Spider-Man : Homecoming




It may well seem de trop to hit us with a third Spider-Man movie in 15 years.  Tobey Maguire’s arachnid-bitten superhero in 2002 garnered two Oscar noms.  Andrew Garfield’s 2012 effort was elevated by Emma Stone as the love interest.  So how does this 2017 version featuring Brit actor Tom Holland stack up?


Well despite being primarily teen-centric and at times lapsing into feel good adolescent exuberance and chaotic moments, it works.  And to the extent that it may be the best Spider-Man of the lot.  That said, it would only rate around the central point of the Marvel film catalogue because I got the sense that this is being used to bring the Spidey orbit into closer alignment with the Marvel universe.  


But what virtually gives this a free pass to popularity and success is the inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. and his Iron Man persona.


In 2008, director Jon Favreau took one of the biggest gambles in Hollywood history. Robert Downey Jr. classed as one of the most gifted actors of his generation and an Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner had fallen a long way down due to personal issues with drugs and alcohol and a stint in prison.  This made him practically persona non grata in Hollywood at the time and Favreau found that if he cast Downey Jr. in the lead for his IRON MAN fantasy flick, that no one would insure the star.  If he relapsed or became unreliable the film could bomb and millions would be lost.  


So did the gamble pay off?


Spectacularly so!


IRON MAN basically launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in the nine years since, the M.C.U. has become the most successful film franchise in history.  Its 15 films have so far netted over $11 billion dollars at the global box office.  And despite the mega popularity of Marvel additions like Thor, Dr. Strange, Captain America, the Black Widow and so many more, Iron Man remains the leading top dog on the Marvel lot.  So having him act as a quasi mentor for the youthful Spider-Man here can only boost the success rate.


The plot?


Fairly thin but adequate.  Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is the villain known as Vulture.  But in a refreshing change from the usual megalomaniacal ambitions of world domination or destruction, he is a more rational adversary.  Once running a salvage company, he was put out of business by wealthy, government-backed powers and now he wants his share of life’s goodies.  Peter Parker is still in High School, attempting to keep his secret identity hidden from his class mates but he badly wants to be admitted to the ranks of the Avengers so decides to become a one man crime fighting unit and tackle the evil plans of the Vulture. 


While Downey Jr. and Keaton are the acting heavyweights here, the young Tom Holland is exceptionally good.  Expertly balancing the dual elements of Peter’s nature the brash confidence of having enhanced powers but also the crushing uncertainty of being a callow 15 year old.  With a vocally perfect American accent that even manages to squeak a little when he is wildly excited, he has forged a character that is likeable, charismatic, witty and resourceful.  Holland’s first feature film appearance was at the age of 16 in 2012’s THE IMPOSSIBLE with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor.  He later appeared in HEART OF THE SEA and the TV mini series WOLF HALL but it was his time in BILLY ELLIOTT THE MUSICAL LIVE that probably gave him the lithe physicality to almost make us believe here that a boy can fly.


Some familiar faces among the supports.  Marisa Tomei, Tyne Daly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau and Jennifer Connelly join the newer players such as Tony Revolori (GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL), Zendaya and young Australian actress Angourie Rice who is getting lots of work since her breakthrough in THE NICE GUYS last year.


In all, a bright and breezy entertainment with a great web-slinger that combines the coming of age film concept with the action / superhero genre.  I don’t see it setting box office records but I suspect it will do very well. 




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