Spider-Man: Homecoming July 10, 2017
Robert Downey, Jr.
2 Hrs., 13 Mins.
pider-Man: Homecoming (2017) is a breezy summer movie, a superhero film that invigoratingly feels like a silly, inconsequential chapter in a comic book series. For that, it’s something of a breath of fresh air. Not necessarily because it’s innovative, but because it recognizes what a trivial thing a superhero picture is and doesn’t try to do anything besides have fun with itself. Like this year’s superior Wonder Woman (2017), it’s
as light on its feet as it is colorful and action-packed; it gives us what we want without all the fat that comes with an overblown budget and a lengthy running time. Rather than serve as a continuation of the storylines focused on in Marc Webb’s take on the web-spinning superhero, Homecoming renews the story, kicking off from the new super’s intro in Captain America: Civil War (2016). With no retelling of Peter Parker’s “becoming” — what a blessing it is not to see Uncle Ben die for the 47th time and Parker’s neck be victim to a ferocious arachnid — it makes for a stark difference from its ancestors. Namely because the titular protagonist is played by someone who's age-appropriate for the role (English native Tom Holland looks 15 despite being of the legal drinking age), and because Spider-Man is not the invention of a crafty teen but rather of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) determination to find a new Avenger to cultivate.
And also because Homecoming is so playful. In the film, Parker, living with a noticeably younger Aunt May (a scene-stealing Marisa Tomei) in a rickety New York apartment, is a gangly teen obsessed with proving himself to the elder Stark. After participating in the central battle of egos in the aforementioned Captain America movie, he’s eager to become a great.
Stark’s given Parker the Spidey suit in hopes of him acting as a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” doing little things here and there to better the community. But Parker isn’t satisfied. He thirsts to again experience the thrills he felt fighting alongside Black Widow and company, wanting to benefit the country on a deeper level than just saving the tree-clinging kitties of old ladies. This gets Parker into a lot of trouble in Homecoming. While there's a big bad villain to drive the storyline (Michael Keaton plays Vulture, an arms trafficker with a crushingly powerful mechanical suit), the movie is mostly about the teen coming into his own as a crime-fighter. Most of the action sequences either end in catastrophe or start in the first place as a result of the kid’s own reckless eagerness.
Because Spider-Man is portrayed as an insecure adolescent, so much of what he does having consequences we can be frustrated with like any head-scratching parent, Homecoming feels right. This is what we surmise a teenage superhero would be like. Past features centering on the latter have amplified the rights and forgiven the wrongs as if they were forgivable quirks.
For once, Homecoming captures the spirit of a teenager. Found is the need to prove something to authority, the accidental disregard for interests not entirely your own, the awareness that you have talent without knowing exactly how to utilize it. A lot of the time, Parker causes more harm than he does good. And yet we take a liking to that. I’m even tempted to call the film a coming-of-age movie, only the growing-up isn’t fueled by a romantic relationship or something else common in the genre but instead the increasing understanding of one’s identity as a superhero. It’s a deft move, though the screenplay, written by no less than six writers, sometimes loses the intimacy that could arise from a more personal touch. Similarly, Jon Watts’ direction puts more emphasis on the spectacle of Homecoming than the more humanistic elements that make it interesting in the first place. And since not much is at stake in the movie, it doesn’t always feel like much more than an entry in a gargantuan universe.
But Homecoming is still refreshingly relaxed, and Holland, along with co-stars Zendaya (more comic relief than the prominent leading lady press has touted her as) and newcomer Jacob Batalon (stellar as Parker’s goofy best friend), instill the film with so much charm you might consider yourself to have icicles in your heart if you don’t come to like them. Another Spider-Man feature wasn’t necessary. But Homecoming is just good enough to convince us that another reboot was after