Greg Eichelberger reviews "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017)

By: 
Greg Eichelberger
Film Critic

What a tangled web ...
Despite an almost unanimous verdict of many national film critics, the third reboot of the Marvel "Spider-Man" franchise (in 15 years) is a fun, well-made movie, but still takes a backseat to the original 2002 version (directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire).
That does not mean that this latest version, directed by "Cop Car" helmer Jon Watts (and enough writers to field a professional baseball team), does not satisfy an increasingly growing fanbase which cannot seem to wait for the next output from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and so soon after the release of the most recent "Guardians Of the Galaxy" effort) and is willing to overlook such things as a well-worn superhero plot and a bloated running time.
With a new lead actor, this time being Brit Tom Holland ("The Lost City Of Z," after making his Peter Parker/Spider-Man character bow in "Captain America: Civil War") who dutifully follows Maguire and Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield (both of whom were in their mid-20s, while Holland is just a baby - 20-years old), and the story gives us an almost entirely different backstory (gone is Uncle Ben, Mary Jane and terror from realistic threatening bullies), while the spider-biting scene is inferred but not seen.
Instead, Parker is still fairly unpopular, but is one of the smartest students in his New York City high school and a real joiner (a member of the band and the facility's academic decathlon team, although it's difficult to understand this amazing intelligence when he seemingly just watches cell phone videos of his "Civil War" exploits in class) living with his Aunt May (Oscar winner Marissa Tomei, "My Cousin Vinnie") and coming to grips with his superherodom.
He seemingly has just one friend, the flabby, but good-natured Ned (Jacob Batalon in his film debut) and falling in love with the beautiful and brainy Liz (Laura Harrier, "4th Man Out," but she's no Kirsten Dunst and certainly no Emma Stone, the last two Peter Parker infatuation figures).
Meanwhile, as he makes several funny attempts to contact Tony Stark/Iron Man's (Robert Downey, Jr., "Captain America: Civil War") flunky, the flustered Happy Hogan (former IM director Jon Favreau) to inquire if and WHEN he will be called back to participate in the next Avengers' mission — after his loyalty in "Civil War" as made complete with the gift of a multi-million dollar super spider suit.
Not receiving any answers, though, he is forced to stop petty offenses and even give old ladies directions.
Even as he succeeds as this small-time hero and friendly neighborhood Spidey, he yearns to make a difference. Here, Holland does a very good impersonation of an amazing athletic specimen trapped inside a prep school sophomore's somewhat frail body.
The goofy, gangly awkwardness continues when Peter confronts a gang robbing an ATM with a cache of deadly, hi-tech weapons. It turns out that the group was once a salvage team led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, "The Founder"), who is now the quasi-arch villain, The Vulture, who has grown rich building super guns from the first Avengers battle with aliens and their otherworldly scrap and selling them on the black market.
Of course, Spider-Man is beaten to a pulp, but nevertheless stops the robbery. In fact, this trend keeps up as he manages to thwart the Vulture and his minions again and again, and at the same time incurring the wrath of Tony Stark (who lectures the kid on his lack of training and maturity).
Only when the arachnid rescues his academic squad from a harrowing excursion to the Washington Monument does TS even stoop to offer any kind of compliment at all.
Later, however, when the web-slinger's attempt to trap the baddies on the Staten Island Ferry fails miserably, Tony duly chastises the youngster and even takes back the costume.
This, off course, gives Parker the opportunity to get back to basics and try and solve the problem without anyone's assistance.
A late (and some may say ridiculous) coincidence then takes place as a homecoming dance turns into a chance for Parker to pull off a "Maguire meets Defoe" first film showdown that falls disappointingly short in this edition.
And while Holland does give a fairly faithful depiction of a normal kid with spectacular powers,Tobey Maguire's portrayal was — for me, at least —more real and certainly much more of an emotional experience.
It does not negate the great CGI and appropriate and (somewhat conventional) battle sequences of "Homecoming," it was just an added dimension that made the 2002 version a bit more accessible for this reviewer.
Grade: B-

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