Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon
Directed by: Jon Ross (Cop Car)
Synopsis: About 130 minutes of Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield and Sony Pictures eating their heart out.
What works: I’m sure I’m not the first geek reviewer to announce that once a property goes back to the real source, in this case, Marvel, that it will be top-notch entertainment and sure enough that’s the case here. Sony tried twice and failed twice to make a decent Spider-Man franchise after Sam Raimi’s trilogy and now Marvel is here delivering the real goods. This was one fun night at the movies from start to finish. We had a tough time coming up with things that may have bothered us and can’t really complain too much at all about it.
I thought that this film would rely too much of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark like the trailers made it out to be but he was used very sparingly and didn’t distract from Tom Holland’s fantastic awkward teenaged Peter Parker. I also thought that this film would rely on the teenage angst and trials and tribulations of teenage life but it again, reeled back on using such tropes. This film could be enjoyed by kids of all ages. It could’ve easily being rated PG-13 veer into John Hughes teen territory (and in one scene even homages Hughes) but it just hints at it slightly. Peter’s romance angle wasn’t too cheesy either which helps the adults in the audience. Parker could’ve totally been a whiny, brooding, lovelorn loser but they didn’t play it out like that at all. In fact, he could’ve got the girl because she liked him too but due to super-heroic circumstances it didn’t work out by the finale.
But the real hero of this film is Michael Keaton who sublimely plays the every-man Vulture villain. One of the best villains to date, they actually have a great back story and motivation for him being the bad guy. No grandstanding, no wacky plots, not even over-complicated science to his gadgets or his technology. Having the character of the Tinkerer employed by the Vulture helps explain the tech aspect by having a guy who can basically make anything. Couple that with the Vulture’s company acquiring the alien stuff from the first Avenger New York battle makes the plot even easier to take. It’s not like there’s just the Vulture in a lab or lair making these things from scratch helps ease the suspension of disbelief. But Keaton hams it up just the right way and makes it fun to actually see him try to one-up ‘ol Web-head. Whereas, Willem Dafoe was way over the top as Green Goblin, Keaton was just the right amount of crazy and diabolical.
What fails: Like I said, there’s really not too much that doesn’t work here. Marisa Tomei was great as Aunt May but if they had cut her out of the film, it wouldn’t matter in the least. She’s not pivotal to the plot at all. Since this film wanted to avoid the “origin story” again for Peter they didn’t rehash the whole Uncle Ben scenario. Which is fine, but they never even mentioned Ben. Not even a photo on the wall as far as I could tell.
And this is probably the only thing I wished was different in the film. Since there is no Uncle Ben guilt or the “With great power comes great responsibility” angle, Peter really has no motivation to be Spider-Man other than wanting to simply be a super-hero and join the Avengers. There’s a pivotal scene where Peter is at his lowest and almost beaten and he doesn’t harken back to Ben or May or even his girlfriend but he sees his reflection in the water where his mask is floating and just gains the momentum back to get out of his tight spot. A little more emotional weight to Peter’s backstory would’ve given him more motivation for the finale. I thought Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy had a decent amount of emotion and dramatic struggles other than fisti-cuffs that really made those films great.
The only other thing that could’ve been better was Flash Thompson’s character. I understand that they wanted him to be less burly-football-player-jock bully and more of a geek-social-media bully but he really didn’t give that much trouble to Peter at all. He needed to be way more Zabka from The Karate Kid and less Zabka from Back to School in my opinion.
This isn’t a fail at all but I’d like to mention the music. The score by Michael Giacchino was great, one of his best to date. But the songs used in this film was a bit odd. Nevermind the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop that worked perfectly because why not have a Queen’s punk classic in a film about a Queen’s superhero but there was a lot of 80s new wave in this film. The English Beat (twice if you count the Ferris Bueller homage) as well as Flock of Seagulls playing at the homecoming dance (are kids these days rediscovering 80s songs? Because that is one odd choice of a song to play at a homecoming dance in 2017). There’s also classic rock in there with the Rolling Stones, Traffic and Canned Heat. I’m thinking that they wanted a Guardians of the Galaxy kind of vibe with an eclectic soundtrack but I can’t recall any modern music at all. And the Canned Heat song was really odd because it’s “Going Up the Country” while Parker and his friends are in a bus going to Washington DC. Not exactly “country” if you ask me. Again, not so much a nitpick but just an odd observation about the soundtrack.
Overall: It’s a great flick and a helluva lot of fun at the movies. I cannot recommend it enough. I look forward to seeing it again real soon and to see where Marvel goes now that they are more in control of the characters. The special effects were great, the acting was sublime and the laughs were plentiful. As a Marvel comics fan and as a Marvel Studios fan, this was a total sigh of relief to finally see Spidey back where he belongs—in a Marvel cinematic movie and a great one at that.
Score: 9 “Aren’t 15-year-olds kinda too old to get excited to build a Lego Death Star?” (out of 10)