Friday, July 7, 2017

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) - Directed by Jon Watts; Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers; Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalan, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Hannibal Buress, Martin Starr, Michael Chernus, Jennifer Connelly.

By Kenny Howell

Marvel has become a cinematic king the last several years, but something has been missing.

They've built a world that is dominated Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and so on, but their two best selling comic books of all time, Spider-Man and X-Men, have been controlled by other studios.  And while both those titles have had some good (and very bad), they desperately need to be back home.

Well, we are halfway there, as Spider-Man, who was introduced in the excellent Captain America: Civil War, is now at the forefront of the Marvel Cinematic Universe story with the appropriately named Spider-Man: Homecoming, which just so happens to be the best Spider-Man film there has been.

It's pretty amazing because Spider-Man: Homecoming gives you a pretty big pill to swallow in the opening scene. We meet the villain of the film, who will eventually become the Vulture, Adrian Toomes, played by the excellent Michael Keaton (The Founder). He runs a demolition crew and has secured a major job cleaning up a site where an Avengers battle took place with some aliens.

However, a crew comes in and asks them to leave, that they will take over from here. They are with a group run by Stark Corporation, which of course had a hand in making the mess. That ticks off Adrian. He sees it as a whole racket with the men who make the mess, make the money cleaning it up, and he holds on to some of the alien technology despite being told to hand it over.

We jump ahead to eight years later, and Adrian is now the Vulture, running a high tech lab mixing human and alien technology into weapons, where he then sells it to criminals. He steals the scraps from Stark's trucks, then brings it back for his team to put together.

That is quite a big leap from a normal blue collar guy to mad genius flying around in super high tech equipment in just eight years. It's tough because the weakest part of Spider-Man: Homecoming is its villain, despite that fact that Michael Keaton is really good in the role.

And somehow, it doesn't matter at all. When we meet Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), instead of a big action scene that most films would have done, we have a smartphone short film shot by Parker of the time he met with Tony Stark and Happy, and the huge battle that took place in Captain America: Civil War, all told from the vantage point of Peter's phone. It's unique, funny and clever, and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the film, which has a surprising number of laughs.

Spider-Man has always been jokey and corny, and he still is that here. He's the clean version of Deadpool, commenting on what is going on during his adventure with little jokes. To counteract that, and not let that be the driving force of the film, the writers, of which there are six, have managed to make the world around him very funny, incorporating the help of people like Hannibal Buress (who may have the best delivered line of the movie), Donald Glover, and a very funny turn by newcomer Jacob Batalon as Peter's friend Ned, the only person that knows of his identity. Of those six writers, all have comedy backgrounds, including the teams behind Horrible Bosses, The Lego Batman Movie, and other credits like the TV show Community and The Onion News Network.

They are the perfect team to tell the story of the awkward teenage years of Parker, who is just 15 years old in this movie. He is in love with this girl named Liz (Laura Harrier), and he is trying to have a normal high school life, despite having to do a "Stark Internship" which is really him just waiting by the phone to see if the Avengers call him for help, which they don't.

So Peter, being the go-getter that he is, sets out to prove that he needs that phone call. At first, it is fighting crime that is a little more dangerous, like bank robbers and the sort. During one of those battles, he comes in contact with the Vulture's weapons as the men slice through a block in Queens trying to fight off Peter and steal an ATM. He investigates more, which leads him to Adrian and his operation.

But Peter has to fight that battle in private because Stark hasn't taken his training wheels off because of his age, and Peter also has to try to not be suspicious in school, something he fails at miserably because he is always disappearing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming just feels so right. I wasn't a huge fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, especially the last, but the first two were entertaining enough. The Andrew Garfield ones were nearly unwatchable, and an obvious cash grab to hold onto the rights. This just has such an infectious energy because Marvel has become a specialist at that. They focused on doing this novel thing of making sure their stories are well told and entertaining, instead of following the model that made Batman a huge hit nearly 30 years ago, which is serious and brooding. That's Batman, and Spider-Man is something totally different. He is joy and fun, and his first real Marvel film is exactly that as well.

Rating: ***1/2

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