Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
Release Date: July 7th, 2017
In fifteen years, we’ve seen three cinematic versions of Spider-Man. In the first version, Tobey Maguire played the title character in a trilogy that spanned from 2002 until 2007. In the second series, Andrew Garfield portrayed the web-slinger in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and its 2014 sequel. In the series’ newest iteration Spiderman: Homecoming (2017), Tom Holland takes on the heroic hero.
Although this latest version doesn’t measure up to the best Spider-Man (Spiderman 2) film, it offers a fresh and idealistic new look at the character.
Played by Holland, who was twenty when the production wrapped last fall, the film places Parker firmly back in high school. After a brief introduction, the film flashes back to the events in Captain America: Civil War when Spider-Man was recruited and eventually took on Captain America and his friends in that unforgettable airport sequence. After that adventure, Parker returned to his normal life.
It’s a life where Parker is a typical teenager by day (pining after a fellow student and studying for an academic decathlon) and his nights as a neighborhood superhero. Parker patiently awaits his formal call to join the Avengers. “I am so far beyond high school,” he says.
Fortunately for moviegoers though, high school isn’t done with him yet.
Much of this feature’s humor derives from Parker’s high school experiences. The team of writers (which includes Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers) are wise enough to keep Parker in this fresh setting for much of the film’s first hour. It’s there where we often see him interacting with an obnoxious bully named Flash (Tony Revolori) and Ned (Jacob Batalon), his upbeat friend.
The screenplay features some memorable moments capturing the school itself. From the public service announcements featuring Captain America to the awkward interactions on a student-produced television program, there are plenty of laughs here. These elements — and the scenes featuring Spidey as a clumsy superhero looking for productive ways to spend his time— help ensure that audiences don’t lose sight of who Parker really is. His character is always at the forefront here.
In the film’s second half, the stakes are inevitably raised as the villain’s plans turn into action. As Adrian Toomes, the manager of a salvage company who transforms into Vulture, Keaton seems to be enjoying himself as a menacing figure. The actor, who starred as Batman in both the 1989 film and its sequel Batman Returns and as an actor who previously portrayed a superhero in Birdman, takes on the role here with ease.
The character though never feels like a cliché. He’s a regular working man who believes that the wealthy — and especially Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) — is responsible for his woes. “We after pick up after them. We have to eat their table scraps,” he says.
The action scenes — particularly one focused around the Staten Island Ferry — are exciting and well-shot by director Jon Watts. However, the climactic one set atop an airplane isn’t as high-stakes, exhilarating and vibrant as the earlier ones.
Downey Jr. returns as a supporting player here and so does Marisa Tomei, who plays the youthful Aunt May. Both actors bring great energy to the screen with Tomei doing surprisingly effective work in her limited but vital role as Parker’s caretaker.
For the third cinematic series about Spider-Man in the 21st century, this new start offers a lot of fresh energy and youthful idealism. This movie is fun, playful and energetic and even if you think you’ve seen this story before, this one offers plenty of great surprises.
Review by: John Hanlon