Review by C.J. Bunce
Amazing? Definitely. Spectacular? Absolutely. Tom Holland, who stole the show in the key battle of last year’s Captain America: Civil War, has provided the definitive, and yes, the ultimate Spider-man performance in this weekend’s latest Marvel masterwork, Spider-man: Homecoming. And Holland is equally good, if not better, without the suit as angst-ridden, overburdened teenager and Spider-man alter ego, Peter Parker. Kids of all ages who ever envisioned the ultimate battle between Spider-man and Batman get their satisfaction here, too: Michael Keaton, in one of his best performances in decades, creates out of an obscure character one of the best supervillain performances to hit the big screen, complete with high-tech bat wings and the classic Keaton we all love to watch.
Moviegoers have seen good efforts from Marvel creating the comic book empire’s flagship, web-slinging superhero before, with Tobey Maguire in three Spider-man solo films and Andrew Garfield in two follow-up Amazing Spider-man films, but this latest story supplies what was missing from the other five: an authentic, likeable, smart, voice-breaking do-gooder and a classic coming of age story with heart. But it doesn’t skimp on the action, and thanks to some well-filmed 3D and magical IMAX cinematography, one key scene that takes place high atop the Washington Monument made this viewer practically step backward out of his seat into the back row. Just breathtaking filmmaking.
If you keep a list of superhero movie requirements in the back of your mind, you’ll find that Spider-man: Homecoming fulfills or surpasses them all. A story with a solid character arc for its lead and antagonist. A big relief for filmgoers who go to every new superhero movie: writer/director Jon Watts and five other writers (a fact that alone would normally spell certain doom for a film, but not here) knew enough to steer clear of another superhero origin story and instead delved right in. They flesh out Parker’s relationship with his like-minded, knowledge bowl peers at school and provide more than one jawdropper along the way. In Keaton’s villain they provide an exceptional, compelling villain, something lacking in the past several years of superhero movies. Holland sports an update to the Spidey supersuit, and Louise Frogley’s latest costume design is superb, complete with believable, readily available tech supplied in-story by mentor Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man in his latest perfect adaptation of the role from the comics. And Michael Giacchino’s powerful and emotional score is among his best, complete with plenty of clever and unexpected themes that amplify the story at the right time. If you think Peter Parker is a throwaway character, prepare for some emotional work by Holland, especially at his character’s lowest point in the story.
Spider-man is one of the most well-known characters in the history of superheroes, primarily from the daily newspaper strips seen by nearly everyone in the U.S. who took a newspaper since 1977, but also from literally hundreds of Spider-man comic book series since Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby brought him to life in 1962 (Spectacular Spider-man, Amazing Spider-man, and Ultimate Spider-man as only a few). So a couple of change-ups from the traditional story may feel new, but they work seamlessly. Like Marisa Tomei as what has previously been a much older Aunt May, getting some of the film’s most hilarious scenes. And modern technology that wasn’t available in the 1960s is wisely and effectively integrated into the story.
The movie is peppered with some of the best supporting actors around, supplying the perfect touch along the way, including new Lando Calrissian actor and Community star Donald Glover as an unusual arms buyer, Baskets’ hilarious Martha Kelly as the perfect tour guide, Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo, Riddick, Total Recall, The X-Files) as Keaton’s chief thug, Michael Chernus (Men in Black 3, The Bourne Legacy) as Keaton’s tech guru, and Tyne Daly (Cagney and Lacey, Burn Notice) as the head of a new government organization. In a genius twist, Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth, The Incredible Hulk, A Beautiful Mind) is the voice of Spider-man’s upgraded suit (Connelly’s husband, actor Paul Bettany, is the well-known voice of Iron Man’s suit). Her voice as “Karen” is one of the movie’s best upgrades.
The younger supporting cast is also solid, including Laura Harrier as Peter’s love interest Liz, Zendaya as Peter’s schoolmate Michelle, The Nice Guys’ Angourie Rice as schoolmate Betty, and newcomer Jacob Batalon as Peter’s pal Ned. A host of superheroes from the past Avengers movies find their way into the movie, too. And wait around for two post-film codas, one key to the film and the other laugh-out-loud funny.
One of the year’s most enjoyable movies, more exciting than 25 years of DC Comics movie adaptations, and on par with the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Spider-man: Homecoming will no doubt make many reviewers’ top superhero film lists.
The perfect summer blockbuster escape, see Spider-man: Homecoming now at theaters everywhere.