One scene in Spi­der-Man steals the show

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - MICHAEL CAVNA

Ed­i­tor’s note: Ma­jor spoil­ers ahead.

Let’s talk about that scene. Or rather, the one-two punch of seam­less con­sec­u­tive scenes that pro­vides the tens­est mo­ments in Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing — and ar­guably the most stun­ning re­veal in the en­tire Spidey film fran­chise.

It is, fit­tingly, the home­com­ing date that sets up the film’s cli­max of a show­down. When Peter Parker (Tom Hol­land) asks Liz (Laura Har­rier) to home­com­ing dur­ing a chance en­counter in school, view­ers can get so caught up in the kid’s gid­di­ness that we’re com­pletely blind­sided by the twin scenes that soon fol­low.

After Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) pre­pares Peter for the dance in a mon­tage wor­thy of an ’80s John Hughes teen com­edy, the 15-year-old ar­rives at Liz’s front door, only to be greeted by …

Her fa­ther.

Which wouldn’t be a big deal, ex­cept it hap­pens to be …

Adrian Toomes, aka the Vul­ture (Michael Keaton), Peter’s tar­get an­tag­o­nist through­out the film.

I’ve seen the movie twice, and both times the au­di­ence re­ac­tion was the same: a sec­ond of stunned si­lence, fol­lowed by scat­tered au­di­ble gasps.

That re­ac­tion, pri­mary screen­writ­ers John Fran­cis Da­ley and Jonathan Goldstein say, is im­mensely grat­i­fy­ing.

Soon, we are in­side the gleam­ing home of Liz and her fam­ily — a rel­a­tive op­u­lence pre­sum­ably af­forded largely by the Vul­ture’s ne­far­i­ous arms deals in­volv­ing sal­vaged alien ma­te­rial. As the par­ents, in­clud­ing mother Doris (Gar­celle Beau­vais), in­sist on tak­ing a pic­ture of the adorable cou­ple, Adrian is han­dling a kitchen knife that res­onates as a di­rect nod to 2002’s Spi­der-Man — an­other do­mes­tic meet­ing that in­volves Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), Peter’s would-be love in­ter­est (Kirsten Dunst) and a friend’s fa­ther (Nor­man Os­born/Green Goblin) who, when not wear­ing his civvies, is Spidey’s sworn aerial en­emy. In Sam Raimi’s 2002 film, the fact of Peter’s al­ter ego is pieced to­gether by the Green Goblin very quickly, as Peter is asked about a cut on his arm — a bloody “tell” that spurs Mr. Os­born to ex­cuse him­self rapidly.

In Home­com­ing, by con­trast, di­rec­tor Jon Watts and his writ­ers de­cide to string out the ten­sion like an ex­pertly paced game of liar’s poker.

Cut to the next scene, as a twitchy Peter and a non­cha­lant Liz sit in the back seat while papa Adrian chauf­feurs them to the dance. With cu­rios­ity and men­ace prac­ti­cally sewn into his arched eye­brows, Keaton’s Adrian be­gins with the stan­dard “Dad in­ter­ro­ga­tion,” ask­ing about Peter’s plans after grad­u­a­tion — with a sly dig at the class dif­fer­ences of ex­pec­ta­tion at such a pres­ti­gious school.

When Liz in­no­cently lets it drop that Peter had an in­tern­ship with Iron Man/Tony Stark and he knows Spi­der-Man, that in­for­ma­tion be­comes the con­ver­sa­tional blood in the wa­ter, and Adrian moves in rhetor­i­cally like a shark.

By the time Toomes gives Peter a man-to-boy ul­ti­ma­tum, we have shared the most ex­pertly riv­et­ing ride in Spi­der-Man’s his­tory — a scene wor­thy of a Mamet play or a Christo­pher McQuar­rie in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

From door to door, we travel from stun­ning twist to the emo­tional en­try­way of Spi­der-Man’s big­gest de­ci­sion.

“I am such a fan of twists, and they are hard things to ex­e­cute,” Da­ley says. “You have to sur­round that twist with dis­trac­tions and a wor­thy sub­plot, so that you’re not just look­ing for where some­thing is go­ing to trick us.”

Da­ley also rel­ished the chance to com­bine two cin­e­matic tropes.

“There’s the movie twist about who the bad guy is,” the screen­writer says, “and then there’s the awk­ward­ness that comes with meet­ing the fa­ther of the love in­ter­est.

“To be able to com­bine those two el­e­ments was re­ally sat­is­fy­ing.”

In­deed it was, Mr. Da­ley. To the point that in terms of di­a­logue-built ten­sion, it is the best-dealt scene in the whole Spi­der-Man fran­chise.

Bravo. And to the film’s six cred­ited screen­writ­ers, I’ll add: “Au­thor, au­thor” times three.

Bri­tish ac­tor Tom Hol­land pulls on the Ly­cra as the lat­est it­er­a­tion of your friendly neigh­bor­hood web-slinger in Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing.

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