Funny, relatable and bursting with action and adventure, this Avenger-in-training saga balances superhero skills with high school drama and brings the fun back to the Marvel universe. Part superhero saga, part homage to the John Hughes teen movies of the 80s, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a great antidote for midsummer blahs. 4.5 out of 5.
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After the Avenger vs. Avenger battles of Captain America: Civil War the superheroes all went their separate ways—which for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) meant heading back to high school. But once you've had a taste of saving the world it's awfully hard to concentrate on homework. Fighting crime as best he can—after school, of course—Peter tries to prove to his new mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), that he's ready for the big leagues. It's not easy; Peter is still learning how to harness his power, cope with a crush, and keep his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) from spilling his secret. When Peter stumbles on a bunch of bad guys selling alien tech-enhanced weapons on the black market, he has to decide if he's going to be a real hero or just a web-slinging guy in a onesie.
There's no time wasted on Spider-Man's origin story; it's not necessary after we already met him in Civil War. The basic facts are relayed in a quick conversation so we can get on with the story, which begins with a hilarious home movie recap of Spider-Man's intro to the MCU.
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Peter is adorably awkward and completely relatable… except for that whole web-slinging thing, of course. He's an overeager puppy trying to run with the big dogs, trying to figure out who he is, and trying too hard at everything. Meanwhile Tony Stark is trying his best to be a responsible father figure to young Peter. It doesn't come naturally, but bless him, he tries.
Peter's nerdy friend Ned is the best sidekick in the Marvel Universe. He asks all the questions we would in his place ("Can I try on the suit?"), prefers a role behind the scenes, and is willing to do whatever it takes to help his buddy—even if it gets him detention for life. Their scenes together are some of the best in the film. Actually, most of the movie is better when adults are not around.
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It's only to be expected that Spidey's over-enthusiasm will wreak accidental havoc, but a spectacular "oops" involving a ferry feels labored. Later on, a "high-drama" incident outside an airplane lacks, well, drama. Maybe it's the cinematography, maybe it's the plot… something about that battle was definitely off. The bird suit The Vulture (Michael Keaton) wears is a bit on the lame side, too. It's an integral part of the story, of course, but he's much more menacing without it. Much.
This coming of age story has several things to say about maturity and making good decisions, but my favorite line comes when Stark tells Peter "If you're nothing without the suit, then you shouldn't have it." It's almost a Marvel version of 1 Samuel 16:7: "People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Bitterness and resentment lead to Vulture's transformation from hardworking stiff to big-time bad guy. Being wronged himself, he has no qualms hurting others. While there wouldn't have been a story without his turn to the dark side, it's a fine object lesson in how a lack of forgiveness can lead to ultimate destruction.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Marvel fans, teen movie fans, and anyone looking for a way to beat the heat and spend a couple of hours having a good time.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: People who can't stand superheroes and/or don't remember what it was like to be a teen trying to find a place in this world.
Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts, opens in theaters July 7, 2017; available for home viewing October 17, 2017. It runs 133 minutes and stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Jacob Batalon, Zendaya, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei, Tyne Daly and Tony Revolori. Watch the trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming here.
Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).
Publication date: July 5, 2017
Image courtesy: ©Sony-Marvel