Monday, July 10, 2017

New Release! Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) [Spoiler-Free!!}

Along with being one of the most iconic of Marvel's many
famous superheroes, Spidey was always one of its funniest.
This newest movie never forgets that, or what has made him
so appealing for over 50 years.
Director: Jon Watts

Very solid and entertaining re-re-boot of the Spider-Man film story.

It certainly seemed highly unnecessary to do yet another version of the Spider-Man story, given that we've had two of of them within the last 15 years: the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy starring Tobey McGuire between between 2002 and 2007, and then the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield pair of Amazing Spider-Man films in 2012 and 2014. But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) only gaining more and more strength, it seemed inevitable that it would try to bring one of its most iconic characters officially into its fold. And so they did. Quite well, fortunately.

For one, the story does a nice job keeping things smaller in scope and scale, unlike the world-destroying menaces posed in the grander Avengers flicks featuring heavy-hitters like Captain America or Thor. As opposed to those over-powered titans, Peter Parker/Spider-Man is literally a high school kid who's just trying to do the right thing and help people out. In this tale, that usually means handling relatively mundane tasks around his neighborhood in Queens, New York. But since Peter feels that he's capable of bigger and better things, he starts to bite off a little more than he can chew. And let's face it - this is hardly atypical of a precocious, talented teenager. In Peter's case, this means trying to track down and confront someone who's quietly been manufacturing and selling weapons based on technology scavenged from alien crafts left over from the Citauri attack on Manhattan. While there are a few larger-scale battles and set-pieces, the majority of the tale keeps things limited to Parker's wrestling with his own identity and approach to being a hero, and the movie is far better for it.

As important as what it includes well is what the movie avoids. One of the most obvious is that it does not bother retelling the origin story of Spider-Man, which virtually every fan (and even most non-fans) of superhero mythology knows at this point. It also avoids using an overload of known villains, instead opting for a lesser-known but classic arch-villain of Spider-Man, played exceptionally by Michael Keaton. There's one other C-grade Spidey villain thrown in, but it is presented organically and he is given the requisite amount of limited screen time. No, the movie can't avoid the virtually inevitable leaning on the MCU structure, with Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) being a noticeable part of the proceedings. However, he is also handled fairly well, never drowning out or upstaging Parker's story or Holland's performance.

Keaton plays a great Vulture, who has now become one of the
best-developed villains in the MCU - an area that the
franchise has missed the boat on many times.
The other positive features of the better MCU films are present - plenty of solid gags, both visual and in dialogue, and some decent action. It helps that there are some well-chosen cameos by seasoned comedic actors who can be funny without overdoing it, like Hannibal Burress. The action scenes and displays of Peter's abilities are handled well and are entertaining, even if they are unlikely to dazzle you the way that the very best MCU films have (the latter two Captain America films, in my book).

I don't know that this movie would win over viewers who have problems with the MCU as a concept or its recent movies, although it might. It does feature a more personal, accessible, and careful character study than several recent films, such as Doctor Strange or Civil War. Still, it bears many of the hallmarks of superhero movies, especially the MCU. At the same time, fans of the MCU will almost certainly enjoy, if not love, this latest entry. It offers something a bit different, with a villain that does show a bit more depth and personality than many that we've seen offered in the MCU's 16 feature films thus far. I certainly plan to see it at least once more in the theaters, which is my highest form of praise for a fun popcorn flick.