REVIEW: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Teaser Poster – Columbia Pictures

The following is a review of Spider-Man: Homecoming – Directed by Jon Watts.

There is a great iconic comic book line that all movie lovers know these days. I am, of course, talking about the classic Uncle Ben quote: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It is a line that was delivered well by Cliff Robertson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. However, it was also poorly paraphrased in the disappointing reboot — Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man

The Uncle Ben quote – just like the Uncle Ben character – is strangely absent from Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, which I suspect surprised a lot of people that went and saw the film with no knowledge of this new reboot, which was made in collaboration with Disney’s Marvel Studios.

There, obviously, is a method to the madness. Marvel Studios is well aware that there is some level of Spider-Man fatigue. While he’s a popular superhero, people have grown tired of seeing his origin story. Just like people are tired of seeing Bruce Wayne’s parents being gunned down in Gotham.

Marvel Studios attempted to avoid this fatigue by introducing him with all of his powers readily available for use in last year’s highly successful Captain America sequel, Captain America: Civil War. Peter Parker was being reintroduced to a world that included a team of superheroes saving and avenging the world, while the kid from Queens – your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – was still just in High School.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – the second film to feature Marvel Studios’ version of Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) – takes place right after the events of Civil War, and sees Peter Parker abandon his responsibilities as a young High School student in an effort to impress Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) and become an official member of the Avengers.

Stark isn’t all that interested in his young protégé, however, and would much rather see him not taking on anything too hard. After seeing how dangerous it was to put a High School student in the middle of a giant super-powered battle in Civil War, Stark isn’t comfortable putting the kid in too much danger too fast. But Peter Parker wants to help. Peter Parker wants to use his powers and he wants to make a positive impact on New York. And so, eventually Parker runs into trouble.

Meet Adrian Toomes (played by Michael Keaton) whose salvage company was run out of business after the events of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers by a department directly created by Tony Stark. To make a living, Toomes and his colleagues have gathered Chitauri technology to weaponize it and sell it to criminals. Toomes becomes the super-criminal known primarily as the Vulture, a villain who has no powers but instead makes use of mechanized wings, which have been made from Chitauri technology in this particular film.

The idea that Parker is juggling his responsibilities in High School and his responsibility as a super-powered vigilante is the classic superhero story structure, and it is also very much in tune with the character put to screen. It is, to an extent, classic Spider-Man storytelling, and Spider-Man: Homecoming is a confident and successful balancing act, wherein the filmmakers have managed to make it feel exactly like a movie set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while still keeping classic trademark Spider-Man elements. Spider-Man: Homecoming is amazing, spectacular, and every other complimentary comic book title adjective used to sell each single issue or trade paperback.

Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei first appeared as Peter and May Parker in the Russo brothers’ Captain America: Civil War, and they were met with a lot of love. Tomei, surprisingly, doesn’t get a lot to do in Homecoming. By avoiding any Uncle Ben drama, the film sadly leaves Tomei’s character with very few scenes. It is an unfortunate trade-off, especially since Tony Stark – who one assumed was brought in to mentor Peter Parker – doesn’t really do much either. You’ll be surprised by how little Downey, Jr. is in the film.

But Tom Holland is as great as previously advertised. He was one of the standout performers in Captain America: Civil War even though he was only in a small handful of scenes. Holland has a lot to live up to. Tobey Maguire was a fantastic Peter Parker, whereas Andrew Garfield turned out to be a wonderful, quippy take on Spider-Man. I’ll need to see Holland in more films before he’ll be able to dethrone Tobey Maguire as my favorite Peter Parker, but Holland takes the best of both former Parkers and becomes an immensely likable and entertaining character and hero.

There is also a classic saying that says that a hero is only as good as his villain, while I don’t necessarily always agree, this villain is just as good as the hero. Marvel Studios have had a clear villain problem, with very few really standing out as good villains. The Vulture – played wonderfully by Michael Keaton –  may actually be the best villain in the entire cinematic universe. He is an easy villain to understand. He has been done wrong by Tony Stark and he is, to an extent, just trying to make money to help the people around him. He breaks the law and he fights Spider-Man — but he is a smart villain who you understand all the way through the film.

I also quite enjoyed how the world presented in Spider-Man: Homecoming is perfectly reflective and representative of today’s New York. It has a wonderfully diverse cast that gives the High School a lot of personality. Now, I’ve been a little bit annoyed with how they’ve essentially switched out Harry Osborn as Peter’s best friend and replaced him with a character that is supposedly inspired or named after Ned Leeds. Now, Ned Leeds is an old comic book character created in the 1960s, but this Homecoming character is ‘Ned’ in name only.

In truth, Ned, played wonderfully by the scene-stealing newcomer Jacob Batalon, not only looks like but also acts like Ganke Lee, a newer comic book character who is the best friend of Miles Morales (who is actually referenced in Homecoming). It’s something that bothers me, because I love Miles and Ganke’s relationship. But I loved seeing Batalon and Holland together in Homecoming, so they essentially won me over in spite of my comic book nerd nitpick.

But this film made me giddy with excitement over how they managed to tie a true Spider-Man story into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while still both including fun comic book references and the right John Hughes-like High School comedy feel and tone.

Now, the John Hughes element also become a little bit unimaginative. The film already felt inspired by John Hughes comedies but right as they were going for a great Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reference they cut to Spider-Man running through a house party that had Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the television. Now, it’s been more than a month since I saw Homecoming, but I’m pretty sure Spider-Man actually even calls out that they’re showing a ‘good film.’ We get it, guys. Parker is doing what Bueller did, don’t beat us over the head with the reference.

Now, the only thing that actually bothered me about the movie was what seemed like a weird case of an aggressive product placement. Now, I am rarely bothered by product placements, but there are odd cases when they take me out of the film. Sadly, Spider-Man: Homecoming has one of those moments (featuring an Audi luxury car). It was a very jarring moment for me, and it is ultimately my biggest problem with the movie.

But Spider-Man: Homecoming feels right. Although blemished slightly by product placement, Spider-Man: Homecoming is extremely entertaining and more fun than any other film featuring the character. The film manages to make this version of Marvel’s web-crawler feel at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, without robbing the film of trademark Spider-Man elements — even though Uncle Ben is nowhere to be seen.

9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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