Movie Review — Marvel changes things up, just a smidge, for “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

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Give it up for Marvel imposing its will on Sony for the THIRD Spider-Man incarnation in living memory. They don’t repeat the origin story this time, change-up the age of the title character and give him the ADHD energy that the unseen radio-active spider bite made worse, not better.

In “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” he’s manic, 15 and breathless, battling his hormones and digging an older teenage girl, one seemingly out of his league.

Uncle Ben isn’t in the picture, and Aunt May has morphed into Aunt MILF (Marisa Tomei).

They summon Michael Keaton’s menace in conjuring up Marvel’s best bad guy in years  — even if they give him just one scene to get that across.

But in back-engineering this “friendly neighborhood” character into the Avengers/Marvel universe where our latest Spidey (Tom Holland) made his antic entrance, unheralded director Jon Watts and six credited screenwriters substitute hyperactivity for depth, inside jokes and “universe” interconnectedness for coherence.

The chatterbox character and the film are earnest but lightweight, making for a movie that lacks gravitas, romance, fear or zing. For young Mr. Holland’s opus, “at least he’s not Andrew Garfield” isn’t enough.

Robert Downey Jr. collects another “Iron Man” check as young Peter Parker’s mentor, Mr.  “The kid’s got a future.” Sparkling, snarky Tony Stark has too much on his plate to ride herd on the novice super-hero, leaving him to the annoyed “head of security” Happy (Jon Favreau). Happy and Iron Man don’t listen when the wonder boy tries to tell them about stolen alien tech and the embittered, short-cut taking small businessman, Toomes (Keaton) who is making black market weapons out of it.

Aunt May doesn’t know Peter’s secret, but his plump nerd-pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) finds out. It’s a pity Peter can’t parlay his secret identity into scoring time with high school senior Liz (Laura Harrier).

Peter’s hands are tied by Tony Stark’s “Don’t do anything I would do, and don’t do anything I WOULDN’T do.” And all he wants to do is catch bad guys, break a big case and impress his way into The Avengers.

There are, of course, multiple levels of Marvel fandom, but only two will suffice for talking about “Homecoming.” There are those who squeal with glee at every tie-in character who makes a cameo, every new costume introduction — and those who silently roll their eyes and mutter, “Yeah, and?” Guess which camp I’m in? And being in that latter group, I want something with more human qualities than the pandering piffle aimed at those who like the extended soap opera that the studio is ever-engineering.

Marvel has mastered the effects — there’s a doozy involving watercraft — the art of setting up the next picture, loading up the next freight car on the gravy train, and at capturing the right, light-and-jokey with dark moments tone.

But they’ve utterly lost the plot when it comes to plot. And gravitas. It’s as if they packed ten movies’ worth in “Logan,” because whatever energy “Homecoming” delivers in some (not all) its many scenes, it has no weight — zero.  It’s cute, never more than that.

Give Michael Keaton one great scene to make his natural menace felt, and then make that moment all talk and no “violence has consequences.” Introduce a high school bully, and make him a non-threatening shrimp (Tony Revolori), a mean girl in boy form. spider2

Jaunty montages set to vintage pop and punk (“Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones) make the effects-driven action beats play, even if they’re beyond repetitious at this point.

Marvel can take a bow for making the film’s multi-culturalism stand front and center, from inter-racial friendships and romances, to multi-racial gangs and the Japanese American school principal (Kenneth Choi) whose WWII Nisei-uniformed dad’s photo figures prominently on his desk, bookending the gym teacher (Hannibal Burress) whose detention hall is postered with James Baldwin and Frederick Douglas images. That’s another, “Yeah, OK, and?”

But pretending this is anything other than pleasant, time-killing filler for the next Marvel marvel is laughable. Changing up the story removes some of the onus of comparison to the first Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi “Spider-Man.” Not when it comes to romance, suspense, guts and heart, however.

Even the not-late/not-lamented Andrew Garfield’s Spidey brought some of that to the table.

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MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Laura Harrier, Chris Evans, Zendaya

Credits:Directed by Jon Watts script by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Jon Watts, Chris McKenna, Erik Summers . A Marvel/Sony Columbia release.

Running time: 2:22

Marvel Masters Movies in the Binge-Watching Era.

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34 Responses to Movie Review — Marvel changes things up, just a smidge, for “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

  1. Yousuck says:

    Wow. Look at all of these people commenting and discussing your review!

  2. Fred says:

    So that’s all you got out of seeing the film, if you say so haha.

    • Oh yes, far better to swallow the Toronto twink who calls it the “best Spider-Man movie” and “best Marvel movie ever.” Because life doesn’t make sense if that’s TOTALLY not true.

  3. Ameya says:

    Of course there’s always a reviewer that wants to stand out.

    • Yeah, we can’t have a point of view that rattles your insular world of “Who’ll appear AFTER the credits to tease the NEXT comic book movie? Because I just want to be SOLD and pandered to,” can we?

      • Garcia says:

        “Agree to disagree” would probably be the civil route. If you went that way then hey, maybe you don’t love the movie, no big deal.

      • Actually, “Falloutboy Garcia,” as comments loaded with profanity and name-calling don’t make the cut here, all trolling remarks from trolls who haven’t seen the movie, I am taking the higher ground, even if it’s dismissive. I had to edit your comment because you’re not articulate enough to make a point without your own Summer’s Eve slouch (See how easy that is?) into name-calling. See the movie. Until then, you’re not ENTITLED to an opinion. That’s the take-away.

      • Ameya says:

        Hey, if you don’t like the movie or comic book movies in general (since that’s what you’re making yourself look like), that’s great! I for one, am excited about the movie. There’ll always be a bad review even for the greatest movie, guess everyone will just have to deal with it.

  4. Roy Mayer says:

    I saw this already. you just want to be cool. admit it.

    • No. I was indifferent to it, and in writing a review, found it easier to pick apart than embrace. It’s gutless to sit on a fence about a movie like this, and I get the sense that a lot of reviewers have a “Me too, guys! I love what you love!” desperation (See Travers, Peter, et al) need to pander. Not me.

  5. lance riles says:

    great review. I’m tired of all these superhero “movies” and all their nerd followers. its time to bring down this horrible genre. i hope your review is shared everywhere. we want REAL movies again.
    Hit these nerds where it hurts! you got this.

  6. disrael2016 says:

    Why does multiculturalism in pop culture bother people so much. Get over it.

    • A rhetorical question, to be sure. It’s not an issue for me. It’s just in there and highlighted so that nobody misses it, which is why it’s worth noting in a review. And…OK. A statement on Trumpism — Keaton’s gummint hating villain? Not really. Just a bunch of EEO boxes being checked off.

  7. HAP says:

    It’s obvious that you are not connected as a reviewer as over 90% of the other “critics” disagree with you. As soon as this becomes a box office smash, it should be the end to any credibility you may have had in the past. ORVWA_GO-FARE

    • Um, you’ve confused momentary box office popularity with quality. Rookie mistake. Have your ESL teacher explain that, and “credibility” to you.
      Go to Metacritic or MRQE, where grownup reviews are aggregated.

    • John says:

      Yeah you can tel from his smug responses that he knows he’s a wet blanket trying hard to be negative about a movie that’s reviewing really well. There’s always going to be that critic that tries hard to be negative about great movies to stand out. Nothing new at all.

      • It’s “smug” only that you don’t agree with the opinion, and not having seen the movie (just guessing), you’re irritated at the list of examples I use to buttress my arguments. Counter arguments? No? If you haven’t seen it, you’re not entitled to an opinion. Others have and have praised it. Go see it and decide who you agree with before popping off. Not too much to ask, though in an infantilized culture that breathes the sweet air of all things Marvel or “Star Wars” or panders to that audience, the bar has been lowered. Read that twink from Toronto who knew he’d get mentioned in the TV ads by lying/exaggerating/telling you what you desperately need to read for your view of cultural sophistication to make any sense at all, about it being “The Best Marvel Movie Ever,” and tell me who is selling out.

  8. Tyler Durden says:

    Why don’t you make a Spider-Man movie and show us how it’s done?

  9. Jason Bowman says:

    It dose seem to have a who’s who in racial quotas. I think Spider-Man is trying to tell us he isn’t racist. I’m ok with that but I thought his first love was Gwen Stacy I’m not familiar with his Mulatto love interest. I hope he catches yellow fever in the next Spider-Man movie! I still want to see it but I feel like I’m becoming a white minority in Spider-Man’s universe.

  10. SlimJimothy says:

    This reviewer needs to be fired, and not for any reason with the review, for the simple fact that he is a grown man insulting every single person who comments in what he things is an ultra witty manner because he more articulate then them… Shameful childish behavior.

  11. Eric Storm says:

    You have completely lost touch with the audience. Worthless.

    • Yes, pandering to the audience is what a critic does. Sure. How about “A reviewer writes for the audience, a critic writes for the artist?” But never mind.

  12. Gerry says:

    Great review, I haven’t seen the movie but I am a great Seer (I am also aware of Disney’s pandering), so now I know it will just amuse me for 2 hours. Thanks for having the courage of telling it like it is: A so-so movie. I enjoy a well done comic-book movie like everyone else, but as long as blind fanboys keep applauding mediocre movies (“The best Marvel movie?,” those are surely the same that say that TFA is the best Star Wars movie) we will keep getting them.

  13. lee says:

    It’s becoming clear to me that the multicultural cast in these big films is mostly a gimmick. The cynic inside me says the studios give unimportant secondary roles to minorities to satisfy the diversity demand.

    Rogue One had a diverse cast, but the director gave Donnie Yen ONE good fight scene which didn’t involve a light saber. The writers apparently copied and pasted some zen monk warrior who they believe exist in Asian action films and made no adjustments. His character and his Asian buddy were totally unnecessary.

    My Japanese teachers (bio, math) in high school spoke English like they were white people. They didn’t talk about some Cherry blossom or Nisei festival. They talked things about sports and learning stuff. It’ll be great if Hollywood depicted non white folks as real people. not as some ethnic prototype.

    • Good points. In “Force Awakens,” it was too obviously a mission of the movie for the color blind casting to feel natural. The positive take-away was “Here’s a sign LucasFilm and Disney and Hollywood are listening.” “Rogue One” did a MUCH better job, organic, not calling attention to itself as an activist casting act. And Donnie Yen didn’t need but a couple of scenes to all but steal the movie…from Forest Whitaker. “Spider-Man: Homecoming?” As none of the trial balloon romances has any chemistry or reason to be in the movie, the young ladies and the school staff casting feels as if the filmmakers are just “checking boxes.”

  14. Colin Dyer says:

    Did you review Batman vs Superman? I’d love to read that. I loved it – while still agreeing with many of the negatives, and caring little about them. I’m not a comic-purist, so if it works and all, great. I’m just a 60 year old guy who knows that these movies (spoiler alert….) AREN’T REAL but that they still need grounding and connection, or hey do not work. Sounds to me (and as I kind of expect) this is going to be a couple of hours of fun. Which is what I need at my age!

    • There’s a “search” box on the right side of the home page that will take you to over 5000 reviews still linked here, including Batman v. Superman

  15. webslinger48 says:

    Roger…been reading your reviews for a long time and you tell it like it is. Your review of Star Wars: TFA articulated every single point that bothered me about that movie and I have no doubt your take here is equally valid.

    With such a recent sizable film canon on Spider-Man already, a reboot that is only a few degrees different is disappointing. Wish the producers had embraced a full fledged new direction with an older Spider-Man, those were always the more interesting stories to me. But that would involve freely allowing a director to execute their visions, which is anathema to the genre these days.

  16. dasik84 says:

    I’m kinda sorry for you… You can’t simply enjoy light hearted movie, and it’s sad. Not all movies must be dark, existentional and “have gravitas”.
    Spider-Man in comics has always been “the funny” superhero with really bad luck. And pretty cocky before he realized he must use his powers wisely. All these aspects are greatly shown in this movie. He is irresponsible, overconfident and he does lots of mistakes. In the end of movie he’s different. He rejects the enhanced suit and becoming the Avenger, the thing he desired whole time. Because he got his lesson and learned more about what’s right.

    • I feel sorry for folks who keep flocking back to variations on the SAME story with the same character given little that’s fresh over 15 years of increasingly repetitive movies. And then defend this cloying comfort food to the death. Two types of movie fans in MovieNation — those who want to be stunned and challenged, and those who prefer pandering pablum. If you were surprised and delighted by this back-engineered boilerplate, bless your heart.

      • dasik84 says:

        All I expect of superhero movie is fun, relatable likeable hero, good acting, good villain, decent story and not-too-CGI-mess action.
        Except for final battle on the plane (CGI mess indeed) I was given all I have expected and even more! (The plot twist was REALLY surprising.) It was really fun, Tom Holland and Michael Keaton were great, the scene in car was horror-like (big plus), I liked the friend of Peter too. Action scenes were good, the Washington Monument saving clearly the best. The villain had great motivation, was real. Same for Peter. He acted like every other teenager in his situation would.
        The movie even has a message (not usual thing), shows Peter’s way from enthusiastic cocky teen boy to responsible almost-adult boy. He learns to be responsible very hard way. He rejects the thing he has desired for whole movie (becoming the Avenger) because of that… I’m twice as old as him and I could relate to him.
        All that means it is a good movie.

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