This is the best Spider-Man movie for so many reasons…and I shall explain with no spoilers
Spider-Man Homecoming – 2017
Director Jon Watts
Screenplay Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna
Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon
Before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way. Marvel is set for at least another 10 films all because of the decision to inject Spider-Man into their Cinematic Universe (MCU) in this way and at this time. This decision has been a trend, to be sure, since the 2nd Avengers film, we’ve seen many new supers mid-career, ditching the origin story as a crutch and just having them jump in feet first. Even Ant-Man is not the original, and the first one had been a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. if not an outright Avenger. Not only is this a more interesting plot device for whatever movie they join, it ditches so much useless exposition, there is considerably more meat to the overall arc of the universe.
The story takes form at the immediate aftermath of the battle of New York. Adrian Toomes is the owner of a salvaging company dealt a raw deal after he over commits to the job of cleaning up the damage. Taking advantage of the situation, he begins an operation of profiteering from parts that he lifts from that and other events, like Sokovia.
Fast forward 8 years to the point of Civil War and just after. Peter is enamored with the opportunity that Stark gives him, and he wants more. He turns this into a crusade to become worthy of a return phone call from Stark or Happy Hogan, and the hope becoming an Avenger in full.
Spending more and more of his time in his “Internship” with Tony, he stumbles across Toomes operation, well after they’ve become a powerful entity that could cost Parker everything.
This is the best Spider-Man movie for so many reasons.
- They give us the youngest Peter yet, with the most backstory. Thankfully, we aren’t punished by seeing it all again. Thank God Uncle Ben is already dead. The Amazing…series died the moment they chose to relive that tired plot. They didn’t even give us a break from the Green Goblin.
- The bad guy is not trying to conquer the world. He just wants to make some money on the scraps. What an inventive plot to step back from megalomania.
- The Vulture is perfectly played by Keaton. The man is a master at understatement, and he’s not giving it away here. His focus is narrow and his logic is sound. This performance is more menacing than either of his Batman turns and, frankly better than any of his adversaries in those films.
- A love story that isn’t besotted with smarmy adult stuff, like we had in the original series and to a lesser extent later. Peter’s a kid with a crush. This girl is not his final destination. The casting of Zendaya makes the next movie interesting. If they are smart, they will wait until the third.
- Peter is good at heroism, but doesn’t know how good he is. We spend much of the film finding out not only the power Stark has given him, but we find out more of what he is made.
- The guy in the chair. What a relief to have a normal looking kid as Peter’s best friend and essential normalizer, Ned. And Ned (Batalon) is interesting, smart and a general asset in that seat. We get a vision of Peter’s life as a less extreme version of the nerd we’ve seen in the past. He’s a nerd in transition.
- Speaking of transition, Peter’s on his way out of school for most of the film. Giving up on the genius he has for his sure shot at fame as an Avenger. This journey away from the righteous path is handled not as a morality play, but rather a real trap for Peter.
- Stark / Happy Hogan as a father figure. This is a remarkable win for the characters and the series. Stark does not change who he is with Peter. He is distinctly not Peter’s father, and he doesn’t try to be. He’s interested in the bottom line, not teaching lessons. He does feel responsibility for Peter, but not to the point where he gives step by step instructions. Happy is an excellent shadow figure in the relationship, for reasons I will let the viewer discover for themselves.
- Peter has a true superhero journey. The moment he discovers himself is the time of his greatest need. It’s an excellent, moving scene that ranks up there with anything I have seen since Superman II. Holland nails every aspect of his character with the virtues and flaws for which we love Spider-Man. He is the most believable Spidey yet.
- This is Spider-Man’s world. There are no cities, countries or planets destroyed. Maybe a couple of buildings on his block are rearranged. The explosions are kept to a minimum and the damage is has consequences, if seen. So many movies have fallen into the trap of bigger being necessary, even if it’s well known that it could never be better at this point.
This film has so many red flags, I really had my doubts when I initially heard about the enterprise. I thought it had the potential to bring down the MCU a peg or two. The fact that they have a half-dozen writer credits didn’t make it feel any better. There was some hope after seeing Holland steal his scenes in Civil War. This film should bring us all of the way over to Kevin Feige’s conversion of the power of Producer as the overall visionary. The MCU is a gift that is ever-changing and it just keeps producing.
Jon Watts is yet another young director handed the reigns and given some, but not all of the control. Like most of the others, he excelled in this position so far. I look forward to seeing what he does in the future, because he wove together a deceptively simple story and made everything seem light and crucially important at once. I give him most of the credit for the greatness of this film. I give Feige credit for the Universe.
(***** out of *****)