In the words of Robin Williams’ character in Jumanji, “What year is it?” It’s 2017 and we’re getting a second Spider-Man reboot in the past 15 years when the unwritten rule is to wait 20. My fandom of the web-slinger dates back to before getting into graphic novels. I watched the shows, played the video games, and read the comics in high school. Spider-Man and Peter Parker are relatable in balancing responsibility and personal life. After the late 90’s nuked superhero movies to February 31st with “classics” like Spawn, Barb Wire, and Batman and Robin. A few years ago, Mark Webb duology improved certain aspects that didn’t age too well concerning the Sam Raimi trilogy, but it couldn’t stand on its own without alluding to now cancelled sequels. Finally, Sony decided to team up with Marvel Studios to bring their most profitable IP to the multibillion-dollar plan after the earth-shattering break up in Captain America: Civil War. With new director, Tom Watts, are there any new tricks left up the web-slinger’s sleeve?
After Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is living a normal high school life with best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon). However, his internship with mentors Tony Stark and Happy Hogan (Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau) becomes an addiction to escape his non-existent social life. Coincidently, there’s a new set of wings in Queens in the form of the Vulture (Batman himself, Michael Keaton) who’s seeking revenge on Stark Industries for robbing his comfortable living after the battle of New York. He and his crew constructsweapons of other worldly destruction, but Spider-Man intercepts them as a means to show Iron Man that he’s Avengers material. All the while, Parker is trying to ask his crush, Liz (Laura Harrier), to the homecoming dance.
As you can tell, that’s a lot of plot to squeeze into a character with a long history of adaptations outside the pages. But there’s no rehashing of the past, in fact most everything feels fresh from the villain to the setting. Tom Holland once again embodies both halves of Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield with and without the mask while also having great chemistry with Jacob Batalon as Ned. This leads to so much hilarious, laugh out loud fun. It’s been far too long since a movie cast real high-schoolers instead of mid-twenties college graduates trying to pass as high-schoolers. And the tech savvy generation adds to idea of major competition with the smartest people. Though it’s odd that Peter is considered a geek when all the students are just as ripe to shove inside a locker. There’s so much light-hearted charm around every corner from the different clubs to even the teachers. Infact, the entire leading cast, including Robert Downey Jr and Jon Favreau keep the jokes fresh and constantly going.
Batman himself, Michael Keaton, also steals the show as one of the best Marvel villains; an Achilles heel that’s been improved upon since Doctor Strange. Ironically, Vulture wasn’t as memorable in the comics as the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus or Venom. He’s much more relatable in backstory to the point where you’re on his side because he knows the world better than Parker. And that same tension from Birdman is just as fierce when push comes to shove, including a surprise twist that sucker punches the stakes.
There are a couple downsides that keep it from being the best Spider-Man movie. They’re not awful, in fact most of them are fan boy gripes, but they’re things that were done better in the last two incarnations. First, the comedy is done so well that there’s never any establishment of who’s who in this particular rendition. Just because a majority of the audience is familiar with the previous two attempts doesn’t excuse rushing in without visually establishing backstory. In 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Bruce’s full origin was condensed into an opening montage whether or not anyone saw the Ang Lee film. Batman vs Superman, too its very little credit, also displayed Bruce Wayne’s tragedy in five visually, somber story-telling minutes. But here, there’s very little establishment outside of the best friend, Tony Stark and Happy Hogan. I wouldn’t make a big deal of it except Aunt May is no longer portrayed by either Rosemary Harris or Sally Field. Second, the action is very sub-par. They’re a lot of fun, especially during an intense ferry boat outing. But they’re very light on punches and kicks compared to anything from the past like a train tussle or an electric power plant showdown. Third, where is his Spider Sense? Out of all the powers to omit, especially since his suit comes with everything but the Stark minibar, the spider sense was way too important to leave out considering there were multiple moments where he should’ve felt danger from over a mile away. Lastly, one of the character’s who pretty much stands on their own is revealed to be an important, sequel baiting catch. Had they been their own character, they would’ve been great, but as is they’re really funny up until they drop the ball on their real name. I get that it’s trying to go a different route, especially after suffering fatigue from recreating this universe again and again, but having knowledge of the past two doesn’t help in the long run when each adaptation is apples and oranges that keeps pulling the rug out from under our feet.
The thing about Spider-man Homecoming is that, as a movie goer it’s a fun time with plenty of comedy, an empathetic villain, and the best high school Peter Parker in a long time. But as a Spider-Man fan, it just repeated the same cycle except with different people like the past two times. And the changes, while a breath of fresh air, are really alienating to someone who really wanted the best of Raimi and Webb coming together as one. Personally this ties with Spider-Man 2 while Spider-Man and the other Webb movies are tangled over. Looking back and on this, I don’t think any of the Spider-Man movies are the best because adaptation has that one element that’s done so well that no future reboots could fully replicate it. With the Raimi films, it was the villains and the simple story. With the Webb films, it was Garfield and Stone’s Romance. Here, it’s the villain, the comedy and the high school authenticity. One delves into the conflict of responsibility in a dramedy while the other is more of a Breakfast Club romp that has two jobs to pull off: stand-alone and connect to a universe. It’s as if we’re in a infinite time loop of the same pros and cons but with a different cast and crew. Like with Power Rangers, I recommend this to newcomers so that they don’t have the source material to cloud their judgement as it did with mine. I think Robert Walker, who’s also a huge Spider-Man fan put it best by saying, “I’ve got to accept the sad reality that there will never be that one Spider-Man movie that truly gets the source material because each one has their own slice of the pie.” But it could always be worse. Parker could be strolling down the street in another gothic jacket again (shudder).
Note: The 3D is fine, but nowhere near as promising as it looked in the trailer. Also the post-credit scene is the most educational for any movie goer hoping to cherish even the longest credit scrolls in cinema history.
Pros: Leading cast, light-hearted tone, empathetic villain, friendship chemistry, constant comedy, best Peter Parker
Cons: No Spider-Sense, sub-par action, character changes
In Memory of Joan Lee
February 5th 1924- July 6th, 2017