Movie review: Marvel collaboration breathes new life into web-slinging hero
–Back in 2002 when Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire combined to bring Spider-Man to the big screen, the cinematic landscape was much different. In fact, superhero movies weren’t exactly all the rage. “Spider-Man” set the gold standard in a lot of ways, and inspired a pair of sequels.
A decade later, while the Marvel Cinematic Universe was really taking off with the release of “The Avengers,” the Spider-Man franchise was trying to find itself again. In 2012, Andrew Garfield took the lead role and the franchise got and “Amazing” re-boot. But it wasn’t that amazing for audiences. The film got mixed reviews and its sequel fizzled.
Then new life came. Sony, who holds the rights to Spider-Man, decided to team up with Marvel. In 2016, Spider-Man was re-born, as Tom Holland, in the MCU. He appeared alongside the other Avengers in “Civil War,” and soon plans for a standalone film were unveiled.
Last Friday, we got that standalone film. And “Spider-Man: Homecoming” not only marked a great collaboration with the rest of the Marvel empire, it was a marked improvement in the portrayal of one of the most iconic characters.
The film picks up after the events of “Civil War.” Peter Parker (Holland) is a hero, but he’s also a 15-year-old kid struggling to find his place in the world. He lives with his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei), and he’s trying to balance his school life with being available to Avengers’ leader Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). But the Avengers don’t seem to be calling.
So, instead, Peter is putting his new Spider-Man suit to use and working to help those in need in his own backyard in Queens. He’s also balancing the demands of being a high schooler. When a new threat — Vulture (Michael Keaton) — shows up, Peter springs into action. He tries to alert the Avengers, too, but his concerns seem to go unheeded.
While Peter has a lot of power, he doesn’t have the skills or experience to navigate the demands of safeguarding the world. That leads to some disappointments and some hard lessons from his mentor, Stark.
This is one of the gems of summer, which is the reason it boasts a score of better than 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also the best Spider-Man film to hit the big screen, with all deference to the fine work done by Raimi and Maguire 15 years ago. Holland is great in the role, and the tone of the film works well.
There was something else I loved — the film didn’t give us the same old Spider-Man story. We didn’t get the same combination of characters, and we weren’t bogged down by the tired origin story. Since Spider-Man appeared last summer, this film feels free to jump right into the already-established world of Peter Parker. We know that Uncle Ben, as he’s dying, would tell Peter that with “Great Power comes Great Responsibility,” but we don’t have to re-live it. Nor do we need to see the infamous spider bite.
That’s a freeing thing. And Holland and the cast and crew dive right in. Not only does Holland slide easily into the role, the rest of the cast does, too. Tomei isn’t the same old Aunt May, and that’s a good thing. And Keaton is great in the villain role. He even has some moments where he can show his acting range in a story that feels more grounded and less like a cartoon than previous Spider-Man films.
Another incredible benefit is being part of the MCU. Chris Evans makes an appearance as Captain America, and Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Pepper Potts. So, too, is Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. But, most importantly, the film features a heavy does of Downey’s Tony Stark, who is the anchor of the MCU and a great guiding presence in this film.
I also liked that this movie lets Peter be a fairly believable teen. There isn’t a forced romance, but more of an organic story of a specific time of life and what it might be like to balance that with an immense responsibility, like being an Avenger. The film is a lot of fun and flows at a good pace. In a summer of big budget disappointments, this is one that works.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Four stars out of four.