider-Man Homecoming. It’s a funny, thrilling and yet familiar comic book flick that finally puts Spidey where he belongs, even if some of the pieces are a little clunky.

After a delightful tease of the original Spider-Man theme by composer Michael Giacchino (who delivers an incredible score, btw), we open with a flashback to Peter Parker’s trip to Berlin to fight alongside Iron Man versus Cap and his buddies, but we see it through the eyes of a star-struck teenager’s cell phone camera set to the commentary of a wide-eyed chump who can’t believe how cool any of it is.

And this marks the first major difference in this Spider-Man compared to the past. Spider-Man, err, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is actually a kid and it shows in every thing he does. After Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) allows Peter to keep his Civil War suit, under the promise of laying low — after all, he’s not an Avenger yet — but the boy Spider-Man can’t seem to stay out of trouble. His inexperience and innocence is personified perfectly by Holland, who is clearly having the time of his life.

But is it the fancy Spidey suit, complete with a sexy A.I. voice (Jennifer Connelly) and all the bells and whistles Stark apparently couldn’t get in his, that makes him a hero? This is Peter Parker’s journey. Skipping the origin story helps. In fact, good ol’ Uncle Ben doesn’t get a mention, but the “with great power comes great responsibility” theme is still the major theme of Parker’s new life.

Watching Holland try and live up to the larger-than-life role models, like Tony, is a joy to watch. He actually kinda sucks at some of it but it’s fun to watch him try and live up to being “the next big thing.” Don’t worry, RDJ doesn’t dominate the flick. In fact, he’s absent for the most part relegated to sideline mentor to the young Avenger wanna be. Tony’s sidekick, Happy (Jon Favreau) seemingly has more interaction with Spidey as a reluctant baby sitter. But this is Tom Holland’s movie and he owns it.

But being a teenage super hero with a fake internship with Tony Stark isn’t easy. Besides his own awkwardness, Peter has to deal with a rich kid bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori), his inability to express his feelings toward his geek squad teammate Liz (Laura Harrier), and the bizarre stalker chick who pretends she doesn’t crush on him, Michelle (Zendaya.) All the while trying to hide his new identity from his hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and hoping his geek best friend Ned (played brilliantly by Jacob Batalon) doesn’t blow his cover.

On top of that, Spider-Man finds himself caught up in a battle with some bad guys who are selling high-tech weapons created from wreckage left behind from some Avengers battles. What would Spider-Man be without his villains?? And we get at least two, with a reference to a third. The secondary villain is Shocker, played by two different actors, neither of whom do anything memorable. The third you’ll have to see if you can spot for yourself.

But Adrian Toomes aka The Vulture is the main attraction, and not just because he’s played by Michael Keaton. He’s one of the best and most intimidating villains in the MCU’s stable of previously not so great baddies … actually, maybe it is┬ábecause he is played by Michael Keaton. Toomes has a past grudge related to Tony Stark and the Avengers’ and the Battle of New York, helping to weave this new universe into already established stories.

That’s what this movie is all about. Spider-Man Homecoming is a coming of age film and an homage to 80’s teen comedies, with a story about a kid trying to find his place in a larger universe of Gods and super heroes. But it’s also about finding Spider-Man’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a ton of easter eggs, cameos and references to Spidey-centric lore, and it all just seems to fit into place. Some are more obvious than others and some are so kick ass it will have you drooling for the next Spider-Man movie, or at least the next time we will see him (next year in Avengers: Infinity War.)

It’s not perfect. Humor plays a big part in Spider-Man Homecoming and that’s a good thing, but Marvel’s continued over reliance on pathos is on full display here. A lot of those jokes are tied in with his high-tech suit — another thing I had some slight issues with, although within the context of this universe, the departures make sense to the story being told. And frankly there isn’t much going on with Peter and his love interest. She’s just a cog in the wheel of the story, but that’s kinda the way those first crushes go.

There are a few problems with the film that are very spoilery, so I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that one of them is borderline Mandarin-eque misdirection. And of course, it’s just too damn long — but that seems par for the course for all of the super hero flicks these days. At close to 2 hours and 13 minutes, the film drags at times. But honestly, there’s a lot of geeky little goodies here that it more than makes up for the repetitive themes and tropes.

I’m not quite ready to anoint Spider-Man Homecoming as the best of the Spidey movies, but it’s pretty damn good and they do nail the character in such amazing ways that we haven’t seen before. It’s going to be interesting to see how they continue to work Spidey in as these Marvel movies continue — and how long they share rights with Sony. But for now, it’s another hit for the MCU.

Writer. Ad Man. Jedi. Sometimes people ask for my opinion on movies. Sometimes they agree. Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Creator and voice of the Reel Hooligans podcast. Find us on iTunes. Board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and founder of the Terror on the Plains Horror Festival.

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