I admit when I heard this film was coming, my first reaction was, “Hasn’t Spider-man been done to death in the last decade?”
True, Tom Holland made an effective appearance in Civil War as “Underoos,” but it felt like more of a device than a set-up for another story line.
In fairness, Spider-man holds a lofty status in the Marvel Universe as one of their original core characters. It only stands to reason he would be included in something as broad as the upcoming Infinity Wars. Much to my surprise, this new version tackles a story aspect that long nagged the back of my brain but never flew out in words. Often, there are things you simply let slide when it comes to applying reality to superheroes.
We all know how Peter Parker was bitten and transformed into the “Spider-man” or “Spider-teen,” to be more exact. We also know Peter was a bright kid, but the story never dwelled on how a high-schooler was able to put together such an effective suit and web-toys out of the bedroom of his New York apartment, all under the nose of his Aunt May. Granted, Marissa Tomei blasts the previous stereotype of the senior-citizen caretaker out the window like a rocket.
Enter the snappy and resourceful Tony Stark, and kudos to Robert Downey Jr. who still brings the required panache and swagger to the billionaire at the heart of the Avengers. What better mentor could a kid want than Iron Man? Suddenly, thanks to Stark Industries, the Spider-suit is far more technologically advanced than ever before, and Peter has to face “training wheels mode.”
Joss Whedon set a high standard with the first Avengers film by infusing the all-important comedic content, and director Jon Watts captures that magic in Spider-Man: Homecoming. From the stylized intro music that pays homage to the television, “friendly neighborhood Spider-man,” to awkward teen love interest, to the outcast friendship between “nerdy kids,” the film delivers moments to make you laugh, and none seem hokie in the process.
I’m generally afraid of films that list a cadre of screenwriters, as they tend to lose continuity and character development. Not so with Homecoming.
Jonathan Goldstein teams with John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and director Jon Watts to deliver a deftly woven story that is not only coming-of-age but finding inner strength and sense of purpose. Tom Holland wildly expands the role he opened in Civil War, but maybe more impressive is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture. It’s not often the villain is both sinister and sympathetic, but Keaton takes the twisting story elements and melds them with masterful style. Highly honorable mention must be made for the talented Donald Glover. He is only in a couple scenes but they are relevant and entertaining to say the least, especially the interrogation.
Rising young star, Jacob Batalon brings the all important confidant to Peter, and joyfully bumbles into all of the secrets. As Ned, Jacob completely sells the fellow teen thinking Peter’s life is unbearably cool, and of course, lends much needed tech skills. They make a great odd couple that stick it out through the toughest trials.
Like any young person exploring new-found abilities, Peter gets over his head often and occasionally has to be rescued by his mentor. He is undaunted in trying to prove himself worthy of Tony Stark, but in the end, Stark utters a line of advice that is sure to be quoted many times over…
“If you’re nothing without the suit, you don’t deserve to wear it.”
Spider-Man: Homecoming, is an entertaining piece of film-making that reaches beyond a superhero story and colors in a chapter mostly overlooked in all previous versions of the web-slinger saga. Marvel Studios keeps delivering in areas I expect them to fail or at least slide off track. It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised and entertained in an all-too-predictable genre of Hollywood.
If your kids love Spider-man, this film isn’t too intense as long as they aren’t too young. Grab your popcorn, settle in, and get ready to laugh, hope and cheer for the best version yet of the neighborhood web-head.
– T. August Green