The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Peter Parker does whatever a spider can while also living as a dorky teen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, a solid Marvel Cinematic Universe movie and the best Spider-Man movie in years.

Peter (Tom Holland) has the nifty suit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) left him after Captain America: Civil War and now, a few months later, is eagerly awaiting his next mission. Happy (Jon Favreau), Tony’s assistant, is Peter’s contact for all things Avenger-related and tries, unsuccessfully, to remind Peter that they will call him. Meanwhile, Peter spends his days trying to stop petty crime in his Queens neighborhood, occasionally getting a free churro for his efforts.
On one such patrol, he stumbles on an ATM robbery by criminals with alien-tech weapons. He warns Tony about their gear, but when Peter doesn’t get an enthusiastic response he decides to investigate on his own. 
Eventually, he meets Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), or Vulture as we think of him when he’s wearing a metal bird suit that allows for flight and slicey violence. Toomes had the city contract to clean up after the alien/Avengers battle of the first Avengers movie, but then a federal department (which has contracted with Stark) takes over the job. Deciding that the rich guys shouldn’t get all the cash, Toomes and his crew use a truckload of alien debris to reverse-engineer weapons to sell and to use in heists for bigger weapons.
Always below the radar of Stark and the Avengers, Toomes is furious when a clumsy Spider-Man starts to foil his plans.
Meanwhile, Peter’s Spider-Man-ing has pushed out all other aspects of his life, worrying his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), who isn’t aware of his alter-ego, and his best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon), who doesn’t know either, until he happens to see Peter in costume crawling on the ceiling. Ned is convinced that this new development will give them entree into their advanced school’s cool crowd. Peter disagrees until he hears his crush, Liz (Laura Harrier), talk admiringly about Spider-Man. Peter is so busy trying to figure out if there’s a way to use Spider-Man to impress Liz that he doesn’t even notice the acerbic Michelle (Zendaya), who clearly harbors a crush on him.
Crushes and supervillains — the standard teenage drama.
Spider-Man: Homecoming reminded me that Marvel knows how to make a mighty fine superhero movie, something that DC’s expanded universe has had a hard time with (i.e. everything before Wonder Woman) and that even Marvel itself isn’t always perfect with (the fine-OK Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, for example). Homecoming has a tight core cast, stays mainly with the Spider-Man story (even the Tony Stark stuff, which is used in the perfect limited amount, is from the Spider-Man point of view) and it keeps the focus on Peter Parker and his maturation as a superhero. And the stakes are, in the overall Marvel scheme of things, small — saving this small group of people or preventing a low-level bad guy from arming more low-level bad guys. 
Precisely because the stakes are not “save the world from total destruction, again” these “small” stakes mean more. Spider-Man is friendly, an affable teenager who still gets unironically excited about putting together a Lego set with his buddy. And, more importantly for the action, he is also very neighborhood. He is mostly protecting Queens and Queens-based or Queens-adjacent people. 
In addition to solid tone, plot, pacing and emotion, Homecoming has a winning Spider-Man in Tom Holland. He was a delightful jolt of energy in Civil War and he hits all the right notes here. Thankfully, we jump past the spider-bite-origin stuff yet Spider-Man is still a young dork: accomplished but not entirely sure of what to do with his supernatural or natural talents and realistically awkward — both when trying to apprehend criminals and when trying to talk to a girl he likes. It’s also enjoyable to see Spider-Man figure out what he can do, physically speaking, and what he ought to do, ethically. 
Not that everything has to go to a place of political and social commentary but Homecoming has that too. The Queens of this movie and Peter’s school are appropriately ethnically diverse and while that fact is no big deal in the movie, it still feels like a big deal (worth cheering about) that it’s no big deal. And then there’s Vulture, who makes the not-incorrect point that Tony Stark also made his money selling high-tech weapons. Should only the billionaires be allowed to profit from the odd new world of aliens and superheroes?, Vulture argues. This bit of character bio makes Toomes’ villainy more ordinary and thus more genuinely scary, a person trying to get theirs even if they unintentionally make the wider world more dangerous.
Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like exactly the right kind of superhero movie for this moment in pop culture and in the wider culture — much as Wonder Woman does, if for different reasons — making it a good reminder that there are many roads to superhero-movie and expanded cinematic universe success. A
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments. Directed by Jon Watts with a screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers, Spider-Man: Homecoming is two hours and 13 minutes long and distributed by Sony Pictures.

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