Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

A bland title character shifts the interest to the villains

Keeping up with the reboots of Spider-Man can be difficult. The comic book character has joined the Avengers cinematic universe based on Marvel comic book characters. Tom Holland now plays the title character in the new version, Spider-Man: Homecoming. He is the third actor to play the part since 2002, in the latest of three series.

Holland appeared briefly in Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Spider-Man: Homecoming picks up the storyline a short while later, with Tony Stark / Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.) still mentoring the high-school aged Peter Parker, who lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) in Queens, New York.

Much of the action takes place in high school, with bullying and shy romance taking a prominent place. This is set against a world where villains are trying to use new technology to commit large-scale crimes.

Parker is rather unpopular in school, while in his spare time he dresses up in a costume that Stark Industries made for him and fight crime. But he isn't a full-fledged member of the Avengers, and that weighs heavily on his young soul. He laments that many people in his school love Spider-Man, but don't know it is him.

While most of the episodes of the Marvel comic book universe have had a good blend of action, drama and comedy, this latest one drags considerably. The scenes set in high school offer nothing new, and are rather a tedious bore. The shy student gets bullied and harassed, while he hangs out with one nerdy friend and secretly has a crush on one of the prettiest girls in school. And as the title hints, there is a big school homecoming dance that is central to the story. There are some moments that deliver, such as a school trip, but overall this plotline a letdown.

On the crime fighting side, things are a bit better. Spider-Man tries to stop petty neighborhood crime, often to comic effect as he sometimes gets it wrong. Eventually he stumbles on to a real villain, Vulture (Michael Keaton).

Keaton is an underrated actor, and he has been in comic book films before. He was Batman in the 1989 version directed by Tim Burton, and the 1992 sequel Batman Returns. Often Keaton is cast in comedic roles, but he is better at characters with a dark edge.

But Keaton's strength as a nemesis just goes to point out Tom Holland's blandness as Spider-Man. He doesn't have enough going on to make it credible that he is hero leading a double life. While he is supposedly a genius, he never projects any aura of intelligence. He seems rather blank. Tobey Maguire did much better in the role in three films directed by Sam Raimi between 2004 and '07.

The plot also is a bit on the weak side, something more suited to a B-movie than one of the biggest films of the summer. There are a few surprises, especially later in the film, but not enough to fully redeem the earlier missteps.

The sporadic presence of Robert Downey Jr. keeps the film from being a complete disaster, and a few short scenes with Marisa Tomei also help. Expanding her role would help the Spider-Man series quite a bit.

With this new reboot of Spider-Man being a bit of a disappointment compared to the other Avenger series films, that leaves Wonder Woman from rival comic book universe DC as the action hit of the summer.

As with all of the Marvel films stay for the credits to see a few hints at future developments.

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