If there is money to be milked,
Hollywood is there!
If there are empires to be built,
Hollywood will dare!
If there are purists they can jilt,
If there are wishes they can wilt,
Hollywood won’t care!
If franchises refuse to die,
Some revel at the sight,
While others weakly question why
And still tune in despite.
But if you silence your outcry,
Hollywood might satisfy.
They sometimes get it right.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I was among the most skeptical when yet another Spider-Man was announced, and as amazing as Tom Holland’s debut in Captain America: Civil War was, I still wasn’t sold on Homecoming’s potential. I’m one of those people who grew up loving Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, and I’m firmly convinced that no other Spider-Man will replace him as my favorite or Spider-Man 2 as the best in the series. All that said, I loved Spider-Man: Homecoming far more than I was expecting and certainly more than the Andrew Garfield films (which I didn’t exactly hate either).
The trick that this new Disney/Sony partnership pulls off successfully is making this version of Spider-Man sufficiently different that it doesn’t feel like a rehash of what we’ve already seen. For example, Peter Parker’s origin story is completely skipped, assuming the audience already knows the basics about a radioactive spider and the death of his Uncle Ben. Instead, it focuses much more on Peter’s high school life, with fawning crushes, scholastic decathlon training, and his geeky friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and more nonchalant friend Michelle (Zendaya). The typical Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, and Harry Osborne aren’t here (mostly), and instead we have some fantastic continuity with the MCU, embodied in Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) as Peter’s detached mentor/benefactor.
In avoiding past Spider-Man movies, we also get a new villain in Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, who becomes the Vulture using alien tech left over from the Chitauri battle in The Avengers. Aside from the priceless in-joke of casting Birdman himself as the Vulture, Keaton makes his embittered contractor-turned-weapons dealer one of the best and smartest Marvel villains in a while, one who’s not evil for evil’s sake but who is still ruthless in doing what he thinks is necessary and justifying it as a family man. His battles with Spider-Man are far more thrilling than I expected from a second-rate villain like Vulture, and the fact that his motivations don’t involve world domination or destruction is actually refreshing at this point in the MCU.
Of course, the biggest challenge goes to Holland, who embraces Peter Parker’s inexperience and high school geeky side with appealing charm and an amusing tendency of being awestruck by all the coolness he encounters. What’s missing is his reason for helping people, which is unavoidable if you leave out Uncle Ben, but the filmmakers managed to create a decent replacement inspiration. With the high-tech suit provided by Stark, there’s a lot of fun to be had as Peter learns the bells and whistles available to him, including his own A.I. he names Karen (Jennifer Connelly), but he also begins thinking that the suit is what makes him a hero. How he comes to terms with that is quite well-handled, even if “With great power comes great responsibility” is still better.
Surprisingly, Spider-Man: Homecoming exceeded my expectations (especially an awesome action scene at the Washington Monument), which is always welcome. There are still things I would have changed, from an off-hand porn joke to a few politically correct jabs. Plus, I’m not a fan of Marisa Tomei as the new “hot” Aunt May, who is no longer the wise and pious counselor of past versions and made me miss Rosemary Harris from the first three films. Even so, the plentiful humor and overall entertainment value of the whole made up for these lesser elements, though my VC was less pleased with the constantly joking tone. So, although it doesn’t exceed Tobey Maguire’s movies for me, I’m largely satisfied with a new generation growing up with this Spider-Man (especially since they’ll likely still watch the original to get the full origin story).
Best line: (Peter) “I’m nothing without the suit!” (Tony) “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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