The Bock’s Office: ‘Spider-Man’ — With great reboot comes great responsibility
July 14, 2017
Homework, acne, the lives of hundreds of innocent people at a time — not all teenagers have to worry about all three of these things, yet the hero of "Spider-Man: Homecoming" has all this on his plate and more still.
New York high-schooler Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has had a taste of excitement, and he's eager for a second helping.
The bright, spirited teen has friends in high places, thanks to a contact with Iron Man himself, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), the tech billionaire having supplied him with a super-suit that enhances his superpowers as the vigilante Spider-Man.
But, despite being brought on temporarily for adventures with The Avengers, Peter's role in saving the world has since been downgraded, as he's forced to be babysat by Stark's right-hand man, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).
Yet, that hasn't stopped him from patrolling the streets of Queens, doing what he can to keep folks safe from small-time crime, all while insisting he's ready for greater duties and doing his best to keep his double life a secret from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and his friends.
Peter's desire for something bigger comes true sooner than he expects when he runs afoul of a villain known as the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who boasts a flight suit and an arsenal of advanced weaponry used for a swift and silent crime wave across the city.
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Well, let's see what you've got, kid …
Holland makes a welcome return to the red and blue long johns after his pop-in in "Captain America: Civil War," now getting some well-earned time in the limelight. Spidey may be the Marvelite who's gone through the most movie revisions, yet the young actor gives us one of the better performances, all apologies to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
Holland not only shows us Peter Parker's wit and warmth, but also the less pleasant traits that come with his web-slinging alter ego, namely, his recklessness, as he often screws up in his do-gooding efforts and makes things worse.
Apprehending someone trying to break into his own car, not so bad.
Slicing the Staten Island Ferry in two? Well, good thing he has connections.
Downey, likewise, shows us a part of Iron Man we have yet to see, that of mentor to a fellow science nerd who doesn't always think things through but has a good heart.
That said, maybe you could have let the boy stick with his hoodie ensemble rather than giving him an untested suit with limitless power.
Keaton may not fit the comics profile of the man known as Adrian Toomes, the decrepit inventor who's been terrorizing Peter since the beginning, but he still works as an average Joe who's built up a small empire thanks to alien machinery he happened to get his hands on after a previous superhero kerfuffle.
Fewer feathers on his outfit is worth the satisfaction of seeing him go from Batman to Birdman to an amalgam of the two.
Speaking of de-aging, it's weird, to say the least, to have a version of Aunt May who's flirted with by every male character who's not related to her, not to say Tomei doesn't do a fine job.
As for Peter's classmates, it's a breath of fresh air to see he's not the only one on campus OK being a bit of a dork. His co-stars include Jacob Batalon as best pal and closest confidant Ned, Laura Harrier as driven love interest Liz and Tony Revolori as tormentor Flash Thompson, morphed from jerky jock to douchey DJ.
Then, of course, there's Zendaya, as moody outcast MJ. No, not that MJ.
The backdrop of high school is one that sets apart Spider-Man from most of the other big Marvel names in print, and unlike the prior film versions, the youthfulness of the title comes through better than ever, partly because its lead isn't pushing 30, and also thanks to the light-hearted approach by director and co-writer Jon Watts.
Having six people on a writing crew can be alarming, yet Watts and company make a cohesive addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Sony submits to getting it done right alongside Marvel Studios.
Maybe take a hint with "Fantastic Four," 20th Century Fox?
While we don't need an origin tale for a third time, the writing team does stumble a bit by focusing less on the wallcrawler's journey and more on an overabundance of supporting players who serve primarily as inside jokes.
Shocker, we hardly knew ye.
This doesn't diminish the fun to be had from the latest Spidey escapade, but going forward, let's remember that this world is a delicate web that can only support so much.
Don't forget about "Spider-Man 3."
It doesn't play up the drama as much as its predecessors did, and maybe that's why "Homecoming" works as it is — a zippy entry in a summer surrounded by pleasant-not-phenomenal comic book features.
If only they'd had PSAs by Captain America when we were in high school.
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