Well, this was a pleasant surprise…despite not being surprising at all. In some recent reviews, I’ve bitched about suffering from a bit of ‘superhero fatigue’ these days…and I wasn’t lying. There are just SO many movies and series out there, that are derived from some comic book source, that it makes my head spin, and causes me crave more ‘original content’ when it comes to what’s hitting the multiplexes right now. Just last weekend, I opted to give one of these new adaptations a look, since I’d missed it in the theatre, and subsequently suffered through the half-ass’d piece of shit that is DC’s sad attempt at ‘Justice League’. Side Note – I went back to check out ‘JL’ again, after my first viewing, not to ‘observe’ it for the sake of a critique, but to just ‘watch’ it as a movie and see if I would have a better time with it. Nope. In fact, I found it even more painful the second time around. There’s no denying it…DC fucked up with ‘Justice League’. No wonder Ben Affleck was so mopey during the press junket. He’d clearly seen the damn thing and knew they had an unfortunate turd on their hands. Anyway…’Justice League’ sucks, let’s just leave it at that. Moving on!
So a close buddy (and fellow geek) recently snagged a copy of the new Spider-Man flick on Blu ray, the first one under direct control of Marvel Studios, since Sony, who was responsible for the previous flicks featuring the teenage web-slinger, had relinquished the rights back to the comic book / movie juggernaut that is now Marvel. Full disclosure – I still really like the first two Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man flicks from 2002 and 2004…though the less said about the embarrassingly weak and goofy third entry, the better. I never warmed up to the Andrew Garfield emo-hipster version of the ‘Peter Parker’ character, and only saw the first of the ‘Amazing’ period of the series, after realizing that the second one was a clear disaster (from everything I saw and heard about it) and wasn’t worth my time (still haven’t seen it). So my buddy suggested a ‘movie n beers’ night, with this title as the Main Attraction, which sounded like a fine idea to me. This happened last night.
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ catches up with ‘Peter Parker’ (Tom Holland) after his introduction to The Avengers in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (2016), in particular, ‘Tony Stark’ (Robert Downey Jr.). After the climactic fight at the airport in Germany, ‘Peter’ is left craving more action, wanting to do his part and impress his new superhero peers as a full-fledged member of The Avengers. Despite being provided with a sexy new spidey suit from ‘Tony’ (which comes complete with a self-contained AI voiced by the always sexy Jennifer Connelly), ‘Peter’s attempts to get included in any further ‘Avengers’ shenanigans are rebuffed and he’s left to give vent to his crime-fighting urges by becoming the ‘friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man’ (in a hilarious montage that reminded me of ‘Kick-Ass’), while also navigating the perilous avenues of being a teenager in high school. While this is going on, a contractor for the city, ‘Adrian Toomes’ (Michael Keaton) is unceremoniously dumped from a lucrative clean-up contract to remove left-over Chitauri bodies and technology from the inner city ruins following the Battle of New York, as seen at the tail-end of ‘The Avengers’ (2012), by a mysterious Federal agency known as ‘Damage Control’. Left with a slew of undocumented, unconfiscated alien technology, ‘Toomes’ and his crew begin working on adapting the powerful alien tech, in conjunction with other salvaged material, to create a powerful set of multi-functional ‘mech’ wings, turning ‘Toomes’ into the technology-stealing villain known as ‘The Vulture’. Things become complicated with ‘Peter’ and ‘Toomes’ paths cross, both in costume and out, especially when ‘Toome’s teenage daughter ‘Liz’ (Laura Harrier) begins awkwardly pursuing ‘Peter’ romantically.
In a nutshell…Marvel does it again. Suck it, DC! You guys are NEVER going to catch up! I really liked ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’! Going in, I wasn’t too concerned about NOT liking it, as even Marvel’s lesser titles, like ‘Iron Man 2’ (2010) and ‘Thor: The Dark World’ (2013) are still entertaining, just not terribly note-worthy. That being said, this one was definitely a notch above being JUST entertaining. Some effort was definitely put into the story and production, and it shows. One of the areas where Marvel excels is their tendency to cast strongly. They always seem to pick the perfect choice for the characters inhabiting their stories, with the possible exception of Natalie Portman in the Thor flicks (nice on the eyes, not always the strongest choice for certain roles). Tom Holland is great as ‘Peter Parker’, especially since he pulls off the ‘teenager’ part of the character perfectly. Both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield were in their mid-20’s when they suited up as ‘Spidey’, and you could kinda tell. Here, Holland has a certain energetic ‘bounce’ and sense of wonder that, combined with the fact that he LOOKS like a teenager (I think he was 19) went a long way to sell the character in the light that fans have apparently always wanted to see, but just haven’t, up to this point. We also get extended, supporting, and often funny border-line cameos from Robert Downey Jr. as ‘Iron Man’ and Jon Favreau as the hilarious ‘Happy Hogan’ (with a quick appearance by Gwenyth Paltrow returning as ‘Pepper Potts’!), while the still gorgeous Marisa Tomei is back as an uncomfortably sexy version of ‘Peter’s ‘Aunt May’. I was also pleasantly surprised by Jacob Batalon as ‘Peter’s geeky and enthusiastic Lego-loving buddy ‘Ned’, as there was an earnestness to their relationship…and many funny lines. All that being said, the one I thought was REALLY cool, was Michael Keaton as ‘Toomes’. I loved how his character was handled. He wasn’t just a one-dimensional, mustache-twirling bad guy, there were understandable reasons for his actions ( I made a drunken comparison to Ed Harris’ ‘General Hummel’ character from ‘The Rock’ as we were watching). He was just a normal guy reacting to a situation that was putting his livelihood and his families future at risk. I liked how he didn’t just flip over to cold-blooded murderer-status, and seemed to make an effort to commit his crimes without hurting anyone, even though the one murder that does occur turns out to be a funny accident. I was saying to my buddy last night that I’ve always admired Keaton’s chameleon-like ability to fully inhabit various characters that play on both sides of the moral spectrum. While he’s easily associated with playing the first ‘grounded’ version of ‘Bruce Wayne’ / ‘Batman’ back in 1989, I’ve always found him strangely intimidating when his puts on the ‘villain’ hat, in movies like ‘Pacific Heights’ (1990) and ‘Desperate Measures’ (1998). Here, he balances the character’s humanity with a sinister determination to see his revenge-fueled plan through, and it worked for me. The rest of the supporting cast also did the trick and I found myself appreciating the effort the writers and director Jon Watts put into turning certain racial stereotypes on their heads, without seeming like they were trying.
On a technical level, I found nothing wrong with the film. It was well-shot, with action that was composed and edited in a way that was very user-friendly and exciting, especially a fight sequence taking place on the exterior of an out-of-control cargo plane in the 3rd Act. They weren’t shy about showing the action in terms that drew us in and effortlessly laid out the geography of the chase / fight/ whatever. And not once do I recall them succumbing to the lazy-ass use of irritating and played-out ‘shakey cam’. On that level alone, I appreciated how they put this movie together. I can also easily commend the Sound Design, both from an Effects perspective and a Music Score perspective. The costume designs were also sweet, as I thought what they did with the Stark-made ‘spidey suit’ was great (love the eyes!), with the inclusion of ‘Karen’, the sexy-sounding AI, and ‘Droney’, the cute lil spider-emblem robot who assists ‘Peter’ with his crime-fighting. But this also extends to the get-up for ‘The Vulture’. I liked that there was something ‘real world’ to it, with the use of an actual (but slightly stylized) flight helmet and a recognizable flight suit that had me thinking of both modern military aviators and old-school fly-boys, with the cowl of ‘feathers’ around the collar, while clearly resembling the plumage of his avian name-sake, also appeared to be imitating the heavy wool collars of British fighter pilots from WW2. It worked for me.
As Negatives go, I honestly don’t have anything to bitch about, even when I really put on the ole Think’n Cap and ponder. Nothing stands out as lacking. Marvel put some good work into this title and it shows (to me, at least) that deep down, they always knew how to properly handle the character and his integration into their well-established cinematic universe.
All in all, I really dug ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ and can definitely see it one day joining my other Marvel titles on Blu ray. It was what I needed to cleanse my palate, after choking on the shit-taste of not one, but two viewings, back-to-back, of the virtually unwatchable ‘Justice League’. ‘Homecoming’ gave us a charismatic and plucky version of ‘Peter Parker’ in a well-paced, well-pondered story that effectively balanced the John Hughes-like teenage drama with the big, superhero-like action and intrigue. The characters all have something to contribute, no matter how big or small their role is, and there’s a healthy dose of levity and situational humor that effortlessly flows throughout the narrative. Despite there being a ‘bad guy’, there wasn’t a sense of overbearing malice (like we seem to find in the DC titles) and, strangely, I appreciated the distinct lack of a body-count. As pacing and tone goes, if I had to compare it to any other Marvel titles, ‘Iron Man’ (2008) instantly leaps to mind, followed closely by ‘Ant-Man’ (2015). There’s a nice balance to all the elements making up the story that I appreciated, as the flick pulled me in and showed me a good time. I can easily recommend this new version of ‘Spider-Man’ and I look forward to seeing what else they do with the character. If you’re a Marvel fan, or even just a fan of well-told stories, with fun characters and cool action that you can actually follow, this is certainly a movie for you! Check it out!!