Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - DAN LYBARGER

Maybe some­one for­got to tell the Mar­vel stu­dio’s mas­ter­mind, pro­ducer Kevin Feige, that he’s mak­ing su­per­hero movies.

Dead­pool and the Guardians of the Galaxy films are de­light­fully ir­rev­er­ent, sar­cas­tic come­dies, and Iron Man ex­plored po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues most in­die movies wouldn’t have the guts to ad­dress. Tony Stark’s for­tune is based on sell­ing weapons to cus­tomers who don’t care how they’re used. This makes his even­tual su­per­hero­ism seem like more of a rev­e­la­tion.

Thanks to ad­just­ments like these to the su­per­hero pro­gram, Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing avoids the pit­falls that squished pre­vi­ous movies about the Wall­crawler like Spi­der-Man 3 and The Amaz­ing Spi­der-Man 2. Be­cause Spi­der-Man’s al­ter ego Peter Parker is a teenager in the comics, it’s fit­ting that Home­com­ing plays more like a 1980s John Hughes

(The Break­fast Club) movie than a stan­dard cape flick.

Then again, Spidey doesn’t wear capes, so that’s ap­pro­pri­ate.

Di­rec­tor Jon Watts, who helmed hi­lar­i­ous seg­ments for The Onion News Net­work, and a le­gion of writ­ers cor­rectly as­sume that au­di­ences don’t need yet an­other ori­gin story. There’s no point in killing off Peter Parker’s no­ble Un­cle Ben yet again, even if one misses golden-throated ac­tors like Cliff Robertson or Martin Sheen re­mind­ing us that “With great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

At this point, the Friendly Neigh­bor­hood Spi­der-Man’s en­counter with a ra­dioac­tive spi­der is old news, and it’s frankly more in­ter­est­ing to watch him learn how to deal with his pow­ers and obli­ga­tions than it is to watch him dis­cover them.

Hav­ing al­ready col­lab­o­rated with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in a vi­o­lent dis­pute with Cap­tain Amer­ica in Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War, Peter (Tom Hol­land) thinks that his su­per­hu­man strength and Stark In­dus­tries-crafted suit mean he’s ready to join Thor and the Hulk in the Avengers.

That said, like many teenagers and the mer­cu­rial Stark him­self, Peter lacks the judg­ment to go with his abil­i­ties. While he can re­cite all sorts of ob­scure facts dur­ing aca­demic de­cathlons, Peter is im­pul­sive and some­times causes col­lat­eral dam­age when he’s try­ing to bust crooks. His ea­ger­ness keeps Stark and his hu­mor­less se­cu­rity chief Happy Ho­gan (Jon Favreau) from giv­ing him more to do.

Ado­les­cence also doesn’t give him a break. He fum­bles with ap­peal­ing to his de­cathlon team­mate Liz (Laura Har­rier), and his high-pitched voice and awk­ward man­ner at­tract de­ri­sion from crim­i­nals and his class­mates.

While Peter’s sad­dened that Stark and Liz seem to be ig­nor­ing him, Queens has a far more trou­bling phe­nom­e­non. A sal­vage op­er­a­tor named Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) has col­lected space alien wreck­age from the bat­tle in New York that trau­ma­tized Stark in The Avengers and has used it to make fear­some new weapons.

Toomes isn’t above us­ing his deadly equip­ment for his needs and fig­ures if Tony Stark can get rich off of the tools of war, so can he.

Hav­ing nailed the look of real news with the ab­surd sar­casm of The Onion, Watts ef­fort­lessly jug­gles class­room com­edy with larger than life dar­ing do. Hav­ing Keaton for a vil­lain re­ally helps be­cause his manic en­ergy can be amus­ing and threat­en­ing — depend­ing on the con­text.

The Bri­tish Hol­land looks younger than his 21 years, and can play in­se­cure with­out be­ing ob­nox­ious. His Spi­der-Man has skills, but one of his hand­i­caps is that he doesn’t come off as in­tim­i­dat­ing. He has to prove to bad guys that he can sub­due them.

Spi­der-Man co-cre­ator Stan Lee gave most of the cre­ations the same in­se­cu­ri­ties that plague flesh-and­blood heroes and vil­lains. In some ways Hol­land’s con­vinc­ing awk­ward­ness makes Parker seem more heroic. For a su­per­hero movie to work, even the most gifted of pro­tag­o­nists still need hu­man hearts.

Adrian Toomes, aka Vul­ture (Michael Keaton), a blue-col­lar guy who runs a New York sal­vage com­pany that cleans up the messes su­per­hero bat­tles cre­ate, and evil in­ven­tor Phineas Ma­son, aka The Tin­kerer (Michael Ch­er­nus) team up to bat­tle the teenage web­slinger in Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing.

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