Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I know far less about Spider-Man than I do about Batman, Superman, or most of the DC Comics heroes. I was a DC-first guy growing up and I pretty much stayed that way ever since. But, of all the Marvel heroes, I know Spider-Man the most. Which is to say I’ve barely read a Spider-Man comic since the Ultimate version around 2000, but I read a lot them back in the day, mostly in the reprints of the original Steve Ditko-Stan Lee run. I watched the Tobey Maguire movies—enjoyed them, except the third which I can barely remember—and missed the Andrew Garfield ones altogether. But when Spidey showed up in Captain America: Civil War last year, I was thrilled. They way he interacted with the other heroes, the quips, the isn’t-this-awesomeness of Spider-Man being played as what he started out to be—a high school kid—was fantastic. Even with my limited knowledge of the character, I knew that, at last, we had a live action Spidey that matched the early comics.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is all of that and more. In a real sense, this is a high school movie about Peter Parker who just happens to be Spider-Man. All the teenaged angst, awkwardness, and attitude just puddles over in nearly every scene of this movie. This is a high school film, and I mean that in a good way. I saw the film with my boy and his friend. I laughed at the moments in the film because I remembered them; they laughed at the same moments because they are now living through them.

Tom Holland is now twenty-one, which meant he was 19 or 20 when filming this movie. And he looks five years younger. Pitch perfect casting. He showed, often through facial expressions, the awkwardness of being a fifteen-year-old boy in high school. His best friend, Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is exactly how most of us would be when we discover our friend is Spider-Man. Man, he SO wants to tell everyone, and often he’s barely restraining the urge to blurt out “Peter Parker is Spider-Man!” Loved him because he is me.

But if you want pitch perfect casting, look no further than Michael Keaton. It’s be 25 years since his last stint as Batman, but he’s always played a great bad guy. Remember Pacific Heights? I loved to hate him in that movie. In this, well, frankly, his character, Adrian Toomes, does things some of us might do. The film opens with a flashback to the aftermath of the first Avengers film with much of New York destroyed. Toomes and his men are contracted to salvage, but the new Department of Damage Control takes over. He’s overextended himself, he’s got a family and employees who rely on him. What is he supposed to do? Well, he never turns in some of the alien technology he already salvaged and he and his team become weapons dealers with Keaton himself being the man who, over the eight years since the flashback, steals more tech from Damage Control.


In the trailers, Toomes talks about Tony Stark and all of his rich friends and the powerful heroes that make such destruction. Toomes is disgusted that Stark helped create Damage Control, so the very man who makes the destruction also gets paid to clean it up. He’s got a point. Going into the movie, you think Toomes is talking to fellow bad guys, trying to enlist their help to do some thievery. But no! He’s talking to Spider-Man who, at this point, he knows is Peter Parker. Nice twist there.

But perhaps the best sequence of the film is one of the smallest, most intimate scenes: three people in a car. Peter finally gets up the courage to ask his crush, Liz, to homecoming. She says yes. She’s played by Laura Harrier, a young woman of color. The entire film, Toomes is talking about providing for his family. Keaton is no a person of color. So when Peter knocks on Liz’s door to pick her up for the dance, he, and probably the entire audience, never expected to see Toomes opening the door!

Now, my instant reaction was “Vulture found out who Peter likes and is holding her hostage!” But no. Toomes really is her dad. His wife is African-American and thus you have the best twist of the entire movie. Which leads to the best sequence in the film.

Toomes drives Peter and Liz to the dance. Spider-Man has already saved Liz’s life. Peter knows Toomes is Vulture, but Toomes, at the start of the scene, doesn’t know Peter is Spidey. In the course of the drive to school, you see, via Keaton’s nuanced acting, Toomes figure out Peter is Spidey! In a nod to what makes Keaton such a fantastic actor, he arrives at school and asks Liz to step out so “I can have the dad talk with Peter.” Keaton delivers that one line as a comedy beat, complete with a funny face. In that instant, he’s Beetlejuice. In the next, he’s stone cold bad…but with a twist. He tells Peter thanks for saving his daughter’s life, go inside and show her a good time—“but not too good”; he’s still a dad!—and forget all about the Vulture’s arms dealings.

Now, do you think Peter is gonna do that? Yeah, me neither.


There are so many good moments in the film that I’ll happily see it again. You should, too. This is a super-hero film that’ll put a smile on your face early on and it’ll rarely leave.

Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've been hearing nothing but good things about this movie so I'll definitely want to see it.