“Spider-Man: Homecoming” swings with some much-needed Marvel Studios swag.
Lighthearted fun, humorous, full of authentic teen spirit (something none of the previous “Spider-Man” movies had), “Homecoming” is now the Spidey-movie reboot standard. It’s not easy to make the sixth time the charm, but Marvel Studios and Sony succeed in their team-up to save the movie franchise that features perhaps the most popular superhero of all.
Let’s be clear: To many Spider-Man fans, Marvel Studios killed Sony’s version of the movie franchise when it successfully connected its superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As long as Sony was making Spider-Man movies that kept the wall-crawler away from his play cousins, namely the Avengers, Spider-flicks just weren’t going to feel 100 percent right.
But what about Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films you ask? Classic. Timeless. And pre-Marvel Studios. Raimi’s films didn’t have to be compared to a popular, connected superhero movie universe.
But now that Marvel Studios is helping Sony, we’re treated to a Spider-Man movie experience that, against all odds and five previous films, feels new.
You want to know whether Spider-Man still has a future on film? He does.
The first step was taking Spider-Man back to his teenage roots with the casting of lead actor Tom Holland. This isn’t the first time Peter Parker/Spider-Man has been a teenager on film, but it’s the first time it has felt like it was authentic. It’s amazing how much it helps that Holland is so shortly removed from being a teen himself, as he turned 21 last month. Tobey Maguire was 27 when his version debuted, and Andrew Garfield was 28.
The influence of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley’s initial run on Marvel’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” comic is heavy in “Homecoming.”
Holland’s Spider-Man feels like he’s hit the jackpot with his spider-powers, from his overly excited selfie videos geekily recounting his time fighting with the Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War” to his realization that his crush Liz Allan thinks Spider-Man is awesome.
That youthful exuberance and lack of superhero experience leads to plenty of mistakes and a few lectures from special guest star Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who Peter Parker is determined to impress in his quest to become a full-time Avenger.
Downey, the star that all other Marvel Studios movie planets orbit, doesn’t take over the screen but shows up enough to remind you that yes, this really is a Marvel Studios event. Just in case you’re still not convinced about the Marvel Studios influence, they give you one heck of a Spider-Man-themed “flip” intro to their logo at the start of the movie.
Downey isn’t the only superhero movie veteran in “Homecoming.” Michael Keaton, a.k.a Batman for an entire generation of ’80s babies, brings tough, blue-collar grit to his role as Adrian Toomes, who uses alien tech leftovers from Avengers battles to become the Vulture and create a black market for selling super-weapons.
Keaton’s Vulture is a reluctant villain. He does what he has to do to help his loyal crew get by in tough times and isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get lethal if the job requires. That puts him in direct contact with Spider-Man, who is convinced that if he can shut the Vulture down, his permanent Avengers membership will be a sure thing.
The old man looking for one more big score against a kid still figuring out what kind of hero he can be gives this Spider-Man movie the best hero/villain match since Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus in “Spider-Man 2.”
We’re also treated to no Uncle Ben death and no mourning period, something we’ve seen enough of. Instead we see Peter suffering from what any teen can tell you is no fun: “hot mom syndrome.” That mom being Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May, who everyone from Iron Man to restaurant waiters has the hots for.
We also get the best Spider-eyes ever. Eyes, you say? Yes. It wasn’t enough Marvel Studios took over the storytelling, they also needed something to make this Spider-Man design uniquely theirs, and having the character’s eyes open and shut, giving him some expressiveness, was a perfect touch. It’s a modern-tech tip of the cap to the Spider-Man comic art of the ’60s and ’70s. Every time Spider-Man’s eyes squint, you’ll do a fist pump for Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.
The only downside to “Homecoming” is that the trailers showed almost every major part of the film — Peter and his school friends, the field trip to Washington, chats with Iron Man — with the exception of an opening scene where we get to know the Vulture. “Homecoming” makes up for this with a couple of eye-opening surprises that we just can’t say anything about without ruining the “wow” moment.
But make no mistake: Spider-Man is back at the movies in the only way yet another reboot could have worked. Five Spider-Man movies was enough. One Spider-Man movie by Marvel Studios is just the beginning we always hoped for.