Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
On the one hand, there's not a whole lot of justification for a third reboot - and seventh film - following the adventures of Spider-Man in a period of 15 years. That being said, this latest upgrade of the superhero is enjoyable - mostly due to the fact that the lead actor (a spunky Tom Holland) is age appropriate to the character and the picture focuses just as much on Peter Parker as dorky teenager as it does on his being a Spandex-clad hero. Not surprisingly, the sequences that involve the lead character doing things that kids do tend to be more amusing than the ones loaded down with special effects.

However, the picture initially focuses on its villain, rather than its protagonist - that would be Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, chewing the scenery), a blue collar construction guy overseeing the clean-up of some mess made by the Avengers at the film's beginning. He stumbles upon some sort of weapon in the rummage and - well, you know - absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that.

Years later, he has somehow managed to transform himself into a successful arms dealer and dons a costume that enables him to fly around and wreak havoc. Despite Keaton's commitment to the role, his Vulture character is underwritten. At a later point in the film, we see him as a dedicated father and husband, so there's a disconnect as to why he's so sinister in his spare time.

Meanwhile, Parker is a geeky high school kid whose pal, Ned (Jacob Batalon), has discovered his secret, while his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is still in the dark regarding his web-slinging abilities. Also, Peter - thanks to his appearance in the previous "Avengers" movie - is now taking part in an internship (don't ask) with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan is his point-guy, much to the latter's chagrin.

Although the film is, on the whole, enjoyable, some of the aforementioned elements are what - at times - drags "Homecoming" down. As I've mentioned in other reviews of comic book movies, the whole notion of "world building" - that is, other Marvel characters wandering in and out of the proceedings and plot threads spanning across multiple pictures - is one that is supposed to create a complete cinematic universe. I get the concept - but, to me, the whole thing feels less like a storytelling device and more of an advertising ploy. It's the equivalent of Amazon or Netflix telling me, "if you liked this title...." And it's still annoying.

Regardless, "Homecoming" manages to make up for such elements by being charming and clever, due to the filmmakers' wise decision to allow Parker to be a teenager. So, while he exudes confidence while halting bank robbers and purse snatchers, he's a nervous wreck when it comes to talking to a girl on whom he has a crush. And literally every discovery that he makes regarding his own powers is - per his own description - "awesome."

There are a few sequences that make good use of Spider-Man's ability to fly through the air - most notably, a vertigo-inducing scene during which he climbs the Washington Monument to save some fellow classmates on a field trip. But there are also a few moments where the special effects are a bit out of control - namely, a scene during which our hero clings to the outside of a plane in which Vulture is attempting to steal some weapons.

All in all, "Homecoming" is a mostly fun attempt at rebooting a franchise that, frankly, could have been left alone for a while. Holland gives the character of Peter a lively makeover and the film cheerfully relaunches his story as a teen drama that just happens to feature some expensive set pieces. In other words, this is a mostly enjoyable summer movie and not as much of a retread as you might have thought.

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