Spider-Man: Homecoming

spider-man-homecoming-rev Spider-Man: Homecoming  (2017)    Marvel Studios/Action-Adventure-Sci-Fi    RT: 133 minutes    Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action violence, language, brief suggestive comments)    Director: Jon Watts    Screenplay: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers    Music: Michael Giacchino    Cinematography: Salvatore Totino    Release date: July 7, 2017 (US)    Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Abraham Attah, Hannibal Buress, Martin Starr, Kenneth Choi, Selenis Leyva, Angourie Rice, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Chernus, Michael Mando, Logan Marshall-Green, Jennifer Connolly (voice), Hemky Madera, Gwyneth Paltrow.

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 I’m not too impressed with the overall quality of this summer’s big movies. I can count on one hand the titles I loved. For the record, it’s four- Baby Driver, Wonder Woman, Megan Leavey and Captain Underpants. At least it was four. Now that I’ve seen Spider-Man: Homecoming, the count is up to five.

  It’s the second time since the first movie came out (in 2002) that the franchise has been rebooted. The difference this time is that the web-slinging superhero is back in the Marvel Comic Universe where he belongs (Sony and Marvel now share the character rights). This actually happened in last year’s Captain America: Civil War when Spidey joined Team Iron Man in the centerpiece battle scene against Team Captain America. His story picks up right after Happy Hogan (Favreau) takes him back home to his Aunt May’s (Tomei, My Cousin Vinny) apartment in Queens, NY.

 spider man homecomingThe story actually begins before that, eight years to be exact. Adrian Toomes (Keaton, Batman) and his salvage company were originally contracted to clean up the mess left behind after the climax of 2012’s The Avengers (that was actually five years ago but whatever) but get kicked off the site by government types, led by an officious Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey), brought in by Tony Stark (Downey) to cover it up. Enraged at losing the gig, Toomes decides to keep the alien technology they already salvaged and build advanced weapons to sell on the black market. One of the things they build is a flying suit with mechanical wings that Toomes wears when he assumes the identity of Vulture, the movie’s main villain. Notice I didn’t say “supervillain”. He’s not a supervillain. He has no powers or plans for world domination. He’s just a regular guy who’s tired of feeding off the table scraps of the rich and powerful. He wants his piece of the pie even if it means arming criminals with powerful weapons of mass destruction.

 Meanwhile, 15-year-old Peter Parker (Holland) resumes his life as a dorky high school sophomore with a high IQ. However, his mind is on bigger things than Spanish quizzes and the big homecoming dance. Every day after school, he dashes to the nearest alley to don the new, seriously upgraded Spider-Man suit given to him by Stark. He roams the city streets looking for crimes to solve; he’s trying to prove to Stark that he’s ready to become a full-time Avenger. His mentor feels that he’s not quite there yet; in fact, he’s nowhere near ready which is why the special features on his new suit are disabled by a “Training Wheels Protocol”. Parker/Spider-Man first becomes aware of the new advanced weapons on the street after he prevents an ATM robbery, destroying his favorite deli in the process. He eventually learns that Toomes/Vulture is the mastermind and sets out to stop him despite Stark’s admonishment to stay out of it.

 I like a great many things about Spider-Man: Homecoming but none so much as the actor that now plays the title role. In fact, Holland is great in both roles. He’s much better than that wimpy Andrew Garfield chap. That guy always looks like he’s on the verge of laughter. Holland looks the right age for the variation of Peter Parker he’s playing. Moreover, here’s a high school kid whose set of problems really is unique. Most kids only have to deal with acne, grades, unrequited crushes and the SATs. The already socially awkward Parker has to keep his super powers secret even though it would elevate his social status if his classmates knew he’s Spider-Man. The only one that knows is his best friend Ned (Batalon) who keeps asking to be his “guy in the chair”. On top of this, Parker has a crush on Liz (Harrier), a beautiful senior who’s also the captain of the school’s Academic Decathlon team (he’s an MVP). I stop short of saying Holland is my favorite Spider-Man only because Tobey Maguire was so good in two of his three movies.

 Keaton is great as Vulture. I’m so glad that he’s made a comeback after keeping a low profile with roles in smaller indie films or supporting roles in movies that didn’t exactly burn up the box office. He’s still my favorite movie Batman. What I like best about his performance in Spider-Man: Homecoming is that he keeps his villainous character grounded in reality (sort of). Sure, the suit is a product of sci-fi but his motivations are relatable. He wants to provide for his family, who doesn’t relate to that? At the same time, he’s a dangerous bad guy who will kill anybody that gets in his way. Keaton strikes a perfect balance between the two. The rest of the cast is also very good. Tomei’s Aunt May is as cool as she is hot. Downey does his usual job as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Favreau has some funny scenes as Happy forced into the role of Parker’s handler, a job he clearly doesn’t want. Singer Zendaya (of the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up) is dryly funny as Michelle, a teammate of Parker’s. She’s one of those “smartest person in the room” types that hasn’t much use for other people. A master of the witty remark, she won’t even join the tour of the Washington Monument because it was built by slaves, a fact disputed by the decathlon coach (Starr, Freaks and Geeks) and confirmed by a nearby security guard (a black guy).

 One of the most interesting changes in Spider-Man: Homecoming is its depiction of Flash, played by Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori. He’s no longer a jock bully. In this new incarnation, he’s a cocky, arrogant fellow team member who constantly puts Parker down, referring to him as “Penis Parker”. It’s a welcome change. He’s still a d--k but at least he’s not meting out beatdowns. I was getting tired of that.

 Earlier I mentioned the Washington Monument. It’s the location of the movie’s most exciting scene. Spider-Man jumps into action upon realizing that the lives of a few classmates are in danger due to the chunk of alien material carried by Ned in his backpack. It turns out to be highly explosive and causes the elevator to start plummeting to the ground far below. Spider-Man scales the monument while cops circle in a helicopter ordering him to get down. It really is a cool scene. The CGI effects in Spider-Man: Homecoming are pretty good although it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in other Marvel superhero epics. The action scenes are well-mounted. The scene on the Staten Island ferry is especially well done as is the climactic mid-air fight that ends in Coney Island. Unlike most big budget summer movies, these scenes aren’t overedited to the point of confusion. The plot isn’t overly convoluted even though six people are credited with writing the screenplay. Directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car), Spider-Man: Homecoming moves along at a nice clip. It doesn’t feel overlong at all. It’s a solidly entertaining superhero flick seamlessly woven into the MCU. This one is definitely worth a trip to the movies!

P.S. Be sure to stay for mid-credits and end-credits scenes.

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