Home comes the Spi­der-Man

There’s no bet­ter place for ol’ Web­head to be­long than the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse, and he fits right in like a su­per­hero in span­dex.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Movies - Re­view by DAVIN ARUL en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing Direc­tor: Jon Watts Cast: Tom Hol­land, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, Zen­daya, Jacob Bat­alon, Laura Harrier, Don­ald Glover, Bo­keem Wood­bine

IT’S a home­com­ing that calls for a cel­e­bra­tion be­fit­ting a prodi­gal son’s re­turn.

Af­ter all, he is Marvel Comics’ flag­ship char­ac­ter and, up un­til last year’s Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War, Spi­der-Man was sorely missed in the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse.

And hear­ing that beloved Spi­der­Man theme song from the 1960s car­toon (used on and off to nice nos­tal­gic ef­fect in the Sam Raimi Spidey movies) played over the Marvel Stu­dios in­tro­duc­tion here ... goose­bumps, I tell ya.

But, while Home­com­ing may be a clever play on words given that this is Spidey’s re­turn “home”, the film also wastes no time con­firm­ing that he has been here all along, with his cast of sup­port­ing char­ac­ters.

This comes as a flashback right at the start, with su­pervil­lain-to-be Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his cleanup crew de­cid­ing to keep a load of sal­vage re­trieved af­ter the Chi­tauri in­va­sion of New York from back in the first Avengers movie.

It sows the seeds for a lu­cra­tive black mar­ket trade selling weapons de­rived from alien tech, as well as what will be­come Toomes’ suit as the Vul­ture, one of the ear­li­est Spi­der-Man vil­lains from the comics.

Then it’s time for a bit of mad­cap fun as the film re­caps Spidey’s Civil War stint, only in the form of a vlog nar­rated by Peter Parker (Tom Hol­land) while he drives Stark In­dus­tries’ Happy Ho­gan (Jon Favreau) nuts.

Home­com­ing is very much a film about Spi­der-Man as he was orig­i­nally writ­ten in the comics: a gawky, quippy kid in his mid­dle teens strug­gling with hor­mones, a dou­ble life and hav­ing to let down friends, class­mates and loved ones just when they need him be­cause ... well, some­one needs Spi­der-Man more.

Which also means that the no­to­ri­ous Parker luck, with which fans of both comics and movies are all too fa­mil­iar, is present in buck­ets here.

But it’s neatly off­set with loads of great, sweet hu­mour, and Hol­land nails both as­pects of the char­ac­ter, in and out of cos­tume (as if we needed fur­ther con­vinc­ing of his abil­ity af­ter Civil War).

When the film isn’t thrilling us with Spi­der-deeds, it also gets quite busy lay­ing the foun­da­tion for an all-new cin­e­matic Spi­der­verse. We get tons of name-drop­ping that fans will recog­nise in­stantly: the Shocker; Mac Gar­gan (later to be­come no­to­ri­ous Spi­der-vil­lain the Scor­pion); and even Aaron Davis (Don­ald Glover), a petty crim­i­nal whom comics fans may recog­nise as the un­cle of Miles Mo­rales (who later be­came Spi­der­Man in the Ul­ti­mate Spi­der-Man comic).

Amazingly, direc­tor Jon Watts (who helmed the 2015 Kevin Ba­con thriller Cop Car) jug­gles all these el­e­ments so ex­pertly that no el­e­ment – be it the spec­ta­cle, the hu­mour, the Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) lec­tures, or the hard­luck sto­ries – ever over­shad­ows the oth­ers.

This is largely a good thing, bar one: I re­ally thought the movie could have used a lit­tle more emo­tional ground­ing for Peter.

While we cer­tainly wouldn’t want to see poor Un­cle Ben get shot by a rob­ber for a third time on screen since 2002, a suit­ably mean­ing­ful mo­ti­va­tion for Spidey to live up to the wise gent’s legacy could have helped us con­nect with this “new” Peter Parker on a more heart­felt level.

In­stead, the un­cle-y mo­ments are left to Tony Stark, though they lack a cer­tain grav­i­tas com­ing from him (most of all, one re­ally re­pul­sive anal­ogy about pup­pies made later on in the film).

And be­cause Stark is so deeply in­volved in Peter’s for­ma­tive mo­ments, ex­pect our young hero to go through his very own Iron Man3 mo­ment where he needs to prove him­self with­out the gad­get­packed suit.

Proving a nice coun­ter­weight to Hol­land’s teenage lev­ity is Keaton as the “bad” guy. Toomes’ mo­ti­va­tions are some­what dif­fer­ent from past Spidey screen foes, though he has some bear­ing on Peter’s life, as we learn in a neat sucker punch that Watts springs on us. He’s almost as sym­pa­thetic as Al­fred Molina’s Doc­tor Oc­to­pus from Spi­der-Man 2, though just a tad less com­pletely writ­ten to be as well-rounded a char­ac­ter.

Home­com­ing also strug­gles a bit in its last act as it tries to give the au­di­ence some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent in the “fi­nal show­down” sweep­stakes. Points for try­ing, though.

For as long as it’s un­fold­ing be­fore your eyes, Home­com­ing will have you stuck in its web. Once the web fluid dis­solves, you may re­alise that it was tons of fun but just a bit short of enough heart to put it right up there with Spi­der-Man 2 as the plat­inum stan­dard. Still, he’s home, darn it. Cel­e­brate al­ready.

— Sony Pic­tures

‘Hey Vul­ture guy, shoot at me all you want, but don’t tar­get the back­pack. My aunt’s go­ing to throw a fit if I hit her up for a sixth re­place­ment this month.’

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