A WEB-SLINGING GOOD TIME
Review by Ray Schillaci
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back, and it’s the most fun we’ve ever had with him. I originally had hesitation going in due to the early trailers showing The Vulture as some mechanized weapon. I never cared for Sam Raimi’s Green Goblin or Marc Webb’s mechanical Rhino villain, I was always partial to the original comic book version where the Goblin did not need a mechanical mask, and Rhino’s character was more organic as a human/animal.
I always loved the comic version of The Vulture, an older villain whose body was lean with giant vulture wings. I also could not shake my vision of the grey-haired Aunt May being portrayed by the beautiful Marisa Tomei, far too young to play the part. All the while wondering why we’re seeing Peter Parker as a sophomore in high school. And, why the sidekick?
All of that being said, Jon Watts delivers the Spider-Man movie we have yearned for over the years. The mechanics of The Vulture works, and Michael Keaton is as dead on as Vulture/Adrian Toomes as he was as his last turn in a superhero movie as Batman. Marisa Tomei pulls off Aunt May with a great sense of humor, but the real payoff for all of us is Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Notice I didn’t mention Peter Parker. I’ll get to that later. It should be mentioned that director Jon Watts (Cop Car) expertly merges both the Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man universes which answers most of my original questions.
From the opening moments when Michael Giacchino graces us with his rousing rendition of the theme from the 1960s cartoon classic, we know the purists are about to finally be won over. Between catching glimpses of Parker enthusiastically recording his bout with The Avengers (from Captain America: Civil War) to his wide-eyed innocent who can’t wait to play with the grownups again, Holland as Parker is goofy and pure. He really does not have any of the heavy baggage or the weight of the world on his shoulders like Cap or Thor. He’s an honest to God kid that happens to have special abilities. He’s also not saddled with the teenage angst that haunted the characters played by Maguire and Garfield.
Tony Stark makes brief appearances to guide Peter Parker into his new identity along with his good buddy Happy Hogan, who is more like a chaperone by phone, and the whole babysitting scenario does not bode well with Parker. He wants to prove he’s every bit the superhero that any of The Avengers are. But, we all know that is not true yet. All of this is very humorous, and we cannot help but wince at Peter’s mistakes.
After some minor heroics, Peter graduates himself to hunting down a gang of arms dealers who happen to be incorporating alien technology, led by Adrian Toomes. It may sound hokey, but the way it is presented fits right in. Watching Toomes/Vulture and Parker/Spidey face off is so exciting and made to look so easy that it made me wonder how Marc Webb and company could not muster the type of danger with Electro and Spidey. One can only hope that Jon Watts eventually gets a chance to reintroduce that character later down the line.
Peter Parker struggles with bullies, a love interest, and an over-caring aunt, but the real battle is within himself and Watts and company introduce that with ease. Nothing feels forced here. They’ve delivered a rousing adventure that is so good it makes me hesitate to say anything more so as not to give away any other surprises that made the audience gasp and applaud.
Although the action set pieces are spectacular, and Vulture actually comes across like a serious threat, this Spider-Man feels scaled down and more personal for the better. Like a PG version of Deadpool, this Spider-Man is more at home with the bad jokes and puns than with all the whiz-bang toys Tony Stark supplies for him. It’s giddy fun watching Spidey trying to be the grownup superhero he desires to be, getting into trouble with Stark’s toys, and freaking out over his sidekick, Ned, played with great comic relief by Jacob Batalon, who’s itching to tell everyone he’s Spider-Man’s best friend.
Another big plus is that we do not get another iteration of Spidey’s origin. Many thanks to the dozen writers credited for just letting the character go without explanation. Well, maybe a brief sentence or two, and that ends up being quite funny, and where Jon Watts and his writers win over everyone. This team has returned to the roots of Spider-Man unapologetically. Sure, Peter Parker has the usual teenage struggles, but they are not at the forefront. They are both funny and poignant. They and Michael Keaton also deliver a villain that is just as interesting as he is dangerous.
Some may argue that there’s little difference between Holland’s take on both characters, Peter Parker and Spider-Man. It’s been said it’s as if he’s playing Spider-Man as Peter Parker. Here’s my take, they are one in the same. This Peter Parker is too young and too inexperienced to have such a division in personality like Batman/Bruce Wayne or Superman/Clark Kent. The same could be said about Tony Stark and his alter ego, Iron Man. There is little difference, and Peter Parker is just a chip off the the old iron block of Tony Stark. In fact, there is a great interrogation scene where Spidey attempts to act much older, and this is just one of many scenes that establishes there really is no division between Parker and Spidey.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a foolhardy adventure with our favorite hometown hero that has plenty of laughs and thrills. It may have spectacular moments, but it is not heavy on the spectacle like many of the action movies of late, relying heavily on CGI taking the place of a good story. Jon Watts and company deliver a sleek, streamlined piece of entertainment that only leaves the audience wanting more and staying all the way for the BIG laugh at the end of the credits. Cannot wait for the sequel and/or any appearances Spidey may make in further Marvel outings.
Directed by: Jon Watts
Release Date: July 7, 2017
Run Time: 133 Minutes
Distributor: SONY/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios