Spider Man: Homecoming

Spider Man: Homecoming is really a special piece of film making, melding the chase-the- bad-guys-and-blow-stuff up action movie with the poignant teen adolescent drama to make for a really enjoyable experience.  We went in with high expectations, and we did not leave disappointed.  This is the sixth Spider Man movie in recent memory, and I will put it neck-and-neck with Spider Man 2 (the Doc Oc one) as the best of the lot.  Judging by the packed house and the generally enthusiastic audience response, this movie is going to make like a zillion dollars.

I was really feeling the adult-adolescent nexus portrayals here and, despite not being a superhero myself, found the Tony Stark grooming his protege angle quite compelling. At one point I leaned over to L and said, “I am really identifying with the authority figures here.”  In the front end of the movie, the adults generally didn’t know what was going on with the younger set, and mostly didn’t care, either.  Rather than Scooby Doo the whole thing, the plot suggests that this cuts both ways — in some cases the adults should be listening, but in others the kids really are meddling when they should be minding their own business.  Jon Favreau is occasionally funny as the mostly inept intermediary for the Spidey-Tony relationship.   Then, remarkably, the story spins this to illustrate that in many cases the kids don’t know what’s going on with the adults, either.  This makes for some excellent dramatic narrative and a couple genuine surprises, not something that is characteristic of superhero genre.

The adults here included many of the usual suspects, with Tony Stark and Iron Man being central characters throughout.  This is the first Spidey movie set squarely in the Marvel Universe on the heels of the Captain America: Civil War story trajectory.  One consequence of this is that the plot line involves Michael Keaton building a criminal enterprise on the back of repurposing alien technology left behind in that affair.   Keaton eventually shows himself as the Vulture, more than possibly a hat tip to his role in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which is amusing for a number of reasons.  The Vulture isn’t particularly interesting, but the plot built around him is.  The story sets up and mostly moves along at a good clip, without pausing too much to show off.  A second consequence is that Spidey has access to a suit equipped with Stark technology, so the high-tech elements of the Iron Man series are pervasive within this new universe.   I had mixed feelings about the high-tech Spider Man, as most of it was done really well and is consistent with the technology frontiers in these other movies. On the other hand, c’mon, man!

Mostly for better, this movie does not begin with the genesis story and does not dwell on the guilt over Uncle Ben’s death that is so central to the other two Spider Man movie incarnations (and the comic books I remember from my youth).  As Fenwick would probably say, it’s been done.  The movie also strips Peter Parker of his solely internal struggles, as he inadvertently reveals to his buddy that he is Spider Man, so much of the movie involves the interplay with these two rather than Peter going it alone.  This revelation is probably one of the reasons why the writers were able to develop the adolescent characters and setting so well.  There is plenty to say about that, too, so the movie leaves us with a lot to chew on.

A couple other things, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May worked well, and she got at least one great line in (or most of it, at least).  Tyne Daly (Cagney or Lacey) shows up as a government security bigwig, which is nice, though her role is perfunctory.  And Michael Mando of Breaking Bad fame is evidently being groomed as the next super villain, and what’s not to like about that?

Overall, well above the $5 bar.  I found myself laughing out loud, including several times when I was the only one in the theater doing so.  At other points, the theater laughed whilst I nodded or maybe grinned.  There is definitely something for most of us.   I’m guessing I will see it again (and again and again on TNT).

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