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Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming takes risks, and most of them pay off.

New superhero flick does good by mixing action and comedy.

! Warning ! There may be Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers below!

I may be in the minority, but I really loved Andrew Garfield’s take on Spider-Man. When things went south for the third Spider-Man flick featuring him, I was bummed. How would Tom Holland do in his role of Spider-Man in a full-length film? As much as I loved Garfield in the role of Spider-Man, I’m happy to say that Holland truly knocks it out of the park.

The thing that separates Homecoming from past silver screen renditions of Spider-man is the same thing that made Wonder Woman a delight to watch at the cinema this summer: a healthy dose of comedy among all the action. Both Amazing Spider-Man flicks were intense and brooding, and it’s nice that Homecoming throws all that to the side to focus on being a fun rollercoaster of a romp.

The first half of the film is all about being as light-hearted and joyous as possible. I’d dare say some scenes could’ve been reigned in and tried not so hard, but Homecoming still accomplishes its mission for laughs. The dynamic between Peter Parker (Holland) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) is great, albeit at times cringeworthy, usually on the part of the awestruck Ned finding wonder in all the things his friend goes through as Spider-Man. Sure, Peter’s web slinging and fighting bad guys may be awe-inspiring, but Ned’s gasp of “Aweeeesome!!” when he finds out Peter almost died is just groan-inducing.

Any time the film tries to go for that shtik (and it tries multiple times) it tends to fall flat. Homecoming has real humor in its pop culture references, specifically the types of memes and gifworthy reactions you’d find on Facebook and Twitter. A running gag of the school’s announcement show in particular is funny, with Angourie Rice as the hilarious straight-faced Betty.

Holland flies through the film as if he were born Spider-Man. Director John Watts is not aiming for an angsty Spider-Man dealing with the hard life of a teenager, and I doubt Holland would fit that bill if that’s what the movie was going after. Holland’s Peter Parker is truly a class clown, always with a mischievous smirk and lovable glint in his eye.

Peter faces a lot of conflict in the film, and the screentime given to his disputes does a good job of showing all that Spider-Man is capable of doing. The real conflict is rightfully saved for the climax of the film, even if there is some pacing issues that’ll leave you wondering ‘Is this it?’ The redundancy of the mini-battles Peter has with Vulture (Michael Keaton) and his cronies trying to sell illegal alien weaponry leaves the final confrontation at a disadvantage. Thankfully, there’s a plot twist involving Peter, his love interest, and Vulture that manages to heighten tension somewhat. However, it’s still called Spider-Man: Homecoming, so even with the twist there’s little surprise that Spider-Man wins and his dilemma with his love interest is quickly wrapt up and swept under the rug.

Speaking of Peter’s love interest, Laura Harrier does a fine job portraying Liz. Peter is really a lovestruck puppy in this film, and Liz knows it. Harrier strikes the perfect balance in her role, making it truly believable that Peter would find her oblivious to his affection, even when she knows and encourages him from the very start.

On the schoolyard, Peter’s main nemesis is ‘Flash,’ (Tony Revolori.) When a guy gives you the nickname ‘Penis Parker,’ it’s hard to like him, and as the film is ascending to its climax and Spider-Man commandeers Flash’s ride to homecoming, proceeding to make it nothing more than scrap metal, there’s a real sense of satisfaction as the school bully gets what’s coming to him. Revolori makes Flash the unlikable, sneering and disgusting bully that he is; quite the opposite of Parker.

As for the film’s main villain, Keaton as Vulture works, but not to the degree of past Spider-Man incarnations. Other than wielding otherworldly tech, Vulture is a bit of a wimp of a villain in this film. This version of Adrian Toomes is not the ruthless killer many would expect. It’s likely this was a calculated decision by Watts to keep the mood of the film rather light, but it still leaves this incarnation of Spider-Man’s first big villain feeling rather underwhelming. Scenes between Vulture and Spider-Man lack any real tension, and there’s never really a sense of worry that Vulture will bring about the demise of Spider-Man. Even when it’s revealed that Toomes knows that Peter is Spider-Man, there’s not much to worry about in the way of retribution.

In scenes featuring Spider-Man vs. Vulture, much of the tension comes from Spider-Man seemingly defying death. Sure, superhero movies often rely on putting their main character in situations the average person couldn’t get out of, but Homecoming seems to have both a death wish on Peter Parker, all the while giving him near godlike invincibility.The crazy ass-kickings Spider-Man gets from Vulture’s cronies tossing him into buildings and dragging him around attached to their van are somewhat believable when Peter bounces back with relative ease. Spider-Man getting lodged in the engine of an airborne plane, trapped under a building, falling from unbelievable heights and getting up with just a little scratch on his face and proceeding to run through some fire? Not quite as believable.

Maris Tomei has limited screen time as Aunt May, but she utilizes every second she appears to steal the scene. This is a much different take on May Parker than Sally Field had, and Aunt May’s attractiveness is played up, with a local shop owner remarking how good looking she is along with a waiter offering her free food in attempts to flirt. Perhaps one of the best scenes in the film comes at the very end when May finds Peter in his Spider-Man suit. The film cuts to the credits with a hilarious “What the f….?!” Homecoming spent the first half of its runtime focusing on humor, and after the intense ending, it was nice to see the humor come around again to close out the film.

I hope it’s safe to say that the Spider-Man sequel will feature Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) less prevalently. Don’t get me wrong, Downey Jr. and Holland have a fantastic on-screen rapport. Scenes between the two are some of the film’s best. Downey Jr. allows young Holland to flex his acting muscles in a scene where Spider-Man is upset about not being able to apprehend Vulture’s cronies. Stark takes back his gift of a new and improved Spidey suit, much to the chagrin of Parker.

Still though, Iron Man’s influence over Spider-Man becomes a bit daunting. Stark even refers to himself as a father figure for Peter. The problem is, when your ‘dad’ is Iron Man, there’s little need to worry when conflict presents itself. Except for the final battle, much of Homecoming is spent with Peter getting himself into a sticky situation to find Iron Man miraculously swooping in to save the day. It begins to feel like an offense to Spider-Man being able to predict that Iron Man will be right around the corner to get him out of trouble. A sequel should distance the two and focus on Spider-Man establishing himself as the full-fledged hero he is.

The one major contribution Iron Man offered to Spider-Man in this film was a modernized suit featuring an AI that Peter nicknames ‘Karen’ (voiced by Jennifer Connelly.) This is in the first half of the film and is done with humor as Peter fails to grasp all that his suit can truly do. As quickly as Peter gets the hang of it, Stark revokes the suit, and it’s not seen again during the film. Expect this to be a highlight of future films now that Peter knows all that he’s capable of and Karen needs no introduction.

Despite feeling at times like it should be titled Iron Man Meets Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Homecoming does a good job to introduce Peter Parker into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and set its hero up to shine on his own in future films. Holland brings such unbelievable joy and humor to his role, matched only be Zendaya as Michelle — Peter’s likely love interest in films to come. All in all, Homecoming is a good introduction film that establishes what it needs to, but it still could’ve been better. Its humor is its saving grace, because its easy to forgive the film for not living up to its utmost potential when its end result is so fun, carefree and enjoyable.

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Written by Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett is the creator and editor of POParazzi. He works primarily in Washington, DC. You can contact him at sam@poparazzi.org and visit his portfolio at sam-bennett.com.

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