Sunday, 16 July 2017

"Hybrid Puppies" — Spider-Man: Homecoming

The most recent movie about Spider-Man (one simply must include that hyphen) was the truly dreadful Amazing Spider-Man 2 back in 2014. I wrote about it here and, trust me, I wasn't happy.  

So my guard was well and truly up when the new Spidey franchise came scuttling into cinemas everywhere. 

But a friend told me the movie was good — great, actually — so I decided to give it a chance and see it that very day.    

I recently discussed, in connection with Wonder Woman, how comic book film are best made as period pieces. Well, Spider-Man: Homecoming (unwieldy title, but I guess they had to call it something) blithely ignores that dictum.   

It's set in modern day New York city, and indeed that's one of its strengths. The movie draws on a realistic — but very funny — view of urban high-school life.  

And it is great.  

Besides the period piece thing, the other really useful piece of advice if you ever find yourself making a comic book film is do not do an origin story. And, blissfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming does follow this path.  

It plunges us straight into the teenage world of Peter Parker, coping with adolescence and mutant spider powers.

Parker is played by British actor Tom Holland (he was one of the voices on the phone in the magnificent Locke). Holland is splendid, just perfect.  

However, he's not alone. Let me pass quickly over Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man — no hyphen for him), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan) and even Marisa Tomei, as Peter's aunt May. They're all fine...  

But more impressive is the teen cast: Laura Harrier as Peter's love interest Liz (actually 26, not a teen at all, but perfect casting) and Zendaya — with great hair — as class rebel Michelle (she has a wonderful line about the Washington monument being built by slaves).

Then there's Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter's chubby nerd best friend, who becomes Spider-Man's assistant with a computer, or 'the guy in the chair' as Ned calls it.     

Yet we still haven't got to the finest performer in the film. It's Michael Keaton as the bad guy. Yes, I know. Michael Keaton has been through the movie mill for so long that it didn't seem he had any surprises left.   

But this is his best role ever, and he's wonderful. And that isn't the only surprise in this film...   

Because Spider-Man: Homecoming features a brilliant twist, something which I really didn't see coming, and which remains an enduring joy whenever I think of it.  

What a dazzling movie. It is directed by Jon Watts, who also gets a screenplay credit.     

And that list of screenplay credits is extensive: six writers, consisting of three pairs of teams — each with an ampersand.         

The top credit is given to Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley, who interestingly specialise in comedies (e.g. Horrible Bosses). 

Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers also have a strong comedy pedigree (The Lego Batman Movie and the TV show American Dad). 

Whereas Jon Watts & Christopher Ford have written some comedies but have a stronger track record in horror and crime thrillers (Clown, Cop Car, both of which were directed by Watts).       

The comedy influence is strong, and Spider-Man: Homecoming (I'm getting so tired of typing that dumb title) is outstanding fun. 

But it also really delivers the thrills — there's a devastating scene featuring the Staten Island ferry — and it has suspense and, as I said, surprises.  

Not quite up to the standards of the peerless Wonder Woman, but this is an exceptional comic book movie and one of the most agreeable summer block busters. Give it a spin.

(Image credits: posters, including a rather clever triptych, are from Imp Awards.)

1 comment:

  1. I was going to avoid this until it came out on video, because of the recent mediocre Spider-Man movies, but I might have to give it a try, now.

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