Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Okay, I know that at the beginning of the year I didn't put this film in my most anticipated list for 2017. I didn't think there was anything particularly new that they would bring to the table with yet another Spider-Man reboot. I get it, I was wrong. Obviously I had a feeling Tom Holland was going to be awesome in the role, having already seen him pull it off spectacularly in Captain America: Civil War, and with the addition of Tony Stark it looked like they were trying their hardest to appeal to as many fans as possible. The trailers for this film looked really fun, but I didn't really get the vision that Marvel had for Spider-Man: Homecoming until I sat down in my seat to watch it on the big screen. But what was that vision, and how well did it end up working?

Adrian Toomes is a construction worker who was hired by the city to clean up the wreckage following the incident in New York when the Avengers fought off an extraterrestrial army. However, as they're beginning their work, a third party entity arrives on the scene and claims to be taking over the project. Toomes is obviously upset, as he's bought trucks and hired hundreds of men for this project, the loss of which could cost him his house. In an act of desperation, he keeps some of the alien technology recovered from the site and begins reverse-engineering it into super weapons that he sells on the black market. Several years later, Peter Parker is still waiting for a call back from Tony Stark after being thrown into an epic battle with Captain America and his friends. In the meantime, he fills his evenings by doing (or trying to do) good deeds around the neighborhood... that is, until he stumbles upon an ATM heist by a group of thieves utilizing technology he has never seen before.

Okay, so that sounds like a lot of the plot so far, but in reality it only encompasses about twenty minutes of the film. The backstory and setup for this story is done incredibly economically, and I love that we start out with the villain's origins rather than Peter's. Let's be honest, no one needs to see the spider bite or Uncle Ben's murder again, and thankfully that isn't shown in this film. Sure, the spider bite is eluded to, and there's a passing mention of Aunt May going through a tough time, but that's all the pathos that we get here. While some people might see this as a flaw (for some incomprehensible reason), I find this streamlined origin story to be refreshing. His origins here isn't about how to deal with his new powers or how to overcome his sorrow, but it's about how to navigate his social life while trying to do whatever it takes to become an official member of the Avengers.

Peter's teenage hubris makes him take incredible risks along his path to Avenger-dome... if that's a word... and his decisions in general are relatable and true to his level of maturity. He thinks and acts like an authentic teenager, which is a nice perspective to have for a story about a teenager. You wouldn't think that would need to be called out as a compliment, but so many films fail to accomplish that simple task that I feel the need to make that point. The way he opens up to those who are in the know about his powers and seeing their reactions to it are a nice change of pace as well, having never seen anyone actually know his identity in previous Spider-Man movies... besides love interests or villains.

One thing I was a little nervous about was the seemingly forced inclusion of Tony Stark in this story. However, after seeing how he's integrated I have to say that they've seamlessly incorporated this character without having him overwhelm the story or take too much focus away from Peter. He's a self-professed father figure to Peter, and it's a dynamic that works incredibly well. Their chemistry is organic and believable, and Tony's blase attitude is both endearing and reasonably frustrating when seen from Peter's perspective. This is why it's so great that Spidey is in the MCU, because he can now interact with other characters we love and form relationships that expand his character in ways we've never seen before on the big screen.

Of course, the hero is only as good as his villain, and the MCU has a history of underwhelming bad guys. Plus, who really cares about The Vulture? Well, somehow they managed to pull off a version of this baddie that was true to his comic book design, but also not as silly as it easily could have looked. It's not just his appearance that made him great, however, as the legendary Michael Keaton takes this character to another level with a grounded, gritty performance that also makes us feel a certain level of sympathy for him. His situation is one with which the audience can relate, and thankfully he doesn't already have a personal connection to Peter (which was starting to get ridiculously implausible in the previous movies).

Ultimately, this is a massively enjoyable and highly entertaining superhero flick that takes the character in uncharted territory when it seemed that every area had been explored to death. Turns out it was the same territory that was just being revisited over and over again, and thankfully it seems we're in safe creative hands for the foreseeable future. Tom Holland is the perfect iteration of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, bringing the humor and the action to live while making us feel for the character at all the right moments. This is not only one of the best films of the year so far, but it's one of the best MCU films ever released. As of right now, I would put it 2nd only to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is incredibly high praise. Definitely go and see this movie, you won't be disappointed. I give Spider-Man: Homecoming a solid four stars.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments