FILM REVIEW – SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. With Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau. Written by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers. Directed by Jon Watts. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments. 133 minutes.
Spider-Man has always been the problem child of the Marvel cinematic family. While most of the Marvel Comics characters are now under the control of Marvel Studios (owned by Disney), Spider-Man had been licensed to Columbia Pictures. Thus we had the popular, if overpraised, series with Tobey Maguire as the webslinger, but when he and director Sam Raimi left the series, the studio was obligated to keep making Spider-Man films or lose the character. So we got the reboot with Andrew Garfield which pretended the earlier films never happened.
Now, however, Columbia and Marvel have come to an agreement where Columbia can continue to have the Spider-Man films in partnership with Marvel Studios, which leads to this new incarnation in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. Spider-Man is now played by Tom Holland, who was introduced in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War.” The significance of this for Marvel fans is that Spider-Man can now interact with the other Marvel characters, so that Tony Stark, a/k/a Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), can appear here as his mentor, along with Stark’s aide Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).
For those who find such things fascinating, this new film is an important piece of Marvel history. However for those expecting a coherent story, it’s quite another matter. An incredible six (!) credited writers have created a hodgepodge where the basic theme is that young Peter Parker–back in high school–has a long way to go before he’s ready to assume full responsibilities as Spider-Man.
Take the film’s villain, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). He’s put a lot of money into his salvage operation, cleaning up the mess at Stark’s headquarters after the battles in a previous film. Suddenly, an agency comes in and says he’s out, they’re taking over, tough luck. And so he turns to crime, illegally stealing alien artifacts and selling them on the black market. He’s a victim of bureaucracy who suddenly becomes an arch-villain called the Vulture. Why? Because it said so in the comic books.
The comedy elements are uneven. On the one hand, we get Peter learning how his new suit (courtesy of Stark) works, as well dealing with the problems of being a high school student. On the other hand is his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who seems to have been written as the Jar Jar Binks of the story, needlessly making things worse. The biggest joke may be unintentional. Viewers of all the previous movies may find it amusing how Aunt May seems to have discovered the Fountain of Youth. Once played by Rosemary Harris, who was 75 at the time of “Spider-Man” (2002), she was succeeded by Sally Field, who was 66 in “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012). Here she’s become Marisa Tomei, age 53. At this rate Aunt May will soon be younger than her nephew.
If you’re a fan of the character or the Marvel Universe, then you’ll be seeing “Spider-Man: Homecoming” regardless of any review. Holland is a bit fidgety in the role but is able to bring out the youthful inexperience of the character. Perhaps he’ll grow into the role. We can only hope. They’ve already announced a sequel for 2019.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.