July 21, 2017

Smarty Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Directed by: Jon Watts
Rated: PG-13
Run time: 2 hours 13 minutes

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the latest effort to reboot the story of the popular teenage web slinger also known as Peter Parker. Our friendly neighborhood wall crawler first appeared on the big screen in 2002 with Tobey Maguire playing the lead opposite Kirsten Dunst as love interest Mary Jane (remember that epic upside-down kiss in the rain?) After three successful movies, the series ended in 2007. The Spidey story was brought back to life again in 2012 when Andrew Garfield donned the red and blue spandex suit as he fought the bad guys with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone—his real life gal at the time) by his side. But the second Amazing Spider Man series only lasted for two films, ending in 2014. Behind the scenes, Sony Pictures (which owns the rights to Spider-Man) negotiated a very complicated deal with Marvel Films (which produces the Avengers superhero movies) to rebrand Spider-Man into the Avengers Universe (which includes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc…). This new version of Spidey is nothing like the previous two series. Confused yet?MV5BNTk4ODQ1MzgzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTMyMzM4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

If you saw Captain America: Civil War (2016) you’ve already met our newest Spider-Man, played by the winsome Tom Holland. In that film, Spider-Man was recruited by Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr.) to help in an epic battle between the superheroes. Spider-Man: Homecoming begins with an over-eager Peter Parker filming his big trip to work with the Avengers on his cell phone. It’s a hilarious montage of scenes of exactly what you would expect a cheeky 15 year old teenager to film and it perfectly captures what it must have been like for this kid to be hand picked by Tony Stark to work with a bunch of famous superheroes. After the epic battle ends, Peter Parker is sent on his way by Tony Stark and told to lay low and keep in touch via Tony’s right-hand man Happy (Jon Favreau). After working with the Avengers, Peter doesn’t want to go back to his normal and boring high-school life and he seeks out ways to be a hero and use his powers. This leads him to an encounter with arms dealer Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) who is selling extremely deadly weapons made with alien materials. Peter disregards his mentor Tony’s directive to steer clear of danger and embarks on a mission to take down Toomes and prove his worth to the Avengers team.

Tom Holland is an absolute delight as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Although he is 21 years old, he brilliantly portrays the eager 15 year old superhero who isn’t even old enough to drive. Holland’s big break came when he played the title character of Billy Elliot the Musical on stage in London. He was also incredible in the fantastic and harrowing film The Impossible where he played the eldest brother of a family that survived the 2004 Thailand tsunami. Holland’s Peter Parker embraces his destiny as Spider-Man and isn’t as moody and angst-ridden as previous characters have been. He’s filled with a desire to do great things and save the world if only he’s given the chance. He’s also a typical teen who has to navigate the high school pressures of popularity (or lack thereof), unrequited love, and keeping up with his schoolwork while protecting Queens, New York in his spare time.

I also really appreciated Michael Keaton’s villain character. His backstory was much more realistic and understandable than previous foes. Adrian Toomes was a regular hardworking contractor who was hired to remove debris from the damaged Stark Tower building. However, when the FBI realized that alien material was included, they took over the contract, effectively putting Toomes out of business. Desperate to pay the bills and angry at the government, Toomes began creating weapons out of the materials he had already recovered. There is also a fantastic twist in the film that I did not see coming to make his character even more intriguing.

I will fully admit to having some superhero fatigue. Endless fight scenes with computer generated characters doing things that bend the laws of physics can just be an assault on the eyeballs. This story truly shines when Peter’s life as a teenager is highlighted. Once we get into full CGI mode with the big climactic battle scene, things do become a bit less thrilling. It seems odd to me that if you want to see a great teen coming of age story, your main character has to wear tights and be friends with Thor and the Hulk. Still, my teen son loved the film and for a Marvel movie it is pretty fun to watch. The violence is pretty tame and there is not much bad language (there is an interrupted F-word spoken at the very end). I’m still hoping that Hollywood will surprise me with some new ideas one of these days but until then I recommend Spider-Man: Homecoming as a fun summer popcorn flick.

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