By Marc S. Sanders
Spider-Man: Homecoming makes some enormous strides with the most recognizable of all the Marvel Corporate Mascots. I’m just not sure I care for the approach.
The Web Slinger has always been best written when he learns from his mistakes such as grappling with his lack of responsibility that leads to the murder of his beloved Uncle Ben, or washing his red and blue suit with the whites.
In director John Watts film, episodes like these are never discussed. Instead, we witness Spidey foil an ATM robbery. It’s a fun scene straight out of the Saturday morning cartoon, but it ends with a beloved neighborhood mom and pop store going up in flames. The scene plays like a great house party until the parents arrive home early from their out-of-town trip. Now it ain’t so fun anymore. There are a few moments like this in the film that kinda suck the air out of a what’s supposed to be lighthearted script.
Tom Holland as the hero, Peter Parker, aka the high school genius with insecurity, is suitably cast in the role. He looks much more like a kid than his predecessors and he’s got great comic delivery of one liners. Tom Holland is right for the MCU fraternity. He plays well with others.
So Holland really makes sure every action scene is fun but Watts and his screenwriting team of 8 (EIGHT!?!?!?) people pull the rug out because they must insist that the Web Head screw up again and again. Problem is the screw ups are not fun, and they spoil the thrilling set pieces including a well done sequence within the elevator shaft of the Washington Monument. Same goes for a Staten Island Ferry attack. I just kept asking myself, why we can’t we celebrate Spider-Man. Must we be so hard on the guy? Even Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) disapproves. It doesn’t seem fair, I guess.
There is a moment during the 3rd act that salutes a very popular comic issue that truly conveys the hero that Spider-Man must become. As a comic nerd, I was grateful for that. The filmmakers didn’t forget its roots.
Michael Keaton is scary good as Adrian Toomes, the winged villain called The Vulture. He’s not even playing for laughs. Rather he’s playing for fear. I liked it. Keaton is just good in almost anything.
Supporting players are all good as well featuring Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon (an especially amusing sidekick pal for Peter), Zendaya and Robert Downey Jr because a little Iron Man/Tony Stark interaction can go a long way.
However, this installment is huge step up from the Andrew Garfield clunkers but not as solid as Sam Raimi’s first two films which remain the best and most loyal to the original vision of the pop culture favorite. Raimi has no difficulty displaying the super hero’s every day faults and mistakes. What he did was make us feel sad about Peter’s errors in his ways, and we cheered when he overcame his obstacles. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, I shake my head with disappointment at the carelessness of Peter, not the mistakes he’s made.
See, to be reckless is not the same as human error. Watts’ interpretation is judged with disdain. Raimi’s is simply empathetic and relatable. That’s the difference in the two interpretations.
PS: My hat off to a great gag with Captain America as a lesson reminder in safety and well-being. It’s not as well remembered that Chris Evans has been hilarious in other films before his superhero days. That’s all brought back with great material for Cap to use. Really smart thinking here.