Saturday, July 15, 2017

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' review: What exactly is missing?

How can a movie be thoroughly enjoyable, check off the elements that usually means it's a good flick yet miss That Certain Something Special?

That's the case with "Spider-Man: Homecoming." Maybe it tries too hard; I'm just not sure.

Here are the things that "Homecoming" does well:

  • Stays true to the spirit of Spider-Man and Peter Parker
  • Great action sequences
  • Appropriate humor
  • Makes us care about and root for Spidey/Parker
  • Another memorable performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark
  • Truly intimidating and distasteful villain
  • Fits easily into the Marvel Cinematic Universe

What "Homecoming" doesn't do well is deliver an enjoyable post-credits scene. It's simply not worth the wait. And no, it has nothing to do with future Marvel movies.

There is also no viable Flash Thompson. All of Parker's schoolmates are nerds and geeks since they attend the Midtown School of Science and Technology. This Flash is no bully and certainly no athlete. He has no heart of gold and no soft part for Spider-Man, so there's very little resemblance to the comic book character. Flash instead is simply loud, obnoxious and completely disdainful of Parker -- all of which could have been done by using another character.

That being said, I would have preferred there be no Flash Thompson in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," just as there are no Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy. It's better not to include those characters than do a lame charicature.

On a somewhat related note, Disney Channel actress Zendaya adds nothing to this movie. She simply plays a grumpy member of the science team of which Parker is a member. The Michelle role requires her to do little more than what she does in the Disney series "K.C. Undercover" -- except not nearly as delightfully. The nickname she reveals to her teammates at the end of the film is nothing less than groan-inducing. It's supposed to be a wink-wink, nudge-nudge homage, but it comes off cheesier than it does endearing.

Actor Tom Holland brings a delightful, "golly gee" wonder to Spider-Man. And Parker is socially awkward, clueless on how to connect with girls.

Spidey doesn't quite have it all together. (Parker has to ask Marisa Tomei's Aunt Hottie, I mean Aunt May, for his fifth backpack because someone stole it when he left it in an alley to change into his Spider-Man duds.) The web-crawler pretty much makes it up as he goes and ends being a chatterbox more out of nervous energy than Andrew Garfield's is a smartass in the two unrelated "Amazing Spider-Man" films.

Spider-Man narrates part of the "Captain America: Civil War" airport battle
during a videoblog he creates.
This Spider-Man's biggest challenge is waiting on getting "the call" from Stark so he can jump into action again with the Avengers. (Spidey had his big Marvel Studios reveal in "Captain America: Civil War".) Until then, Parker is left waiting through the doldrums of the school day so he can do his Spider-Man thing -- and report on the day's activities to Stark via "Happy" Hogan (Jon Favreau). Parker's exuberance in repeatedly calling Hogan does nothing to endear himself to Stark's right-hand man.

In "Homecoming," we watch Parker video his journey to help Stark/Iron Man right up until the moment he yells for Underoos" -- what I titled the second trailer when I reviewed it -- and even some of the Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man battle. The first-person POV storytelling technique is both a very teenage-y and modern way to share Parker's pre-"Civil War" backstory as many "tweens," teens and young adults seem to live-stream everything, yet in "Homecoming," it feels a bit forced and gimmick-y. Decades from now, it's quite possible this sequence will feel dated.

Parker learns Stark has put his Spider-Man suit under the "Training Wheels Protocol," which he should only pass having mastered all the tech his suit offers. The teenager talks his best friend -- who is straight out of the Miles Morales comics and is as excited about Parker being Spider-Man than he is -- into disabling it. This leads Parker to spend the rest of "Homecoming" humorously attempting to master his suit while thwarting the bad guys with the help of his "Suit Lady" Karen, just as Stark interacts with and directs Jarvis in the "Iron Man" trilogy.

Actor Michael Keaton is a dastardly antagonist without going too broad or hokey. Adrian Toomes is a salvage dealer who gets screwed over by Tony Stark and the feds in cleaning up the mess after the Battle of New York in "The Avengers." An overlooked bit of alien technology leads to Toomes and his crew using it to create high-tech weapons and his Vulture technology. (Fun fact: Toomes and his crew -- much less anybody else -- never call him Vulture in the movie.)

The subtitle "Homecoming" is a none-too subtle reference to Spider-Man returning to Marvel Studios, thanks to a partnership with Sony Pictures.

It also refers to the frustration of Parker returning home after being pumped of feeling like a member of the Avengers, only to be extremely frustrated about being "treated like a child" by Stark. Downey's character ends up doing his best being more of a strict, protective father-figure than the reluctant mentor I believed I was seeing in the first trailer. And since Parker is a high-school student, "Homecoming" also includes the dance of the same name -- where Parker dumps his date because his obligation as Spider-Man is more important. (No wonder he doesn't get the girl!)

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" is a good time and well worth seeing in the theaters. But somehow I expected a bigger and much greater move-going experience from Marvel's most popular superhero.

Grade: B

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