Spider-Man: Homecoming

It’s Spider-Man 3.0!  Or at least 3.0 as far as live action movies go.  I’m not sure about animation and TV, and I couldn’t even begin to guess how many times the character has been rethought in the comic books.  Spider-Man has always been Marvel’s top hero in terms of popularity and sales and was the first character inquired about when Hollywood came calling.  So the rights were sold to Sony over two decades ago.  Sam Raimi made two well-received movies and one that isn’t so well thought of, and then Marc Webb rebooted the character with two movies that no one seems to like, although I didn’t think they were that bad.  At that point Sony decided that they were at a creative dead end and since Marvel, which had since become a movie producing giant in its own right, had been knocking on the door, asking if they could at least borrow the movie rights to their most popular character, Sony decided to cut a deal.

And thus this version of Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, made his debut in the MCU in Captain America Civil War when Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., recruited Peter to The Avengers to fight on the side of the co-signers of the Sokovia Accords.  He fights alongside Iron Man, Black Widow and others and holds his own.

Which makes it difficult to return to his high school in Queens and resume a normal life.  Or what passes for a normal life.  For Peter Parker this means keeping up his grades, taking care of his Aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei, trying to work up the courage to talk to girls, and fighting petty crime around his neighborhood.  He wants to move up in the world and become an Avenger, but Tony Stark doesn’t think Peter is ready.

It turns out that Stark is right.  Peter is a good kid who means well.  He has the awesome spider powers, although incomplete control over them, and the native intelligence to one day become a comic book scientist in the tradition of Bruce Banner, Hank Pym or even Tony Stark.  But being only fifteen, he doesn’t know much about people.  His voice is still high and unintimidating and he hasn’t learned to think like a criminal.  In fact, he has a lot to learn before he’s ready to join the Avengers.

The movie is brilliant at depicting this.  It is a combination of the script, which was written by a whole committee of people, the direction by Jon Watts, and Tom Holland’s performance.  They show us the character’s arc from brash kid, still reveling in his powers and star struck from his experiences on that tarmac in Berlin, to humbled young man, willing to accept and work on his shortcomings.  It is a very moving experience—you very much identify with him—and entertaining to witness.

I mentioned in a review of an earlier films that Spider-Man is one of Marvel’s sunnier heroes and that is depicted even better in Homecoming.  He helps old ladies with directions; he stops bike thieves and car-jackers in and around his home in Queens.  He really is your friendly neighborhood Spider-man.  Even as Peter longs for another Avengers mission, he is developing an ethic for helping everyday working people.  There are several points where the bad guys endanger innocent civilians and Peter never thinks twice.  He saves the bystanders even at the expense of letting the villains escape.

And you know what?  Tom Holland’s performance isn’t even the best in the film.  That goes to Michael Keaton’s The Vulture aka Adrian Toomes.  Keaton steals every scene he’s in as a working class salvage engineer.  The film starts at a point eight years earlier when Toomes’ company is helping clean up in the aftermath of the Chitauri attack on the city in The Avengers.  He’s signed a lucrative contract with the city and figuring that this is his ticket to success and security for his family, has bought new equipment, trucks and hired new people.  It’s all taken away from him though when the feds and Tony Stark take over the clean-up.  Toomes and his men are kicked off the site and harshly instructed to turn in any alien technology they’ve already salvaged.  Angry, Toomes doesn’t turn in the Chitauri tech.  Instead he designs weapons with it, including a cool set of mechanical wings for himself, which he uses to steal more tech.  And he also sells some the weapons to criminals.  His watchword has been caution.  He wants his new business kept under the radar of the feds and especially the Avengers.  Keaton captures the working class values of this man who sees himself as providing for his family and getting what’s his.  This is a guy who is not going let anything threaten what he’s built or his family.  He is one of the most sympathetic villains I’ve ever come across.

As I’ve said before, the folks at Marvel, and comic book people in general, know their characters.  They know what liberties to take with their mythologies and most especially what the tone of the movie should be.  In most cases when they are the creative impetus, they get a better result than the movie people.  I hope Spider-Man: Homecoming makes a ton of money and Sony is convinced that this arrangement is too lucrative to abandon.  And I hope that someday Marvel is able to get the rights to the Fantastic Four in the same way or maybe even the rights to the X-Men.

Wouldn’t that be cool?



1 Response to “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

  1. 1 Thomas Van Horne July 22, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    I finally read your review because I didn’t want to read anything before I saw the film and we just saw it. Great review. I think this is as good as any film Marvel Studios has done, and possibly their best ever. I can’t think of ANYTHING in that film that isn’t wonderful.

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