- Movie Rating -

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

| July 8, 2017

One of the things that I really wanted from the new Spider-Man movie was a fresh approach.  Please, oh please – I screamed quietly to myself – don’t tell his origin story again . . . not again!  My exasperation is due in part to the fact that this is yet another reboot.  There is no other superhero character that is in less need of a reboot than Spider-Man.  Here is a character whose story has been told in three iterations and two reboots by three different actors in the short span of 15 years.  Given this, no one would blame you if your knee-jerk reaction was to roll your eyes and exalt “Again with this guy?!”

Thankfully, I can report that Spider-Man: Homecoming has a new story to tell.  For once – for once – the filmmakers have been wise enough to push past Peter Parker’s spider-origin and tell a new story.  There’s no scene of being bitten by a radioactive spider.  There’s no discovery of his red and blue suit.  There’s no arc about his shadowy childhood.  There isn’t even an Uncle Ben.  No!  This is a new story.  This is a fresh approach.  You can breathe easy and enjoy the movie without mentally screaming to yourself – “We’ve heard this part!”

The story here is a sort of a nice side-item to last summer’s Captain America: Civil War wherein Spidey showed up for a fun cameo and some fan-relief that Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures worked out a deal wherein the character could make his way over to Disney’s super-verse.  It’s nice because it doesn’t feel intrusive, and the movie even opens with a fun scene in which we see Spidey’s point of view of the fight from the previous film.

After that the movie is left alone to tell its own story and it’s a pretty good one.  After Peter’s involvement in the fight, a lot of his time is spent waiting to be given something to do.  That’s not a criticism.  He’s frustrated at being asked by Tony Stark to be on stand-by in case The Avengers (of which he is not a member) need his assistance.  Like a forgotten temp worker he is forever calling Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) asking about getting an assignment – the response of which is either deafening silence or a frustrating ‘yeah-yeah’.  Officially, he’s part of Stark’s Summer Internship Program – whatever that is – but he’s starting to feel like a glorified bench-warmer.

Peter’s downtime is spent being a typical high school sophomore.  He’s got a gaggle of colorful friends, an upcoming Debate Tournament in D.C., a Spanish quiz, and a crush on the prettiest girl in school.  On the streets, Peter is asked by Stark to remain Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, taking care of muggings, robberies, the usual non-Avenger stuff.  BUT with great power comes great irresponsibility and Peter has soon taken the training wheels off of his Stark-wired suit and has begun to hunt for bigger fish.

Enter Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a bitter family man who was thrown off of a Stark Tower salvage job by the United States Coalition of Damage Control despite the fact that he and his crew need the money to feed their families (I don’t know why Stark didn’t figure to compensate the men for their work, but this makes for more potent drama, I suppose).  Toomes is bitter and angry but gets a lucky break when some of the alien tech from the salvage falls into his hands.  What he plans to do with his pilfered  technology, actually, kind of make a lot of sense given his circumstances.

Keaton is an odd but effective choice here.  Given his history with the superhero genre, it might have seemed odd to cast him as an antagonist but he plays Toomes without winks and nods to his role as that other guy all those years ago.  He has a tense mid-movie scene with Peter the reminds us that he can be a menacing presence given the right motivation.  I was reminded of his underrated villain roles in Pacific Heights and the ridiculous Desperate Measures.  He can play villains very well.

The movie is a lot of fun because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor is it frivolous; it keeps Peter mostly within the arena of adolescent problems and allows him to make mistakes – this red and blue suit, he finds, has a very steep learning curve.  Unlike the Sam Raimi trilogy, this Peter Parker is allowed to be a kid, and we feel the tug at wanting to be something more but being left behind because he is wet behind the ears.

That makes Spider-Man: Homecoming a bit better than it should be, yet somehow I still felt this movie sitting on the sidelines of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, just as I did with Ant-Man.  It’s a good movie but I never get the sense that it was essential to the larger story.  For everything that works, there’s something that doesn’t.  The stunt work and the CGI are blended very well, but they are at the service of scenes that run hot and cold because, being the sixth Spider-Man movie since 2002, it has to come up with a disaster that Peter hasn’t yet dealt with.  For example, there’s a terrific bit in Washington D.C. when Peter has to save his friends from a doomed elevator – a scene that works because I hadn’t seen it before.  But a later scene in which he has to save passengers aboard the Staten Island Ferry feels like a scene that is almost required for the Spider-Man movies – it rings with over-familiarity.

But even with my objections over some bits that feel like ‘been there, done that’ it’s hard to complain.  This is a character who is now taking is THIRD shot at being rebooted.  It is inevitable that something is going to feel a bit like going through the paces.  The nice thing is that this movie is a fun little ride, a harmless, unimportant ride to the larger story at hand, but you’ll enjoy Spidey’s adventure.  Again.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2017) View IMDB Filed in: Action