Director: Jon Watts Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, and Donald Glover Synopsis: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges. Rating: PG-13 Years: 2017
Like their iconic heroes, there seems to be no limit to what Marvel Studios can accomplish. They’ve defied one expectation after another to craft the hottest success streak in Hollywood, including their latest, Spider-Man: Homecoming, with which they’ve largely perfected a formula for the notorious reboot. Take note, studio execs.
There are a few things that help make this new Spidey stand out from previous incarnations. The first and most obvious is his age. Tom Holland is significantly younger now than both Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield were when they filmed their outings. It was a tactical decision. Casting a teenage actor to portray a high school Peter Parker opens the door to unexplored creative territory and is a big reason why ‘Homecoming’ feels fresh despite it being the series’ third manifestation in only fifteen years.
Of course a tactic’s merits is based on its execution and in terms of casting said teenage actor, Sony and Marvel nailed it. Holland perfectly embodies the kind-hearted, sharp witted, flamboyant adolescence of young Spider-Man/Peter Parker. It’s uncanny. If you weren’t sold on the young actor in this role in Captain America: Civil War, then ‘Homecoming’ will make you a believer.
As good as Holland is here, the film would collapse if it weren’t for his strong supporting cast (as Peter’s best friend Ned points out in the film, even Spider-Man needs help sometimes). Robert Downey Jr. again highlights every scene he’s in, tutoring the young Parker; however, despite an Iron-heavy marketing campaign, he doesn’t see much screen time. Peter actually spends most of the movie hysterically pestering Tony’s head of security, Happy Hogan, once again played by original Iron Man director Jon Favreau.
Other notable standouts include Jacob Batalon as the adorkable Ned, a scene stealing Donald Glover, and Zendaya, who makes particularly effective use of her sparse appearances as a loaner artist.
When talk about performances in a Spider-Man movie arises, so too will discussion of the villain. Since the wall crawler has built up one of the most memorable rogues galleries, heavy scrutiny always follows the live-action iterations of his big bads. especially when its’ Michael Keaton in the role. Here he plays Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. Vulture, a blue-collar scrap yard dealer contracted to help clean up New York following the events of The Avengers before he and his crew are replaced by the Stark Industries-sanctioned Damage Control.
Now bitter with a hatred for Stark, Toomes takes what alien technology he’s managed to salvage and begins life anew as an extraterrestrial arms dealer. It’s a compelling origin story but his regression into villainy woefully occurs off screen so the contrast is a bit jarring. It’s unfortunate too that Vulture’s relationships are never as realized as they could be, especially considering what they do with him towards the third act and during the mid-credits scene. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that he’s a more natural fit for another Iron Man movie than a Spider-Man one.
That said, Keaton does his best with what he’s given. If the idea alone of Batman on screen with Spider-Man doesn’t given you chills, Keaton’s menacing performance certainty will.
The Iron Man influences go beyond the occasional cameo and villain. Marvel Studios has upgraded Spidey’s suit to be more in line with Iron Man’s, including countless gizmos and gadgets, different types of webbing, and even built-in A.I. (á la Jarvis). It’s an unnecessary overhaul that serves less the character and his first solo adventure and mostly serves to tie him in with the existing MCU.
Perhaps the most unfortunate comparison to Iron Man is that, through a slew of disappointingly forgettable action sequences, Spidey proves to be a bumbling menace. Yes, he’s a kid just coming into his super-self, but it’s tough to root for a supposed hero who puts just as many lives at risk as he saves, if not more.
Thankfully, Tom Holland is endlessly charming as Peter Parker and equally charismatic as the Spider. Likewise, it’s near impossible to resist the infectious performances from the rest of the cast. Together they’ve built a foundation for a special franchise that hopefully sticks to its own business down the line.
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