Spider-Man: Homecoming

Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - Exclusive to Fortune

In the newest of Spiderman reboots, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Marvel has gone to great heights to make the film truer to the comic books than previous reboots, according to Christian Tesfaye, making it a better film than expected. 7 out of 10 stars

“Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can.” Indeed, he can. And much more stylishly. He threads a mechanically assisted web, can jump great heights (some spiders can do this), is very fast and very hard to catch. He also has great strength, unbelievable accuracy and is very hard to kill. Spiderman has it all, except of course a later bedtime.

Long before I ever learned the names of Captain America or Iron Man, I knew Spiderman – the boy that was bitten by a genetically enhanced spider.

The other two I knew were Superman and Batman (although I was always annoyed that the latter did not have any superpowers). There were many animated TV shows about Spiderman, and the character was also referenced in a lot of movies.

And then there were the Sami Raimi Spiderman movies. Spider-Man (2002) was not a great movie, but it had style and a sense of direction. It showed a promising franchise in the making, a directory just getting used to big budget movies and an actor (Tobey Maguire) just feeling out a character.

The movie had some classic moments, like an upside down kiss between Spidey and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). Almost no one noticed William Defoe’s cartoonish Green Goblin costume.

On the massive box office success of the first movie, a sequel, Spider-Man 2, followed. It felt like Raimi had found whatever he was searching for. Spider-Man 2 is what a superhero movie should feel and look like.

It was fun, but it had mystery, symbolism, technical splendour and heart too. We witnessed a Spiderman fatigued by responsibilities, somewhat envious of the average Joe, instead of what he is.

His powers mystifyingly seeped away, until he was brave and determined enough to regain them. To complement the protagonist’s strained frame of mind, Spiderman gained a determined scientist, Doctor Octopus (played superbly by Alfred Molina), as a villain. It was quite literally the perfect superhero movie.

From the third movie onward, though, it all goes downhill. The third Spiderman movie Raimi made, Spider-Man 3, was lacklustre and too full of itself. The film was so bad it failed to even get a sequel despite making a lot of money at the international box office.

The reboot starred Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, both good, promising actors, just not for The Amazing Spider-Man. It made a lot of money, so the studio went ahead with a sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Judging by the special effects, the studio did not waste any money, except in plotting. The planned six part movie had to be shelved.

So now, they are giving it a third try. Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures, finally brought in Marvel Studios to co-produce the movie, as Sony is the studio that owns the rights to the famous character. As such, Marvel agreed to introduce the new Spiderman in last year’s Captain America: Civil War.

The new Spidey looked young – just about to hit puberty. It looked like a fresher touch, like the new Sony-Marvel partnership was trying to get out of the shadows of the Raimi-Maguire inspired characterization of Spidey.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has just survived an internal strife of the Avengers; now he has to go back to school. Understandably he is downbeat. But certain things cannot be helped; in the meantime, he has the Spidey costume Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.) has lent him for the company.

In the background though, trouble is brewing. An arms trafficker, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, the former Batman), who deals in alien weapons, and wears a vulture suit, has grown rich and powerful without actually attracting the attention of the Avengers.

Spiderman notices this and takes it upon himself to rid the neighbourhood of the villain, while also struggling to keep his superhero identity a secret.

Spidey this time around is very young. He has a thin voice and is physically skinny. This was in stark contrast to the previous live-action incarnations of the character when Spiderman was played by Maguire or Garfield, who were both far older than the part called for. With Homecoming, Marvel has gone to great heights to make the film truer to the comic books than anything else.

There also is no origin story. A scene that has been reproduced one too many times is that of Parker’s uncle’s death, shortly after telling him that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

There is some mention as to how Parker got his powers, but no more milking of a story we have heard and seen already. As for Parker’s aunt, she is played by the relatively young Marisa Tomei, who is less motherly, and more like an older sister figure to Parker.

We have probably had too many Spiderman movies, but as long as the character continues to wet its financiers’ wallets, we will get so much more, with Holland having initially signed on for a trilogy.

Homecoming is a better movie than I expected, it has a way of tying up the superhero’s troubles to that of an adolescent. I am sure this particular reboot will be the one that finally breaks away from Raimi’s shadow, but it remains to be seen if they can finally outdo Spider-Man 2.

Published on Jul 15,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 898]



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