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‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ – More Jester Than Hero

The latest Spider-Man reboot feels like “The Greatest American Hero: The Motion Picture.”

The ’80s TV caper followed a superhero who couldn’t fly straight but still saved the day. The hero in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” can spin a web, any size, but he’s lost when it comes to the nuances of crime fighting.

Believe it or not.

It leads to more laughs than most big-screen comedies and a genuine sense of purpose. Turns out we do need another Spider-Man film, so long as it’s handled with as much humor as “Homecoming” delivers.

Too bad the film stumbles when it’s time to fight the villain du jour.

Tom Holland is Peter Parker, that kid with the radioactive spider blood coursing through his veins. He’s just as, “aw, shucks” humble as in his 2016 debut via “Captain America: Civil War.

In fact, “Homecoming” opens with Peter’s video diary of that film’s epic fight scene. That’s such a clever way to introduce the new Web Slinger you’ll gawk at its ingenuity.

The film’s vibrant sense of humor is just warming up.

Our conflicted hero isn’t the cocky guy we met in five previous films. He’s a rookie getting professionally hazed by Iron Man himself, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Only Peter wants off his Stark-approved leash, held here by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).

Peter has everything you need to be a full-time crime fighter. He just needs some seasoning. But can he handle a new menace brought to life by Michael Keaton before his education is complete?

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a top-flight comedy that stalls whenever the villain enters the frame. Seems impossible when that villain looks like an older, wiser Bruce Wayne, right?

Once again, a superhero film can’t deliver a villain for the ages. Keaton’s character, a vengeful construction boss who becomes The Vulture, never demands our attention. And, like poor Willem Dafoe in the 2002 “Spider-Man,” he’s hidden behind a villainous mask for much of the movie.

Just plain dumb.

The Vulture’s backstory underwhelms just like his costume. He’s a working stiff who gets shafted by government bureaucracy. So he fights back, embracing a bloodthirsty persona along the way. That’s a stretch even for a comic book adventure.

michael keaton vulture spider-man homecoming
The great Michael Keaton is given little to do as The Vulture in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Spidey’s supporting cast proves far more engaging. Jacob Batalon’s Ned is Peter’s best buddy, a chum who inadvertently learns his pal’s alter ego. Their chemistry is so good it eclipses Peter’s bond with a local stunner (Laura Harrier, “The Last Five Years”).

Let’s talk about “Homecoming’s” color-blind casting. The new film offers up an aggressive brand of diversity, giving nearly every secondary character to a person of color. That’s smart given the story’s Queens setting. It still comes across as manufactured, a chance to appease social critics deriding Hollywood’s diversity woes.

RELATED: Is Marvel’s Diversity Push Crush Its Brand?

There’s no quibbling about the new fella under the red and blue tights.

Holland is so refreshing as Peter Parker thoughts of his predecessors quickly fade to black. At 21, he’s more authentically young than even the baby-faced Tobey Maguire, fitting in effortlessly in the movie’s high school sequences.

FAST FACT: Tom Holland survived a grueling audition process to play the new Spider-Man, coming out on top of 1,500 fellow actors hungry for the role.

The film’s wicked humor flashes throughout the story. We see dry instructional videos from Captain America himself (Chris Evans). The old-school “Spider-Man” theme song from the ’60s cartoon gets cleverly inserted into the film’s opening moments.

And any time Downey’s Tony Stark appears the laughs will follow.

“Homecoming” even nails what it’s like to be young, in love and empowered by a radioactive spider. You’d wear your superhero costume to a teen party, too, if you were trying to impress your crush. It’s a shame Holland and Harrier have so little chemistry, though.

It’s too late to complain that Aunt May 3.0 (Marisa Tomei) doesn’t fit the character’s comic book description. Still, her interplay with Holland is one of the film’s sublime perks.

We’ve already watched two excellent web slinger films (“Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man 2”). The 2012 reboot featured a top-notch hero (thanks, Andrew Garfield) and some stirring action. Which leaves the question: why bother with yet another reboot?

Money, money money, of course.

Yet the more complete answer is even more obvious. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is on a roll, and Spidey remains an integral part of that realm. You never leave a man behind, let alone one with so much pop culture history.

Voila, yet another Spider-Man film. And a darn good one at that.

“Homecoming” still lacks the slam-bang action of recent Marvel hits. There’s no set piece you’ll watch over and again once the movie hits home video. It remains a shrewd way to bring the character back into vogue, hitting our funny bone so hard we forgive the project’s corporate necessity.

HiT or Miss: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” has humor, heart and a vlllain as forgettable as “Elektra,” “Supergirl” or “Catwoman.”

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7 Comments

  1. Not sure how you developed your thoughts about Michael Keaton as I thought he and his alter ego were quite effective as Peter/Spidey’s nemesis but other than that you’re spot on and I’m in complete agreement.

      1. Not really. Bane only used it as schtick to manipulate people’s prejudices whereas Keaton’s character actually lives it and feels it and it genuinely motivates him.

          1. Can’t really agree with that either. Unlike Hilary Bane is actually smart although they do use some similar tactics and I wouldn’t even apply a political analogy to Vulture. Seemed like just a guy. Wouldn’t particularly call him a Bernie anyhow since he seemed pretty realistic about what he wanted to achieve, in terms of the universe established anyway. Don’t think the analogies are too helpful in this case though.

          2. Depends how you classify working class people. Another reviewer characterized Vulture’s anti-elite rant as ‘Trumpian’, as in the kind of thing Trump followers believe.

            Ironically, it was probably very smart for the government to cancel the salvage contract and lock up all the alien tech pieces. They are dangerous!

  2. My kids enjoyed “Homecoming” more than I did. For me, it was pretty obvious that it was really a Miles Morales story, but with Peter Parker instead.

    I am more accustomed to an adult Spider-Man, the way he was for forty years in the original mainstream (616) “Amazing Spider-Man” comic books, prior the atrocious “One More Day” storyline ten years ago and consequently all current nonsensical “Amazing Spider-Man” comics.

    The notion that High School Spider-Man stories are better than the original run where 90% of Spider-Man stories have been of him as an adult is a fallacy, perpetrated by Sony and kid friendly Disney.

    “Homecoming” just took most of it’s ideas from Marvel’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” comic book series, culminating with Miles Morales eventually taking up the mantle. I’m calling it “Homecoming – Degrassi High” or “Spider-Boy – Fake Spider-Man”. It had its’ moments but it wasn’t Spider-Man, no not even close. It really should’ve been a Miles Morales film.

    Will Marvel Studios (NOT PHONY SONY), ever make a mature Spider-Man film with Peter Parker as an adult, the real Mary Jane, JJJ, Hobie Brown, and Robbie Robertson? Who knows, only time will tell.

    IMO, “Wonder Woman” was a better film.

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