Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Feels like an appetizer from Marvel, but this latest ‘Spider-Man’ movie is executed with typical efficiency and panache.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Jon Watts
2017 | USA | Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi | 133 mins | 2.39:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau
Plot: Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.
Distributor: Sony Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Fun
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Mainstream

Review #1,471

(Reviewed in theatres – first published 12 July 2017)

Spoilers: No

Another ‘Spider-Man’ movie?  Why not?  Finally operating under the creative banner of Marvel, the perennial favourite of superhero fans is back with a new star in the making: Tom Holland.  Never has Peter Parker looked so teenage-y, and never has a ‘Spider-Man’ movie been so fun.

Homecoming is an entertaining movie with a ferocious pace, but it is a slight film, an appetizer from Marvel, a show reel of what the character can do, and what Marvel is envisioning him to be.  In other words, it is the dry run to a true test Spider-Man has to face together with his senior colleagues… in another movie.

Holland fits snugly as a high-school student with ‘extra-curricular’ activities that any nerd would dream of.  His performance is likable, balancing between the youthful spite of a child who just wants to be loved or appreciated, and the conditioned tenacity of a young man wanting to level up in life.

In a way, this Peter Parker is the most relatable of them all, someone we could legitimately make friends with, and he’ll be nice enough to invite you to his weekend barbecue party.

For once, a Spider-Man movie doesn’t need to be obliged to hit the requisite narrative notes to work: for example, there’s no Mary Jane (though it is hinted), there’s no allusion to his parentage, and there’s little, if any, direct confrontation between good and evil.

“Can’t you just be a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man?”

In fact, all of the film’s action set-pieces revolve around salvaging dire situations, rather than engaging in an ideological battle between hero and villain.  This is, to say the least, refreshing to behold.

Michael Keaton plays Adrian Toomes, whose Vulture could be construed as an appropriation of his alter-ego in Birdman (2014).  He is a family man who secretly engages in underground dealings involving the sale of rogue weaponry.

Marvel brings both Adrian and Peter to interesting places—their relationship is more complex than it appears to be—and it would be fascinating to see how this develops further in subsequent movies.

As a summer blockbuster, Homecoming is executed with typical efficiency and panache.  There’s even a sense of dexterity in this one, with the film equally at ease showcasing Peter’s comical home videos (in the opening minutes), as well as the craft of time-ticking action-suspense, best exemplified in the nail-biting Washington Monument set-piece.

Most have gushed over how brilliant Homecoming is, but perhaps have done so far too enthusiastically.  I have my reservations: my spidey-sense tells me that Marvel is intentionally holding back the potential of the film to be much more powerful that what it is now, so that when the time comes, the titular character will blossom in unexpected ways.  After all, as Captain America has said, patience is key.  You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Grade: B




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