I moaned when I heard that yet another Spider-Man franchise was about to bloom. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had our Spider-Man needs sufficiently covered. Do we really need another?
Then I saw the new Spider-Man's first appearance in the Avengers movie (mystifyingly dubbed Captain America: Civil War).
The kid was terrific.
First of all, he was a kid, 15 years old! Watching that boy eager to jump into battle with a bunch of middle-aged super heroes was a treat. He had boundless enthusiasm, and was ready to throw wisecracks in all directions. Turns out the latest Spider-Man (Tom Holland) was a kid, just like in the comics! We learned that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) was serving as mentor for young Peter Parker. Don’t know how that relationship was formed. Don’t care. It was too much fun watching the kid steal the movie.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, young Peter lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) in a humble apartment in New York City with a window just beckoning him to climb out. At school he’s bright and able to brush off any teasing or bullying from other classmates. He’s in love with Liz (Laura Harrior), the head of the academic club. His best friend is Ned (Jacob Batalon). We get to know a number of his classmates, all of them bright, well-defined and ready to move.
Meanwhile, there are dark doings going on in New York City. Michael Keaton works cleaning up the damage from superhero battles in the city. He has acquired a number of futuristic objects while at work, and is waiting to make a move. Keaton does his usual grand job, taking what could have been a routine character and giving him authenticity. Spider-Man will get involved with him soon enough. Right now, he gets periodic visits from Iron Man, and a really cool Spider-Man suit.
Spider-Man: Homecoming jumps between three storylines: his fighting bad guys, Michael Keaton preparing to fight a lot of people, and his ongoing adventures and drama at high school. Could have used less of that. The film is 2 hours and 15 minutes, and it would have been leaner and more effective, I think, with a pared-down high school storyline. At times I felt like I was watching virtually any of the teen-based shows on The CW.
Peter Parker’s conflict with Iron Man keeps coming back to one central thing. Tony Stark wants the kid to lay low. If he wants to take down a few bad guys, that’s fine, but make them middle to lower echelon crooks, not anyone who’s going to focus international investigations. Spider-Man is juiced. He’s fought well and wants to do some more with his new superstar, Avengers friends.
The film is good. Director Jon Watts keeps Spider-Man close to the ground. Remember those glorious shots in the first Spider-Man trilogy, of the web-slinger swinging through the tops of buildings in Manhattan? They’re gone. I’m not sure whether confining Spider-Man to the lower levels is a move by the director to remind viewers that this is not your Sam Raimi Spider-Man, or to reflect Peter Parker’s frustration at having to stay at the lower levels. Either way, it works.
The casting is impressive, especially with Jon Favreau as Happy, an extra mentor for Parker when Iron Man is away. There is another costumed bad guy in the film. I didn’t catch his name.
Bottom line: Spiderman: Homecoming sags in the middle, but delivers where it counts. It makes you feel good, it holds your interest (mostly), and it makes you laugh a lot, in the right places.
NOTE: There are two bonus scenes in the film. The first comes just a few moments after the credits start running, and the second comes all the way at the end of the very long credits. Stay. Those patient enough to hang in there to the very end will get to see what is possibly the best bonus scene Marvel has ever done.