Tobey Maguire was marvelous in the initial Spider-Man trilogy that began fifteen years ago. A decade later, Andrew Garfield followed it with a couple enjoyable flicks about the web-slinging hero. Therefore, we don’t need another Spider-Man series. However, the studio delivered and the audience replied, “Thank you Spider-Man!”
On the 55th anniversary of the Spider-Man comic series, this is the third series of the franchise, sixth full length Spider-Man movie and sixteenth film (Chapter four of Phase Three) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is also Robert Downey Jr.’s eighth time playing Tony Stark / Iron Man. So, familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt.
Tom Holland dons the red “onesie” and seems to relish the whole “Spidey” thing. The entire cast is now younger and more appropriate to the high school setting. When signed to play the leading role, Maguire and Garfield were 25 and 26 years old respectively, but Holland was only 19. Rosemary Harris played Aunt May at 74 years old in the original and Sally Field was 67, but the attractive Marisa Tomei plays Aunt May at only 52.
Director Jon Watts and a writing team led by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley do not have many credits to their names, but manage to bring a fresh style to the recognizable character. Thankfully, they assume we already know about that auspicious spider bite and unfortunate death of Uncle Ben. They also assume we saw Spidey’s recent exploit with The Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016).
We begin with Spider-Man already a small time hero in Queens (filmed in Atlanta), but Peter Parker wants so much more for his alter ego. He is a well meaning, but reckless and impulsive super-hero in the making. Fortunately, Peter is under the watchful eye of mentor, Tony Stark who instructs, “Don’t do anything I would do, and definitely don’t anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little gray area in there, and that’s where you operate.”
It’s frustrating and even painful to watch our champion so out of control in performing his heroic deeds. Peter is a small time spider-hero impatient to join the “world-wide web.” However, this is a coming of age tale. While young “Spider-Dude” fumbles the ball, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Stark’s right hand man, coaches from the sidelines.
Peter agrees to ignore his lofty ambitions and resume his schoolboy routine. His group of multi-ethnic teens seamlessly melds into a credible circle of friends. Peter’s BFF is the wisecracking Ned (Jacob Batalon), who discovers Peter’s secret identity. When Peter explains he doesn’t like Mr. Stark treating him like a kid, Ned replies, “But you are a kid.”
Michelle (Zendaya) is a graceful brunette with an interest in Peter, while Laura Harrier as Liz, has the fewest lines, but steals each scene she is in. Meanwhile, a new and ominous villain, “The Vulture” (Michael Keaton) emerges in the neighborhood. Suddenly, everything Peter holds near and dear is threatened, so he must grow up fast.
In his third winged superhero role (“Batman,” “Birdman”), Keaton is superbly convincing. This villain is not so much evil, but an angry victim wronged by society. He’s just trying to make his way in the world and protect his family. Maybe other than when he threatens, “Don’t mess with me, because I will kill you and anyone you care about!”
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is 133 minutes and rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, violence and language. For us, Peter was just too carefree and immature for someone schooled by Uncle Ben, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” What a tangled web we weave, but when Stark takes back the Spidey suit, Peter protests, “I’m nothing without the suit. Stark scolds, “Then you shouldn’t have it”
As Peter matures, the silly story moves to serious, fascinating and even amazing. What’s really amazing is that we find credibility in heroes like Superman, who wears his underwear over his pants and Spider-Man who wears his underwear over his head. Wonder what would happen if Spidey faced “The Black Widow?” Or, what if the weapon of choice for Spidey’s nemesis is a very big shoe?
Ron’s Rating: B Leigh’s Rating: B