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Spider-Man: Homecoming – New Kid on the Block

MOVIE REVIEW – “Third time the charm” – they say, and after the third reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, this adage couldn’t be truer. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man marks the web slinger’s homecoming to the world of the Avengers, but it’s strongest as a coming-of-age comedy. The title is truly fitting as well, Spider-Man: Homecoming is both a homecoming for the character as well as a movie in which Spider-Man literally goes to homecoming—a fitting re-introduction and an endearingly goofy teen flick.

 

“Wait? What “teen flick” are you talking about?! Isn’t Spider-Man supposed to be a superhero?!” – you might ask.

“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!”

Indeed, but let’s not forget, that Spidey was always “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”: an average teen, who got bitten by a radioactive spider, and became some mutant superhero afterward. There’s also this backstory with his uncle Ben (“With great power comes great responsibility.”), who dies and gets avenged by Peter Parker.

None of this is told in this movie, however – thankfully. Indeed, the scriptwriters skillfully avoided telling the same old origin story with spider biting and the Uncle Ben’s death trauma altogether. Even Aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei looks different and younger than in the comic books and the older Spider-Man movies – but you might have already noticed this in Captain America: Civil War…

Indeed, Spider-Man: Homecoming is deeply part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we are constantly reminded by that. Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is not just some cameo in the movie, but a very important father figure, “boss” and mentor to Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Parker wants to become an active member of the Avengers team and also take part in their next mission. He’s in direct contact with Happy Hogan, Stark’s assistant of the sort, who doesn’t give two damn about the 15 years old youngster. Peter, however, waits every day, if he gets the call to action again.

Too cool for school?

However – and that’s the movie’s more interesting taking in Parker’s person as a 15 years old schoolboy. Indeed, Homecoming is a constant reminder that he’s a newbie hero and a 15-year-old kid, dealing with Spanish tests and chemistry classes as much as he’s dealing with criminal throwdowns. Like every kid of his age, he has romance problems as well: he has a  crush on his senior classmate Liz (Laura Harrier), the head of his school’s Academic Decathlon team. The movie is cleverly focusing in this dilemma: how can he be the crime-fighting Spider-Man and a have an existence of a normal kid of 15th years. How to remain the best student of your school, when you are indeed “too cool for school”?

Tom Holland gives a surprisingly excellent performance as the young kid drawn between his beginner superhero life, who’s still afraid to climb heights and can’t even drive a car and the schoolboy with his own adolescent issues. Holland embraces totally this new, interesting, adolescent Peter Parker and he’s one of the movie’s strongest asset. I have to say, that while Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were strong choices as well, Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man/Peter Parker so far.

“You are just like me…”

Micheal Keaton as The Vulture on the other was also an excellent actor choice. Toomes sets himself up as a small-scale weapons manufacturer, stealing recovered Chitauri technology and turning it into handheld gear for the aspiring street criminal.

Homecoming makes a bit of a straight-faced joke out of the small scale of Toomes’ operations: eight years after the events of The Avengers, his men are still peddling their supervillain gear out of the backs of trucks, including to a consternated wannabe hood named Aaron (Donald Glover) who was just looking for a simple handgun. But the small scale defines Homecoming’s ambitions. As Toomes is taking his protracted revenge for Stark’s dismissal, Peter Parker fights his own frustration with Tony Stark, who’s stonewalling him about further Avengers missions, and refusing to let Spider-Man return to a global stage.

The best nemesis pairings are heroes and villains who reflect some part of each other, who serve as dark mirrors into each other’s identity. For every character who goes through a personal crisis and comes out determined to save lives and serve the public, there’s another one who faced similar trials, and took the opposite path. That’s part of the strength of the Spider-Man / Vulture pairing here. Both Peter and Toomes see Tony Stark as a looming figure in their lives, and both resent his standoffishness, his power over them, and the perception that he sees them as inferior and dismissible. Both Peter and Toomes are technologically enhanced — Peter with a Stark-built Spider-Man suit that keeps manifesting new abilities, sometimes in the middle of battle, and Toomes with a presumably Tinkerer-built wing suit that resembles a much more sinister and aggressive version of Falcon’s flying gear. Peter and Toomes both live in New York, and they’re both motivated by the urge to take care of family. They just go about it in radically different ways.

Stark has to go

I also wonder if the majordomos of the Marvel U are aware of what a profound Tony Stark problem they have. In this world, Spider-Man only really gets to be Spider-Man if it is okay with his capricious and often illogical boss. Meanwhile, most of the major conflicts— dating back to Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War— have resulted from Stark making increasingly stupid and flippant decisions. It is Stark, not Peter, who has built his super deluxe spider-suit, one that not only possesses a compassionate female operating system à la She (Peter calls her Suit Lady and then Karen and she is voiced by Jennifer Connelly) but also has so many different web settings that it alternately calls to mind a Star Trek phaser and the thermostat controls at a particularly fancy hotel.

Stark keeps showing up and not showing up in distracting ways: is Peter really ever in peril if the man in the iron mask or one of his fleet of robot helpers can just swoop in and bail him out? Stark has his driver, Jon Favreau’s Happy, keep track of Peter’s progress but even Happy treats him with the same dismissive manner as his boss; towards the end, Happy condescendingly calls him a “good kid” as if he knows anything about him.

When Downey Jr. first played the playboy defense contractor almost a decade ago, Stark’s flaws were fascinating, informed as they were by the actor’s own troubled past. Now he just seems like a petulant jerk with way too much power. It’s Mr. Stark’s world, and we’re just fortunate that these talented young stars get to play in it.

Back to the basics

But more often, the film is a riot, a nerdy celebration of the hero fantasy, through the eyes of a hero who hasn’t gotten jaded, grim, and angry yet. Too many American heroes are growling, gravelly, and grim, dealing with gigantic moral crises and planet-shattering threats, and giving up any ability to enjoy the novelty of discovery, or the sheer giddiness of power. The MCU movies have been the decade’s strongest counterbalance against the unrelenting grittiness of superheroes, and Spider-Man is the peak of heroic fantasy fun.

He isn’t just a hometown hero New Yorker, actively in love with his city and the people in it. He isn’t just the kid who gets called up to run with the big dogs or the moral leader who understands the balance of power and responsibility. He’s the avatar for everyone who’s ever daydreamed about not just being tougher than the threats in their life, but also faster, more flexible, and funnier.

Spider-Man: Homecoming brings the character back to his basics. In the process, it shows why he’s always been such a popular draw, and it makes a strong argument for a branch of the MCU / Sony heroic story, that operates on a smaller scale than the rest of the world. Here, the small size isn’t just a story necessity or a franchise strategy. It’s the heart of the story and an argument for smaller hero stories in general.

-BadSector-

MOVIE REVIEW – “Third time the charm” - they say, and after the third reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, this adage couldn’t be truer. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man marks the web slinger's homecoming to the world of the Avengers, but it’s strongest as a coming-of-age comedy. The title is truly fitting as well, Spider-Man: Homecoming is both a homecoming for the character as well as a movie in which Spider-Man literally goes to homecoming—a fitting re-introduction and an endearingly goofy teen flick.   “Wait? What “teen flick” are you talking about?! Isn’t Spider-Man supposed to be a superhero?!” – you might…
Spider-Man: Homecoming brings the character back to his basics. In the process, it shows why he’s always been such a popular draw, and it makes a strong argument for a branch of the MCU / Sony heroic story, that operates on a smaller scale than the rest of the world. Here, the small size isn’t just a story necessity or a franchise strategy. It’s the heart of the story and an argument for smaller hero stories in general.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Directing - 8.6
Acting - 9.2
Story - 9.4
Visuals - 7.6
Ambiance - 8.5

8.7

EXCELLENT

Spider-Man: Homecoming brings the character back to his basics. In the process, it shows why he’s always been such a popular draw, and it makes a strong argument for a branch of the MCU / Sony heroic story, that operates on a smaller scale than the rest of the world. Here, the small size isn’t just a story necessity or a franchise strategy. It’s the heart of the story and an argument for smaller hero stories in general.

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