15 years have passed since the movie adaptation frenzy of Marvel’s most popular comic books character, Spider-Man, began. Throughout the journey, we’ve discovered Tobey Maguire’s flat attempt to bring some flesh to the persona, followed by a charming, but too sketchy, interpretation from Andrew Garfield. Today, Sony Pictures (for whom this is the 3rd attempt to revive the franchise) and Disney are betting all they have on young actor Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming, a reboot aiming to shed new light on Spidey as he tries to get in the very exclusive team of superheroes, the Avengers.
The story – although it distances itself from the past films directed by Sam Raimi and Marc Webb – is pretty simple. After he momentarily played in the big leagues during the final events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker can’t get over the encounter and waits impatiently to hear from his new mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and be called back for another round. As he still struggles to control his superpowers, Parker decides to go after a bad guy with a scary agenda named Vulture (Michael Keaton) on his own to prove that, although he’s only 15, he’s not the irresponsible child Stark seems to think he is.
This all sounds like a pretty cool prelude to an action movie worthy of Marvel fans’ attention. But can Holland’s British appeal – and the fact that he’s only 21 (Maguire was 26 and Garfield 28 when they wore the costume for the first time) – in addition to a huge influence coming from all the previous blockbusters that explored the never-ending Marvel universe, be enough to make this not-so-new adaptation a chapter of the saga that lives up to our expectations? Well, the good news is that there seems to be hope.
A (slightly) re-invented franchise
Don’t expect another “origin story” with Spider-Man: Homecoming (“With great power comes great responsibility” and all the radioactive spider bite stuff). This time around we skip all those exposition details (everyone knows what happened by now) to jump directly to the part of Spider-Man’s self-discovery. Although some might find that the decision generates a feeling of incompletion, most think it makes for one of the many things the movie “gets right”.
And with a “perfect setup”, Homecoming is “just distinctive enough, in concept and execution, to connect and become a sizable hit” by introducing Holland as “a normal, awkward dude” who “maintains his springy, gee-whiz American energy without becoming tiresome, partly thanks to good comic timing.” “Where Garfield’s Peter Parker displayed a believable 21st-century angst, we return largely to the character’s wide-eyed roots with [the actor], whose performance is thoroughly winning.”
Moreover, the film’s racially diverse cast (Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Jacob Batalon,…) “makes this Spidey iteration something of a Marvel movie marvel.”
(And did we mention that Aunt May is now a very attractive Marisa Tomei who plays the character, “re-conceived from an elderly widow to younger surrogate-mom”?)
Too much Iron Man
What was originally probably a way to infuse some modernity to the mix by adding a few cool gadgets offered by “hovering father figure” Tony Stark quickly became the movie’s most frustrating aspect as it “distracts for the usual webslinging fun.” Now equipped with a suit featuring a feminine Siri voice and tones of tools that “can’t help but feel just a little too Iron Man-y”, poor Peter is “likely to be bickering with Suit Lady about the available options when he should be thrilling us with agility.”
While it is “fun to see him try to gain control over his capabilities”, “it’s hard to tell where the suit’s powers leave off and Peter’s begin – or […] if he even has power of his own.”
Michael Keaton is perfect as Vulture
From all the actors in the film, Michael Keaton is probably the most perfectly cast. Portraying “almost certainly the best Marvel villain since Loki”, “Keaton brings all the sinister, gnashing personality you could want to the role, though the movie should have given him more to do.”
Plus, choosing him to play a bad guy with wings post-Birdman seems like a “doubly wicked inside joke on what was already, post-Batman, a wicked inside cinematic joke.”
Best quotes from the reviews:
“The appeal of this particular Spider-Boy is all too basic: In his lunge for valor, he keeps falling, and he keeps getting up.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“Even those of us who regard the Marvel aesthetic as a plague on world cinema can find much in Spider-Man: Homecoming to be charmed by.” David Edelstein, Vulture
“A charming new lead only goes so far in a reboot that smells of corporate strategy.” John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter