Spider-Man Comes Home to Teens

Spider-Man Homecoming poster.jpg

3 stars

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be the Marvel’s Spider-Man you were expecting.  And the homecoming part is really about a high school homecoming event complete with a dance where you get to invite your favorite girl.  All of this is because Peter Parker, our young Spidey (played by Tom Holland), is a 15 year-old nerd still in high school and with a not-so-secret crush on a much taller classmate and fellow geek, Liz (Laura Harrier).

While it might be helpful from a historical perspective to have seen other Marvel films that have their roots in this film, it really isn’t necessary to have been a witness to these films to enjoy this movie.  But just so you are not left completely in the dark, there is a climactic scene in the 2012 The Avengers where some space aliens left New York City in ruins and abandoned a lot of ultra-tech weaponry.   Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a salvage contractor, gets edged out of the business by a company owned by Tony Stark (Ironman/Robert Downey, Jr.).  Old feelings die hard, and Toomes takes revenge by becoming a high-tech arms dealer and flying villain, the Vulture.  It also helps if you have seen Holland’s Spidey debut in “Captain America: Civil War.” Even without these movies in your library, you will get the picture without having seen the pictures.

Our friend Peter Parker is an ordinary high school kid, except for the fact that he is an intern with Stark Enterprises, a kind of Avenger apprentice, whose dream is to become a real member of the Avenger team.  Peter is certain that if he can just show his prowess as a major crime-fighter (not merely “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”) that Tony Stark will give him a permanent place on the hero roster.  Alas, Stark has appointed Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) as Peter’s keeper (sort of an off-site baby sitter).  Neither Peter nor Happy is pleased with this relationship.

Peter Parker has a bunch of equally nerdy friends, the equivalent of modern day Whiz Kids, as adept with trivia answers as with the intricacies of web applications (no pun intended).  Peter’s closest friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) learns of Peter’s secret superhero identity and wants nothing more than to blab it to the entire community, but Peter is able to keep Ned’s enthusiasm in check.  Following a thwarted ATM robbery, Peter picks up an abandoned weapon created by Toomes.  He and Ned manage to withdraw the secret glowing element from the weapon and Ned puts it into his backpack.

Spider-Man comes across a would-be black market arms sale to a local hoodlum (Donald Glover) and, through Ned’s crafty computer skills, manages to identify the arms dealers.  Still bent on thwarting a would-be crime, Peter and Ned discover there may be pending sale of arms which they track to a ferry in Maryland.  Peter, as Spider-Man, botches the job and the ferry is split in half when the arms materials show their volatility.  Ironman saves the day and again admonishes Peter for his interference and takes away Peter’s high-tech Spider-Man suit.  Some other stuff happens involving the Washington Monument and saving his classmates.  But you’ll want to see that on your own and figure out what might happen next.  All the action in fun.

This is not a typical Marvel movie because it is so focused on Peter the 15 year-old and all the stuff that goes on in this nerdy high school along with all the really bad decisions that teens often make.  Ned is a great comic character and so is Michelle (Zendaya) who has all the really snarky lines in the movie.  Too bad we didn’t see more of her.  There are cameo appearances by a number of well-known Hollywood actors:  Marisa Tomei plays Peter’s legal guardian Aunt May who is touted by neighbors as the sexy aunt; Bokeem Woodbine plays bad man Shultz; Tyne Daly plays the head of the Stark clean-up crew; Gwyneth Paltrow appears as Pepper Pots, a maybe love interest of Tony Stark; Hannibal Burress is Coach Wilson; and Kenneth Choi is Principal Morita.  Some of these names may have you scratching your head, but when you see these characters on screen you will know you’ve seen them before.

This movie is a refreshing break from other Marvel films.   With the exception of a tiny bit of language, this is a fun family film, and Holland’s performance is pleasantly reminiscent of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly  in “Back to the Future.” This is a movie destined for a lot of home DVD libraries.

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