Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-man: Homecoming (2017): based on characters and situations created by Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, and Don Heck; written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Christopher Ford, and Jon Watts; starring Tom Holland (Peter Parker/ Spider-man), Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes/ Vulture), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/ Iron Man), Marisa Tomei (May Parker), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Zendaya (Michelle), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Laura Harrier (Liz), and Chris Evans (Captain America): 

Spider-man: Homecoming because Spider-man: Prom lacked the metaphoric level of Spider-man's 'homecoming' to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after five movies in his own playground at Sony.

The movie is surprisingly funny and light on its feet. Spider-man: Homecoming gets Peter Parker's urgent need to save people just right. It also does the right thing by having Peter be an underclassman in high school. 

Tying Spider-man so thoroughly to Tony Stark/Avengers is a bit of a bummer, though. We're told repeatedly by assorted characters that Peter is "the smartest kid" they know. But the elements that made this true in the comics only remain in Peter's creation of his web-slinging fluid and web-shooters. And Tony Stark even improves on them. Peter doesn't have to create the finished version of the iconic costume, the Spider-Beacon, the Spider-tracer.... oh, well. The whole thing almost acts as metacommentary on Spider-man now being part of a vast, shared, corporate movie universe.

Tom Holland is good, as are most of the actors. As Spidey's newly minted best pal Ned, Jacob Batalon steals the show on several occasions while also demonstrating why maybe superheroes need to preserve their secret identities. He's definitely a plus. 

Peter Parker isn't the socially ostracized misfit of the comics, though, and that was always part of the point of Peter's high-school experiences: Spider-man is willing to help people who treat him badly. Here, socially awkward Peter has trouble asking a Senior girl to go to the Prom... sorry, Homecoming... but it turns out she has a huge crush on him! The angst and awkwardness of Peter Parker has been mostly muffled. It seems like Marvel missed a chance to use Spider-man to address issues of bullying et al. Spider-man's miserable high-school existence has been defanged.

So too his reciprocal, self-sacrificing pas de deux with Aunt May, who is now Marisa Tomei, her hotness much commented upon, her elderly comic-book nature replaced by a sort of hippie Earth Mother. I'm not sure Aunt May should turn out to be Stacy's Mom!

Still, it's a genial movie. Michael Keaton's Vulture is surprisingly low-key -- he's supposed to be a working-class joe who moved into high-tech after being screwed over on a contract he had to clean up some alien debris lying around after the Avengers' battle with the Chitauri invasion of New York that occurred at the end of Avengers (2012). As motivations go, it dovetails with the movie's treatment of Spider-man as a working-class hero who needs to give up his desire to join the Avengers full-time and save "the little people." Oh, those little people. Recommended.

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