A John Hughes “Spider-Man” movie?
“Peter Parker’s Day Off”?
A very street-level view of the Avenger’s world? I kind of like that, because we are getting a view of larger events, humanized by the very best Spidey ever, the very first one who actually feels like a kid.
So…everyone knows the story, and it isn’t repeated verbatem in SPIDER MAN: HOMECOMING, thank goodness. There are enough clues around the edges that tell us this is the same universe we’ve known for fifty-five years: kid was bitten by a radioactive spider. Gains powers. Uncle dies under circumstances that cause kid to take powers more seriously. Raised by his Aunt May. Check on all of that.
The difference is that THIS Spider-Man is fifteen years old, AND LOOKS IT. His concerns are changes in his body, his school status, and people hitting on his unusually attractive Aunt. It all works. There is absolutely no reason for Aunt May to be feeble–this is 2017, and fifty is the new thirty.
And at 15, I remember the big question being: where do I fit in the world? Who am I? And for a kid who can catch a car, that is part “will the girls ever dig me?” and part “can I hang out with Captain America?” and his road to that paradise is the mentorship of Tony Stark. This subplot works because we KNOW Tony is seriously messed up, with mommy/daddy issues that go marrow-deep (a conversation with Batman about such things would be SUCH a fascinating conversation, wouldn’t it? I mean…Tony’s parents died thirty or so years ago. He’s had a half-billion dollars in therapy, and still a mess. In contrast, T’Challa’s father died IN HIS ARMS, the thunder of the explosion still in his ears…and within a week he had his emotions under control. What a stud! Sorry. That BLACK PANTHER trailer was up there in IMAX 3D, and I kinda lost my shit.)
Anyway, Tony has an urge to mentor and protect, using Happy Hogan as go-between. Peter wants to be an Avenger, and letting that desire disrupt his schooling. Be an Avenger! Be a kid.
Those are the twin urges driving this movie, and both are followed well. If the problem is his powers, the answer lies in paying attention to the experiences happening along the Road of Trials, as he seeks to master his new Spider Suit (courtesy of Stark), solve little crimes, and then unravel a larger affair as a guy named Toomes, played wonderfully by Michael Keaton, becomes a blue-collar master criminal using salvaged Chitari tech.
Spidey has an opportunity to prove his value to Stark, and pushes every edge looking for loopholes in their verbal contract, chasing after Toomes, who is just trying to support his family, ultimately creating the most sympathetic villain this side of Winter Soldier.
The conversations about family, honor, responsibility, maturity and more feel like building UP from a coming-of-age story rather than “seeding” these concerns into a Superhero framework like sticking cloves in a ham…almost. Yeah, you can feel the Mighty Marvel Machine chugging along just off-screen, delivering the compulsary beats, but in the end, decisions are made that represent genuine change. Relationships end. Consequences are suffered. And loyalties and values tested.
Its strange to watch all of this happening. I was ten years old when Spider-Man first appeared, and he was the very first hero who felt like ME. When the movies came out, Tobey McGuire was enough younger than me that I was willing to squint and pretend I believed he was a high school kid. Well…Tom Holland feels like that original Spider-Man FELT when I was ten. A kid, like I was. Awkward, goofy, messy, still figuring it out.
Welcome Home, Spidey. Didn’t even realize how much I missed you. It wouldn’t be fair to measure this film by the standards of the Spider-Man geek in my heart. But for a standard moviegoer, just looking for entertainment, I think a “B+” does the job.
But in my heart…I am stunned with joy at what the Marvel Universe is creating, movies that can’t be measured on any real external scale any more than “Bond” movies can. Pointless to try. You’re either on that wavelength, or you aren’t.
Make Mine Marvel!