Mark Reviews Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Bokeem Woodbine, Donald Glover, Martin Starr, Tyne Daly, Abraham Attah, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Gwyneth Paltrow

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments)

Running Time: 2:13

Release Date: 7/7/17


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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 6, 2017

Imagine you're a 15-year-old kid who has been bitten by a radioactive spider and, now, can do whatever a spider can (as it was put in the old TV theme song, lovingly and boisterously orchestrated by Michael Giacchino at this film's start). This would be, to borrow an adjective, amazing. It would be especially so for a teenager who's mostly anonymous, except when he's teased—even at a school that caters to kids who are on the nerdier side of things. Spider-Man: Homecoming gets this, and it gives us a Peter Parker/Sider-Man (Tom Holland) who's downright jubilant about being a superhero—except when he's awkward about it.

The marketing side of the film is that the character is officially at "home" within the Marvel brand. After being introduced in Captain America: Civil War, this new iteration of Spidey is part of a universe that includes heroes who are far more powerful than him and whose jobs entail potentially world-ending threats from this world and beyond.

The screenplay, written by a team of six writers, kind of teases the massive stakes of the plots of those other movies. Spider-Man doesn't fit into the scheme of things in this regard. He has been fighting petty crime in Queens in a homemade suit, until Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gave him a technological and aesthetic upgrade, although this information is all back story. One of the minor joys of the film, which is something of a major coup in this superhero-obsessed landscape, is that this isn't yet another origin story. We don't need that story again. Anyone who doesn't know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man by now probably has little to no interest in this film, anyway.

Instead, the film starts with a clever flashback of sorts to Spider-Man's first appearance in this massive superhero franchise (or "cinematic universe," as the marketing people like to call it), in which a giddy Spidey is using his cellphone camera to capture the events of that super-powered battle royal on the tarmac of an airport. Actually, he's mostly trying to capture his reaction to being part of the big fight, returning to recount his one-on-one encounter with Captain America (Chris Evans, making a series of very funny cameos in government-issued PSA videos for high schoolers, despite, as one teacher bluntly puts it, probably being a war criminal now). "I grabbed Captain America's shield," he exclaims, "and then I threw it back at him!"

Holland, who nearly stole that warring-superhero film in his brief appearance, once again shows himself to be the right choice for Spider-Man (Even though a lot of the Spidey action belongs to a computer-generated character, it's still Holland providing the dorky, amused commentary). This time, he displays that he's equally the correct choice for Peter Parker. Peter has to blend into the crowd here, keeping his alter-ego a secret from his friends, classmates, and beloved Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

This becomes more difficult when his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) sees Peter climbing through the window and crawling on the ceiling to sneak back into his apartment. Ned is convinced that Peter should tell everyone, especially Liz (Laura Harrier), on whom Peter has a crush but whose own distant affections are aimed at the friendly, neighborhood superhero. Meanwhile, he wants to prove to Stark that he could be a member of the Avengers (His lack of readiness leads to a literal deus ex machina in one scene).

The villain here is Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), the owner of independent construction company who was removed from a city contract—to clean up New York City after the battle between the Avengers and the invading aliens—by the newly formed Department of Damage Control. Since then, he has been manufacturing and selling weapons made from alien technology on the black market. Adrian has also made himself a flying suit with jet turbines attached to the wings, making him look like a kind of big vulture.

Everything here is fairly low-key compared to the world-at-stake plots to which we've become accustomed in these movies. From the twisted working-class motive of its villain to Peter's attempts to impress Liz outside of his red-and-blue suit, the film is less concerned with presenting spectacle than it is with its characters and humor. It's quite funny (The supporting cast is filled with recognizable comic actors, and Downey's Stark tries, miserably, to be the father he never had), and the film borders on amiable parody in a montage of Spider-Man's local crime-stopping, Ned's single-minded desire to become a sidekick, and a moment that raises the stakes on the nightmare of a teenage boy meeting his girlfriend's father for the first time.

There are action sequences, of course, but even they feel contained, whether it's a chase through suburban streets (A disappointed web-slinger has to run across a golf course to get there, since there's nothing to which to attach his webs), Spidey's rescue of his classmates in the failing elevator of the Washington Monument (a really good scene), or a gun deal gone wrong on the Staten Island Ferry (This one results in the seemingly requisite shot of Spider-Man being stretched between two strings of his webbing). They're fairly dynamic sequences, although director Jon Watts overdoes it with a climax involving an invisible plane, which becomes a loud sound-and-light show.

These superhero movies live or die on the hero—how well the movie communicates what makes him or her unique, as well as how it sets the hero's story apart from the herd. Spider-Man: Homecoming gives us a hero who's still learning but is having a blast doing so. He is just a kid, after all, and the film captures the energy of that youthful exuberance.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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