Spider-man or (The Unexpected Vulture of Ignorance)

Michael Keaton has found his niche. I wonder if he walked away from Batman and thought, I could make a career out of dressing up like flying nightmares. Well if it gets you an Oscar it’s not strange, it’s a masterclass. I was half hoping Keaton would swoop in as the surprise hero and save his underdog chums from certain humiliation – like a high school mascot taking a socking for his team. But it was hard to keep my hopes high when I heard that Keaton not only stars opposite a triple-threat bright-eyed teenager, but that his disgruntled character goes by the name of Toomes. He’s either an ironic priest or fate gave him the same nudge as Scar and Maleficent.

We’ve seen five movies, one cameo, roughly seven cartoons, and that theme song will go with us to the grave – but who is Spiderman really? Spiderman: Homecoming brings it all back without actually belabouring the beginning. We met Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in 2016 when he stole Captain America’s shield and brought the millennial fangirl to the nuclear brawl. After that, Peter went back to Queens and studied for his Spanish quiz. So where is he now? Peter – the attractive, athletic, funny genius with one friend and a loser complex – half attends his regular teenage life and half leaves sticky notes all over New York in order to impress Tony Stark- (Robert Downey Jr.) -’s assistant, Happy (John Favro). All Peter wants is to be a proper Avenger, and that means more Avenger-like missions. Happy doesn’t bite, Peter rescues stolen bikes, and Toomes the Vulture gets rich off of weapons that he fashions from scrap alien tech. If Mr. Stark won’t pay attention, Peter will just have to make a little more noise and his messes a little more radioactive.

What does this film have that the others don’t? All the Marvel movies pick an angle, like the political thriller, the narcissist’s epiphany, the mythological magic man-bun, etc. Spider-man: Homecoming is for all the teens out there that were dying to see a superhero ditch calculus and freak over the homecoming dance. Spider-man:   Homecoming brings all those uncomfortably awkward teenage feelings of knowing you’re on display and still actively spending every waking minute collecting adult experience points. It’s a perfect gigglefest. A little cliché, maybe, with the ridiculous house parties, enough nerds to fill both chess club and the academic decathlon, and some seriously pimped out school facilities with staff that do not care a wink – but it’s what the world imagines every American high school looks like. Away with the metal detectors and bring on more hand-painted banners.

Even if he is in nearly every scene, the story needs more Tom Holland. As the first teenager to play Peter Parker as a teenager, Holland brought it home and nailed it. Peter comes across as a total nerd somewhere in the realm of a matured kid from Stranger Things. He wants the training wheels off but Stark is determined to play the distant guardian and weld them on for as long as possible. It’s magical; Peter finds a father-figure and Stark figures out fatherhood. Holland is somehow totally brilliant and captures the hilariously awkward teen moments with snapshots of absolute, honest terror. I trust that Spider-man will science the ship out of that situation and save the innocents, but I’m also petrified that he’ll scrape his knee on the hero landing or asphyxiate at the bottom of that lake. He may be near-indestructible, but pin 15-year-old Peter under a slab of concrete and things get real. You know they’ve built a good character when he’s someone you equally want to flamboyantly high-five, negotiate a hostage situation, and swaddle in a crocheted blankie.

Spider-man: Homecoming is definitely on the high-spectrum of fun Marvel movies. It’s a good laugh, honestly innocent, and peppered with little surprises. The effects keep getting better but some moments were a little too much for easy viewing. When the human spider and the mechanical vulture are climbing the pixelated airplane zooming through the midnight clouds with sparks and live wires flapping in the breeze and smoke sporadically blocking the scene, it gets a little tough to tell what’s what. Too many flashes, explosions, and projectiles make it difficult to say if Spider-man is swallowed by the engine or just got his foot stuck in the blades. Too many effects are like too many snakes. Sometimes less is more.

It’s a bit of a thick summer for Marvel movies, but Disney is trying to warm the market up before the grand release of Avengers: Infinity Wars. Plus, Spider-man and Thor (coming this fall) are so different we may as well put a hamster next to a hippo and teach them Peter’s secret handshake. I followed along with Spider-man: Homecoming generally laughing most of the way but also feeling the fear and the surprise at all the page-turning tidbits. It’s a name-dropping good time that begs you to marathon the previous Marvel enterprise so you can really taste the blueberry in this PB&J sandwich. Spider-man: Homecoming is the dawn of a bright new Peter Parker. Let’s just keep the punk-emo Venom out of it for a while. It’s an 8/10.

“There’s a little grey area in there and that’s where you operate.”

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