Thursday, July 6, 2017
By LINDSEY BAHR
AP Film Writer
One thing is certain: Culture has not been lacking in takes on Spider-Man for the past 15 years. First there was Tobey Maguire, who under the direction of Sam Raimi for three films ushered in the modern superhero era, and then there was Andrew Garfield, whose two films with Marc Webb were immediately forgettable. And now, like all obedient franchises, they’re trying to start all over again, this time with the much more age-appropriate Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming .”
And you know what? Superhero cynicism aside, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is really fun. Director Jon Watts, whose only previous feature film credit is the indie thriller “Cop Car,” has confidently put his stamp on the friendly neighborhood web-slinger by making one bold move: actually casting teenagers to play teenagers.
Yes, after two films with late 20-somethings donning the Spidey suit and getting bitten by that pesky spider, Spider-Man finally gets to be a kid (and we get to skip over the whole origin/Uncle Ben story). Instead, Watts’ film, which is upsettingly credited to six screenwriters, picks up with Peter Parker (Holland) right before, during and after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” which introduced Holland’s Spider-Man in that epic airport Avengers battle.
Instead of a “last week in Marvel” segment to catch up, we’re given a refresher via Peter’s perspective. He’s just an excited kid who filmed the whole adventure and ever since has been thirsting for more Avengers action. He tries, endearingly, to prove his mettle on his own as he waits idly in Queens for a call from Tony Stark – giving directions to the elderly, retrieving stolen bikes and doing flips on command.
What he doesn’t know is that for eight years, there has been a supervillain emerging in his town in the form of a wronged construction worker, Adrian (Michael Keaton), who decided to break bad after losing a job to a government crew that clears post-superhero fight disaster areas. Peter, with his true-blue heart and naivete and eagerness to prove himself, of course takes on more than he can handle, while also trying to navigate high school, homework, crushes and the awkwardness of just being a teenager. Time passes easily, and just when you might worry that you don’t actually care about any of the characters, the story throws a great curve ball that carries interest to the end.
The film is overflowing with stellar talent, even in the smallest of roles and not counting the Marvel loaners in Robert Downey Jr. (who oozes charisma and charm even when phoning it in for a handful of scenes) and Jon Favreau. In the high school alone, there’s the too-cool Michelle (Zendaya), the crush Liz (Laura Harrier) and the adorable breakout best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). Hannibal Buress and Martin Starr are there, too, to add reliable laughs.