“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the sixth solo movie featuring the wall-crawling hero in the past 15 years, and while it might not be the best of the bunch, director Jon Watts provides what amounts to a fresh cinematic take on the character that’s fun and funny as well as packed with a whole lot of heart.
Heart has always been the key ingredient to any successful take on the web-spinning super-hero that writer-editor Stan Lee and plotter-artist Steve Ditko collaborated to create under the Marvel Comics brand back in 1962.
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This film has heart in spades thanks to the guiding hand of Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who co-produced the film along with Sony’s Amy Pascal. Feige oversaw the writing of the script that was the collaboration of a gaggle of six writers. Often when that many hands touch a script, it ends up being a mess. That’s not the case here.
Other than a few pacing issues that create a bit of drag at a couple of points in the film, this Spider-Man movie comes off without hitch. The plot ties the movie to the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films in a firm way, but keeps Spider-Man at the center of the film.
While overall I liked the performances of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield in the previous films, Tom Holland truly epitomizes both the every-man aspect of Peter Parker and the unbridled zeal of the Amazing Spider-Man. His performance is note perfect as the hero whose moral core is so pure that it won’t let him accept the path of least resistance no matter how costly it is to his personal life.
Of course, this sets him at odds with Adrian Toomes (The Vulture) played by Michael Keaton, who is also perfectly cast as a disenfranchised blue-collar worker, who is willing to take advantage of the opportunity to exploit stolen alien technology in a grand scheme that not only soothes his psychopathic soul but also allows him to support his family in grand style.
Keaton’s both scary and somewhat sympathetic as the villain who uses mechanical wings to pull off heists and threaten our 14-year-old friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Spidey is still learning the tricks of the super-hero trade under the mentorship of Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his security chief Happy Hogan (John Favreau) while also negotiating the precarious waters of high school. Both are excellent in their significant but smallish roles in the movie.
The double lives of Parker and Toomes and the excellent performances by Holland and Keaton are ultimately what lift the film about the rank-and-file super-hero flick.
The plot is also very clever in tying the movie back into the other Marvel films with webs connecting to Captain America: Civil War, which introduced Holland as Spider-Man in a couple of very popular scenes last summer.
However, my favorite parts of the film concern Parker with his high school friends. Jacob Batalon is a scene-stealer as Parker’s best bud Ned, a gamer and LEGO collector. Ned is somewhat of a departure from the comics, which depicted Parker as more of a loner in his teen years, but it is a welcome one because of the humor Batalon adds and the support his character offers to Parker.
Laura Harrier plays Liz, a senior, who is the object of sophomore Parker’s adoration and the captain of the quiz bowl team of which Ned and Peter are also members.
Zendaya plays a wisecracking yet aloof classmate of Peter and Ned’s in a small but interesting role. Tony Revolori plays Eugene “Flash” Thompson, who is the stereotypical bullying jock in the comics, but here is more of smart-alecky rich kid who torments Parker more with taunts than physicality.
Marisa Tomei returns as Peter’s guardian Aunt May, and Chris Evans appears as Captain America in several funny public service clips that are used throughout the movie that wraps up with a mid-credits and an after-credits scene.
For the true-believing Spider-Man fans out there, the movie does a really nice job of depicting one of the all-time great Spider-Man scenes from Amazing Spider-Man No. 33. It truly epitomizes the never-say-die attitude that is one of the most endearing aspects of arguably the greatest super-hero character.
All and all the film is a solid reboot of Spider-Man and a seamless integration of the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not a perfect movie, but it does show why Spider-Man remains the most popular super-hero character worldwide.
(PG-13) 2 hrs. 13 min.
Alfred Hitchcock Month on Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies turns its spotlight on one of filmdom’s best and most prolific directors each Wednesday and Friday night this month as it features the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
If you’re not acquainted with Hitchcock’s work, this moth is the perfect opportunity to sample a few of his movies. If you are familiar with them, then you know his movies have a high degree of re-watchability.
The channel will play more than two score of The Master of Suspense’s films, including Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Vertigo (1958), Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963) and many others.
Highlights on Friday are Number Seventeen (1932), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), 39 Steps (1935), and The Lady Vanishes (1938). On Wednesday, Rebecca (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1940), Suspicion (1941) and Saboteur (1942) are on tap.
Fire those DVRs up.