Breezy ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ swings to teen comedy beats

 

In high school, I daydreamed about having superpowers. If I’d gotten them, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” tells the story of what I think my life would’ve been like.

Sophomore Peter Parker (Tom Holland) gazes longingly at the classroom clock, waiting for the bell to ring so he can race out of class and put his relatively new superpowers to work. He’s a teenager trying to reach his full potential and impress a girl he’s crushing on. Like most teenagers, he’s pretty bad at both.

 

No filler, no origin story

 

“Spider Man: Homecoming” takes place alongside the events of last year’s “Captain America: Civil War” and quickly covers the background of Spider-Man’s time in that film before Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) drop him back at Aunt May’s with an upgraded suit.

As Marvel promised, we skip a lot of Spider-Man territory from previous films. We don’t see Peter Parker bitten by a radioactive spider. It’s already happened. Uncle Ben’s name never comes up. Yes, the “great power with great responsibility” mantra still applies. But it’s covered more in actions than in words.

Instead, the story focuses on Parker’s journey, with the young Spider-Man saving people about as much as he puts them in more danger. One minute he’s stopping a bike theft, the next he’s mistakenly attacking a man trying to break into his own car.

 

Stark and Hogan only offer minimal oversight. Unlike last year’s “Civil War,” in which Stark played a sizable role, Stark and Hogan only seem to appear so they can chide Parker when he makes mistakes. It’s unsurprising Parker is screwing up as a new superhero, but I did find it jarring to see both men give Parker a long leash and act surprised when he breaks it.

For me, someone who isn’t as familiar with the Iron Man films, the separation was fine because it means the film doesn’t require too much knowledge of the larger Marvel universe. From a story perspective, though, it’s puzzling. Both men assert themselves as mentors to Parker, but neither makes the time.

And you know what? Forget ’em. Parker’s world and cast of characters are far more interesting anyway.

 

Spidey’s super world

 

New York City’s represented here, with bodegas, above-ground subways, alleyways, the Staten Island Ferry, Coney Island and even horrific traffic all part of this adventure.

Parker’s younger-feeling Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), while just as nurturing as the older depiction in previous movies, is considerably more involved in her nephew’s life despite being in the dark about his little Spidey secret. She clearly wants to play a direct part in Parker’s life by offering social advice and getting him to parties. And like a protective parent, she’s not crazy about the danger that often comes with an Avengers lifestyle.

Parker’s best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) helps push Parker to ask out academic star Liz (Laura Harrier) and helps him avoid prodding by class clown Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori). Parker and Leeds also enjoy strange yet hilarious interactions with eccentric classmate Michelle (Zendaya), who often pops up to deliver comic relief in the form of one-liners. These high school moments take on a very ’80s, “Breakfast Club” feeling while staying grounded in the drone-flying, YouTube-watching present.

 

Leeds also becomes Parker’s superhero sidekick, helping him in the movie’s quest to stop Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) from weaponizing and selling alien technology from the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

Keaton’s Toomes, otherwise known as the Vulture, is one of the most well-developed villains in the MCU. The movie takes great pains to show his actions aren’t selfishly motivated, even if the ends don’t justify the means. Toomes and Parker also have an amazing scene that made the entire theater gasp. I can’t tell you any more than that.

 

A unique spot

 

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” occupies a unique place in the Marvel movie universe. Despite Peter Parker being a well-known character, this is his first solo adventure in the MCU as overseen by Disney’s Marvel Studios. For Sony, which will continue to produce these Spider-Man films, “Homecoming” launches its own corner of the Marvel movie universe that includes next year’s “Venom” starring Tom Hardy.

Thankfully, “Homecoming” can stand alone and doesn’t feel weighed down by that responsibility. Going forward, I hope the next Tom Holland Spider-Man film doesn’t get burdened by this burgeoning universe (a criticism levied against 2014’s “The Amazing Spider Man 2” when Sony tried to launch a universe off Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man).

Taken on its own, “Homecoming” is a breath of fresh air.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” will be out in Australia on July 6, then in the US and UK on July 7.

 

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