It is, as they say, an ill wind that blows no one any good. A broken tooth and an emergency dental appointment can lead to a free afternoon and an unexpected trip to the old Cinemark. There were an alarming number of small children eating popcorn in the lobby and running up and down the hall, but it turns out that there was a popular new kiddie flick playing in several houses and the crowd for Spider-Man: Homecoming was of an appropriate range of ages and well behaved. The appropriate age for this teen-movie outing in the MCU might range down to a reasonably mature 10 or so– it’s definitely appropriate for young people in way other outings in the series might not be.
The teen-movie thing is key here: this is Spider-Man as originally conceived (mostly)– a fifteen year old high school kid with the typical problems (grownups, grades, pals and gals, etc.) in addition to his superheroness. A flavor of classic teenage movies, from Andy Hardy to the work of John Hughes, runs through this one and mixes surprisingly well with the MCU stuff we all have come to expect. From the opening credits set to the old theme music from the Spider-Man cartoon series to the closers (gorgeous!) accompanied by “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones, it’s something a little bit different, and with the MCU, that’s usually a good sign.
The rest is behind the cut because this kind of flick is fun when fresh. It’s mostly in the “Notes” form. (Oh, and stay for the bonus scenes –both in the movie and in the review.)
-“Homecoming” is a good title (or is it subtitle?) for this movie, since it takes place in a very tight time frame in the days and weeks before and after Homecoming in Peter Parker’s sophomore year. It’s much smaller in scale than most of the MCU movies and sticks fairly close to its classical Marvel New York setting, with two of the major set pieces featuring the Staten Island Ferry and Coney Island. (The third uses the Washington Monument, but every high school story needs an adventure on a class trip.) And one of the film’s major scene sequences, packed with action, plot and character development revolves around the Homecoming Dance itself. And even the controversial ending, which takes Peter briefly away from the City, ends up returning him immediately to the little apartment in Queens and this reboot’s wonderful Aunt May.
-What I like best about this Spider-Man movie was that it didn’t retell the origin story for the upteenth time. I have seen it, I know it, and taking the origin (with all its high tech/ child genius elements) out entirely in favor of a high school story where Peter is just a smart kid with super powers and a tech suit given to him by a highly unsuitable father figure. I did kinda miss the news photographer/Gruff Newspaper Editor story line. (I love the Gruff Newspaper Editor stock character .) But this movie is full of hints about the second movie, and maybe Peter will take up photography his junior year.
-The young Peter Parker as seen here is genuinely young. I’m sure Tom Holland, who plays the role, is actually an adult, but he plays a fifteen year old high school sophomore very well, and the diverse cast of young people do just as good a job playing his schoolmates at a magnet school. Disney star Zendaya is notable as Michelle, who will almost certainly play a bigger part in the next outing, Tony Revolori makes a great smarmy-vulnerable bully in his role as Flash, and Jacob Batolon reaches Tony Stark levels of scene stealing as Peter’s best pal, Ned. Ned (pudgy, bright, and almost painfully sincere) is “the one who knows” through most of the movie and even gets his chance to be Spider-Man’s handler (“man in the chair”) in the titular action sequence. I like Ned. I like his hat.
-If you have kid protagonists, you need adults, looming over the adolescent world with what seems to the kids to be inappropriate levels of power. The teachers are mostly played for laughs, but the parents and parental figures are serious business. The bad guy is, of course, a dad. He’s a good villain– passionate and smart and just the right amount of horrible. He’s also Peter’s love interest’s dad, and not a bad dad, in his own way. In a way his villainy is shown as a function of his dadness, a poisonous version of a father’s natural instincts to provide and protect. He also has a great costume/prop/weapon and is played by Michael Keaton, who is always capable of putting in a sensitive performance in a genre movie.
Peter doesn’t have a dad, but he has two more or less problematic father figures in Happy Hogan and Tony Stark, and a great substitute mom in Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May. Robert Downey Jr.’s incomparable Tony, flighty, easily distracted and more than a little self centered (we love him, but we don’t have any illusions) is not going to make a responsible dad figure. I know the ending of Homecoming is open to debate, but I like to take the position that Tony was absolutely sincere in offering fifteen year old Peter a spot in the Avengers, complete with the prospect of the Vision walking through his bedroom walls. (I like my Tony extra crazy.) Regardless, Peter was the more responsible of the two when he trotted his little behind right back to Aunt May and the job of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
I look forward to seeing more of his adventures.
The little Captain America propaganda films (on the subjects of physical fitness, detention, and of course, patience) are about the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.
And is that a framed portrait of Jim Morita of the Howling Commandos on the school principal’s filing cabinet?