Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming

We understand the reticence to get out to see the 73rd reboot of the web-slinger's story (I know, it just feels that way) because, well, how many time can we reheat and rehash?  Some good news: this newest entry into the Marvel universe gets off to a quick start, picking up where The Avengers: Civil War left off, saving us from the tedium of a Wayback Machine return to the initial bite, Uncle Ben's fate, and so on.  More good news, Director Jon Watts makes the most of his big break, delivering laughs and lumps in equal measure in a fast-paced fun adventure.  Marvel fans should know that this film is about a kid and it is directed toward kids--Homecoming does, literally, lead toward a high school Homecoming.  Tom Holland's Peter Parker is a wide-eyed goofy geek who is as convincing as a high school sophomore as he is as a 15-year-old whose super-power reach exceeds his adolescent-mind grasp.  And those of us who savored the appetizer he served in Civil War enjoyed the main course, even if its 133-minute runtime was a tad long.

High school sophomore Peter Parker fresh off of that adventure counts Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) among his friends, but not a close friend, although Stark would like to get closer to Peter's Aunt May (a criminally underused Marisa Tomei).  Peter's not an Avenger, either; he has an "internship" with Stark Enterprises, and Stark uses right-hand man Happy (Jon Favreau) to watch over Peter from afar (not far enough for Happy).  By night, Peter is the web-slinging hero--especially to gorgeous senior Liz (Malia Obama Laura Harrier), who also happens to be Peter's dream girl.  He has little hope of ever getting closer because he is a dopic underclassman, and of course, there is that secret identity requirement thingy.  So, he must admire her from afar.  Good thing Liz is also the student leader of the Academic Decathlon team of which Peter is one of the stars.  All of the usual high school suspects are here: Peter's best friend and updated Sancho Panza, Ned (Jacob Batalon); wryly observant outcast Michelle (Zendaya); too-cool bad boy, Flash (Tony Revolori, whom you will remember as Zero from The Grand Budapest Hotel).  All intertwine in the days leading up to the big AD competition in Washington, DC and subsequently, the high school Homecoming Dance.

Meanwhile, on another side of town, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) leads a salvage crew, cleaning up after the latest Avengers destructive battle that had laid waste to blocks of the city and left behind the wreckage of a bunch of alien technology.  Toomes and his crew are looking forward to a big payday, marketing alien rare metals and power sources until Tyne Daly, as a cameo bureaucrat, shows up, representing Stark Industries and the government.  Her military-industrial complex shoos away the working stiffs, but not before Toomes retreats with enough booty to start his own cottage arms dealership and a giant chip on his shoulder.  And, oh yes, enough materiel to rig himself up as himself as the city's newest twisted evil genius, the Vulture.

Naturally, this is where the two subplots converge, and the rest of the film toggles between: A)  Spidey's quest for both a high school Academic Decathlon championship and lovely Liz; B) the Vulture's reign of terror, abetted by his loyal henchman, Herman Schultz, AKA Shocker #2 (Bokeem Woodbine); C) Spiderman's pursuit of the Vulture and his gang; and, of course, 4) Peter's/Spider-Man's attempts to keep his alter-ego identity a secret.  Watts and the small army of script writers deftly balance each of those four elements while adding loads of humor, shenanigans, action, and a couple of nice surprises.

If you were starting to think the Avengers franchise is getting like McDonald's--more added on top of more--indestructible nemeses, an overabundance of superheroes, bloated battle finales, ever-escalating stakes--fear not; Spider-Man: Homecoming is blessedly minimalist.  In fact, if it weren't for Robert Downey, Jr., a few Avenger (and Stan Lee) cameos, and the trademark sense of humor, you might not recognize it as an entry in the Marvel universe.  It captures a John Hughes-like high school atmosphere, with a regular guy turned villain who is a menace only to the city, not the world.  And it is refreshing not to share the burden of a superhero's angsty melodramatic soul-searching.   This scaling back is most welcome, as it brings humanity and characters to which we can relate.

8.0 out of 10 on the Entertainment Scale
6.0 out of 10 on an Awards Scale (long-shot in a few technical areas)


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