By Bob Garver
For most of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” I didn’t see why the movie was getting so much praise from critics. I didn’t like Tom Holland’s take on Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, I was underwhelmed by the villain Vulture (Michael Keaton), I was annoyed by almost all of Peter’s friends and classmates, and the action, development, and conflicts were completely standard for the superhero genre. In fact, they were overly familiar because we’ve had so many Spider-Man movies already and we have a good idea of how the character operates. Then something happened around the two-thirds mark that added another dimension to the Spider-Man/Vulture feud. It completely turned me around, and from that point on, the film could do practically no wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable going into this twist out of concern for spoilers, but please know that I’m higher on this film than what I let on in the rest of this review.
My biggest problem with this movie is Tom Holland. He has a voice that sounds like he’s constantly whining, even when he’s happy. I know the justification is that kids his age tend to be whiny and he’s just making him “realistic,” but would it kill this movie to make its hero more tolerable so I wouldn’t wish his mouthless mask would impair his ability to speak? Though one compliment I will throw Holland is that he’s the one Peter Parker who can pass for a high school student. Sorry, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, I can tell you’re both past your college years.
Yes, Peter Parker is a high school student again in this movie, even though there is plenty of source material where he’s an adult. We get the requisite gags where he has to juggle high school drama and his duties as Spider-Man. He’s not afraid to take on armed robbers, but he’s terrified of asking out his crush (Laura Harrier). He wants to impress Avengers leader Tony Stark, but he’s worried about letting down his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei). And the high school storyline means we get high school stock characters, like an awkward best friend (Jacob Batalon), a secretly-jealous bully (Tony Revolori), and a rebellious weirdo (Zendaya). The movie gives these characters more than enough screen time to steal the show, but they ultimately add very little. I say let’s have less of them and more of Oscar winner Tomei. She does in fact steal the movie with a two-and-a-half-word line at the end.
Another problem with this movie is that Adrian Toomes aka Vulture is weak villain for such an important chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie should have a supervillain who wants to take over the world, or kill a mass of people, or at least settle a deeply personal dispute. Instead we get junk salvager who sells weapons because the Avengers’ antics kept him from making an honest living. Stark could have solved this problem by writing him a check. He’s greedy and foolish too, he has plenty of chances to quit while he’s ahead and he keeps pressing on even though his cover is blown. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad character in terms of motivation or development, he’s just not ambitious or dangerous enough to be the primary antagonist.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” was on track for a one-and-a-half-star rating for roughly its first hour, but then Peter met up with his date for Homecoming and suddenly everything improved: the characters became more interesting, the atmosphere became more tense, even the jokes got funnier. This is a movie where patience pays off. And since this is a Marvel movie, you should also be patient enough to wait until the end of the credits. You’ll never laugh harder at a movie for ripping you off.
Two and a Half Stars out of Five.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language, and brief suggestive comments. Its running time is 133 minutes.
Bob Garver is the movie critic for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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