Saturday, July 8, 2017

Crabby Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming


 That was the word that popped into my head about ten minutes into SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, and it was just as appropriate when we were walking out of the theater. This was just a delightful, fun time at the movies. They really got it right with this one, Spidey's third onscreen iteration: Spidey's humor is there, the right mixture of goofy and earnest that makes the character who he is, and that is something that was never quite there in the other two versions.

 I loved Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films (OK, not so much the third one.), but his Peter Parker had kind of a sad, depressing life. Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man looked hella-old, but I thought he did a good job. Too bad his two outings, especially the second one, stunk.

 After reaching an agreement with Sony that allowed them to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios sent up a test balloon by having Spidey appear as a part of Iron Man's team in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, and we ate it up. The new Spider-Man was young and exuberant, with a look and feel that brought the original Lee/Ditko comics to mind. But could they navigate the tricky waters of partnering with another film studio to successfully produce a Spidey solo film?

 Yes. They killed it.

 SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING thankfully dispenses with the origin story that we've seen twice already on the big screen, and drops us right into the thick of Peter Parker's life. Since getting called up to the big leagues by Iron Man, Peter has been languishing in his Queens neighborhood, waiting in vain for a call from Tony Stark that may never come. He spends his nights sneaking out and nabbing low-level crooks and providing directions to lost pedestrians, but after fighting Captain America and his team, it all seems like a big letdown.

 That all changes when Spidey stumbles across high-tech weapons being sold on the black-market. Adrian Toomes, wonderfully played by Michael Keaton, is probably the most identifiable Marvel cinematic villain we've see so far. The film opens with Toomes working a potentially lucrative contract job hauling away the debris littering Manhattan after the Avengers/Chitauri battle. The cash generated from this contract could mean big, positive changes for Toomes and his family, but those hopes are squashed when representatives from Damage Control show up and tell him his contract is null and void, and that they'll be taking over the salvage operation. Damage Control was set up by Tony Stark, and Toomes sees this as Stark profiting from damage that he caused. Toomes and his shady employees decide to keep a load of the tech-riddled scrap and go into business for themselves, crafting elaborate weapons and selling them to the highest bidder.

 Peter foils an ATM robbery by a gang of tech-equipped hoods, and tries to bring Iron Man into it, via his Stark Industries contact, Happy Hogan, but is told, in no uncertain terms, that the weapons dealer is too small-fry for The Avengers; Let the FBI deal with it.

 Peter being Peter, he can't just stand back and let a bad guy get away with anything, so he continues his pursuit of Toomes, who now wears a monstrous tech-suit, thus setting the stage for a disastrous battle that nearly kills hundreds of people. Cut off from his Stark-provided technology, can Peter stop The Vulture on his own...?

 Any film that starts off with an orchestral version of the Spider-Man cartoon theme song, which we used when we walked into our wedding reception, has already earned a ton of goodwill from me, so I was sold right from the start. But the film goes from strength to strength: Great performances by Tom Holland (As Spider-Man/Peter Parker) and Michael Keaton, great effects (See it in IMAX 3-D, if you get a chance!), a ton of laugh-out-loud moments, some great cameos, and a wonderful supporting performance by Robert Downey, Jr. Although Tony Stark/Iron Man isn't in the film very much, his presence permeates the film every bit as much as it permeates Peter's life. And the end-credits sequence may just be the best one Marvel has done yet.

 (Fun fact: I used to work under Michael Keaton's brother Bob, who was summoned from Corporate to discipline me for missing a group team-building weekend. He did not appreciate me mentioning how much I loved his brother as Batman. Crabby guy, but he has the exact same eyebrows. Which he also did not appreciate me mentioning.)

                Michael Keaton's brother, Bob Douglas, was really mean to me in 1992.

 I always use my wife as a barometer for how much a regular person will enjoy a comic-book movie. She was not thrilled about seeing "..another crappy Spider-Man film.", but she was whooping it up, laughing in all the right places, cheering during the action scenes, and she refused to go get the customary popcorn refill. When we left, she gave me this quote: "OK, you were right. I loved it. What, do you want a medal, or something???" She placed it right behind THE AVENGERS as her favorite Marvel film. High praise, indeed.

 (Another fun fact: Some guy a few rows ahead of us, part of a large bunch of middle-eastern twenty-somethings, apparently had a very realistic Spider-Man suit on under his street clothes, and when the credits started, he ditched his clothes, pulled on a mask, and started running around the theater. Not the most comfortable thing to do in this day and age. The theater staff was not amused.)

 SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING crawls it's way to a whopping nine out of ten spiders:

 I am very much looking forward to seeing where the Marvel Universe takes Spidey next.

 (By the way, there are two end-credits scenes: One midway through, and one after. Stick around.)

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