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Review: “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

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The DC Extended Universe dominated the first half of 2017 with “Wonder Woman” becoming a powerhouse at the box office despite the success of Marvel’s “Guardian’s of the Galaxy 2”. Not to be deterred, Marvel has come out swinging in the second half of the year with “Spider-Man Homecoming”, the first solo film in the MCU for one of the world’s most popular costumed heroes. After two Sony-exclusive Spider-man film series it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the new MCU reboot felt a bit stale. However, thankfully enough, “Homecoming” breaths new and deserving life into the adventures of Spidey and continues the home runs of comic book films in 2017.

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“Spider-Man: Homecoming”, which I will just call “Homecoming” from here on out, picks up after the events of “Captain America: Civil War”, which announced Spider-Man’s entry into the MCU. Peter Parker, again played by Tom Holland, is now solving only minor crimes with his Tony Stark designed suit, but longs for more and wants to prove his abilities as a potential Avenger rather than just settling for being a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”. Meanwhile an underground weapons dealer named Adrian Toomes, also known as The Vulture played by Michael Keaton, is making money selling weapons formed from the remains of previous enemy battle gear of the Avengers super team to support his family after Tony Stark puts Toomes out of business. The Vulture comes packed with a flight-capable suit and with the help of two different iterations of The Shocker and the weapon-designing Tinkerer, Toomes finds his underground practices to be at odds with Spider-Man as Parker goes against the advice of his mentor Tony Stark to try and handle The Vulture on his own.

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Honestly it shocks me how great super hero movies have been in 2017. “Homecoming” continues the amazing quality that “Logan”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Wonder Woman” started earlier this year, but somehow even manages to find its own place, skipping the origin story and providing an entertaining, witty, and, for lack of a better word, fun superhero epic. Tom Holland is a perfect fit for Peter Parker. We only saw glimpses of the young actor in “Civil War” but here Parker’s youth, trademark sarcasm, and longing to be the hero he truly can be shine bright providing possibly the best portrayal of the wall crawler to date, and that’s saying something considering Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield didn’t do half bad themselves. Holland, being age appropriate to embrace the more youthful feel of Spider-Man, truly embodies everything Peter Parker is supposed to be and while there are some major differences between the MCU Peter Parker and the comic book character that could leave fans scratching their heads, you honestly will likely deny any of that even matters when you see this new version of the webslinger take center stage for the first time in the MCU.

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With a great hero comes a great villain in Adrian Toomes with Michael Keaton proving to be an amazingly appropriate casting choice for this literal vulture of a man. Toomes comes off as a sentimental villain, one who does what he does for his family after one of the superheroes who helps make the masses Toomes used to clean up, Tony Stark, put him out of business by organizing his own organization to sweep up the remains of the battles. Toomes does what he does for his family and at one point even seems to be sentimental to Spider-Man, understanding that he is doing what he feels to be right, but refuses to compromise on his own charge towards what he feels he has to do. It seems for some time Toomes has worked effortlessly underground, avoiding conflict with The Avengers and not seeking them out, but as his ability to hide in the shadows fades thanks to the poor actions of his pawns he begins to understand he must take more drastic efforts if he wants his backdoor deals to continue bringing in the money. So far the MCU has failed to produce many memorable villains outside of Loki, but the Vulture changes that by giving us a villain with emotion and purpose and who turns out to be quite a formidable foe for our costumed hero, both personally and professionally as it turns out. “Homecoming” also features two other major Spider-Man villains flanking The Vulture in two Shockers and the Tinkerer, but these badies don’t weigh the film down and serve as simple pawns for The Vulture while also having their own character traits that allow them to stand out in different ways.

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One thing that really did impress me about this film as that despite its ad campaign it avoided being overstuffed, especially as a part of the MCU. The inclusion of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man was a questionable decision for some, but it honestly feels necessary here as Stark provided Spider-Man with the means to become a hero and serves as a father figure for the webslinger. Parker looks up to Stark and wants to impress him and it creates an interesting dynamic on screen that drives home the youth of Peter Parker that sets him apart from the more experiences and older members of Marvel’s ragtag group of MCU heroes.

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Even the side cast shines in this story with Marisa Tomei in particular providing a great, and welcome, youthful portrayal of Aunt May Parker who worries for Peter as his guardian but also has her own goofiness and quirkiness about her that honestly made ME say “oh that’s where Peter gets it from”. Zendaya plays Michelle “MJ” Jones and provides a few comical scene stealing moments while Jacob Batalon (pictured above) portrays Parker’s best friend and “guy in the chair” Ned who proves to be vital to Spider-Man’s success and growth as a character. Even Tony Revolori, who received death threats for being cast as school bully Flash Thompson, stands out in a very crowded film by giving a grounding villain for Peter to deal with outside of his superhero persona. Overall noone seems cast just for the hell of it so to speak. There are many smaller pieces to Peter Parker’s story and they all feel important, either now or in the foreseeable future.

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While this is a super hero film, like the other great genre movies that came before it in 2017 “Homecoming” doesn’t lean on action alone. There’s a smooth buildup to several different battles that take place in the film, both literally and for Peter Parker personally and metaphorically, with nothing feeling sudden or uncalled for. Every conflict is justified, every encounter is calculated and natural, and the fight choreography is tremendous, especially the final confrontation between Spider-Man and The Vulture which, frankly, was one of the coolest battles I’ve seen yet in the MCU. That same battle ends on a note that is rather rare in superhero films and, without spoiling anything, actually presents a side of both Spider-Man and The Vulture that set them apart from their fellow MCU heroes and villains in their own way. The results of these many intertwining conflicts gives the film life and a soul, adding depth to a character story that lost its luster in Sony’s attempts to provide anything enjoyable or memorable in its last three attempts at bringing the character to the big screen.

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If I had to complain about anything in this film it’s really nothing I can fault the movie for…but rather the marketing. The trailer, the poster, even the name “Homecoming” are all a bit misleading. We were led to believe actors like Donald Glover and Zendaya were going to have major roles in the film, but they’re simply side characters with limited screen time. We were led to believe Iron Man would join Spider-Man in battle most of the film, but in truth this is very much a Spider-Man centric film for the most part. The name “Homecoming” seemed like it would have more depth to it as a symbolic concept of Spider-Man finally “coming home to the MCU”, but that sentiment is watered down when you realize another reason for the name is because this story happens to take place around the time of Parker’s school’s homecoming dance. I can’t really fault the movie itself for these issues, but if you do go to see this film just be aware it’s a bit different than what the promotional material may have had you expect and for the most part that’s a VERY good thing.

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“Spider-Man: Homecoming” provides action, fun, and humor all in a nice, tight package showing us the best that one of the most popular superheroes in history has to offer while also preserving deeper concepts and themes that help Spider-Man standout in a crowded cinematic universe. It’s a welcome entry into the MCU and, frankly, I would go so far as to call it one of the greatest Spider-Man films. While many believe it would be hard to top the original trilogy, this reviewer believes this one film alone manages to succeed at least four of the previous five films all combined, with only “Spider-Man 2” really having any shot of standing up to “Homecoming” in terms of true greatness. In a genre so littered with different personalities and storylines, “Homecoming” stands on its own as a fresh, delightful, and exhilarating tale with a worthy villain, an expertly cast hero, and a tone, focus, and direction that give fans of the wall crawler, and of superhero films in general, everything they deserve and more.

 

 

 

GRADE: 5 Stars

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