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Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

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Score: 4/10

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 13 min.

Release Date: July 7th, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jon Watts Actors: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Martin Starr

F

or the first time in his own theatrical adventure, Spider-Man is part of the Marvel cinematic universe, which places him in a world where the Avengers are a constant reality. This means, of course, that aliens and gods and outrageously advanced technology are entrenched in day-to-day activities. Perhaps mimicking real life, average people still don’t have access to many of these things – though 15-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has his web-slinging apparatuses, a powerful costume, and the formula for web fluid.

So too does Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who has made a living from salvaging exotic alien materials. But when the newly formed Department of Damage Control (an offshoot of Tony Stark’s vast business empire) takes over Toomes’ contracts, it puts a strain on the blue-collar-worker’s ability to provide for his employees and his family. Curiously, the people he looks out for never seem to be in need of his caretaking – nor does his eight years of collecting and modifying alien artifacts (a passing span of time shown via a subtitle) result in millions of dollars, like it should. He’s generally depicted as a common thug, sending his henchmen out to sell weapons on the street (for undisclosed yet presumably small sums of money), despite the obvious, incredible wealth that that exact exploitation of technology has afforded Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). What this life of petty crime does inspire is a supervillain – complete with a jetpack device shaped like vulture wings. Keaton once again plays himself (a likable yet recognizable persona), this time intermittently hidden behind a mechanical suit – not unlike numerous other superheroes and supervillains who sport metallic armor and dexterous appendages.

Meanwhile, Peter heads to Berlin to hang with the Avengers, resulting in yet another subtitle to show that more time has passed – now a mere two months. Pretending to be consumed by a Stark company internship, Peter spends his time donning his Spider-Man costume to thwart bike thieves, carjackers, and bank robbers, or even just to help old ladies cross the street. He longs for some sort of recognition or celebrity status, particularly as the Avengers seem not to have a use for him, while his handler/liaison (Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan) can’t be bothered with answering his phone calls.

When he’s not out fighting crime, Peter attempts to woo the girl of his dreams, Liz (Laura Harrier). And so the film injects some high school shenanigans into all the regular sequences of action, giving Parker opportunities to dwell on the big dance, how to impress girls, and ways to keep the people close to him from finding out about his alter ego. He is, after all, the youngest of the theatrical Spider-Man iterations. And, since Peter is already Spider-Man, the movie wastes no time setting up his origins – though it does go to considerable lengths to reiterate the practice necessary to hone his skills. He’s not instantly a superhero; he has to learn to be one through clumsy trials and errors.

Unfortunately, this process is overly familiar and quite redundant. Like a true Avenger, he destroys plenty of property, and soars across the tops of buildings with unconvincing, featherlike weight and significant speed – making use of computer animation better suited for an exaggerated endeavor like “The Incredibles” or “Despicable Me” rather than a live-action thriller. This visual silliness is further tarnished by copious comic relief, brandished not only by the lead characters but also by an assortment of supporting parts that serve no other purpose than to crack jokes. Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), high school acquaintances Michelle (Zendaya) and Flash (Tony Revolori), sidekick Ned (Jacob Batalon), a gun buyer (Donald Glover), a gym teacher (Hannibal Buress), an academic decathlon coach (Martin Starr), and even the Spider-Man suit-lady A.I. (Jennifer Connelly) do nothing but provoke extra laughs. Plus, many of the downtime scenarios are also just occasions for embarrassment – such as a house party or Peter’s continual mentions of his friendships with the Avengers.

“I’m sick of them treating me like a kid all the time!” Working as a lone rogue to prove himself worthy of his superpowers, Parker follows the same path as countless superheroes before him. He acts recklessly, hotheadedly, and imprudently, making serious mistakes and disappointing his loved ones. Bound by upsetting limitations of severity, however, he never has to worry about accidentally killing people, even though many of the action scenes would surely incur casualties. Innocent bystanders simply refuse to die. As a result, these sequences contain no real suspense; it’s difficult to generate tension when injury and death are nonexistent. Additionally, Spider-Man never really even bleeds – a concept notably absent from the chaotic climax, which involves bone-crunching mayhem that inflicts only a few scrapes and smudges. Pairing this invincibility with a plot that is so terribly formulaic means that even the appropriately punchy parting shot isn’t enough to stop this picture from being just one more forgettable, indistinguishable entry into the rapidly-growing collection of Marvel’s superhero extravaganzas.

– Mike Massie

 



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