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"SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING"
(2017) (Tom Holland, Michael Keaton) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A teenage superhero tries to prove his worth fighting crime by taking on a villain who's using alien technology to fuel his criminal endeavors.
PLOT:
Peter Parker (TOM HOLLAND) is a 15-year-old who lives in Queens with his Aunt May (MARISA TOMEI). Unbeknownst to her, his best friend, Ned (JACOB BATALON), classmate Michelle (ZENDAYA), school bully Flash (TONY REVOLORI) or the teenager he has a secret crush on, Liz (LAURA HARRIER), Peter is a junior superhero, Spider-Man, what with having gained superpowers via the bite of a genetically altered spider. Yet, despite helping Iron Man save the day (in "Captain America: Civil War"), that superhero's alter-ego, Tony Stark (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.), doesn't believe the teen is ready to join the Avengers and should focus on school and being a teen, albeit with Tony appointing Happy Hogan (JON FAVREAU) as Peter's contact and point man.

Undeterred by that, Peter tells everyone he's an intern for Stark Industries when he's really out stopping small crimes as Spider-Man. When he comes across a number of men trying to steal an ATM, he realizes they're using an advanced weapon to do so. Little does he know that those men work for Adrian Toomes (MICHAEL KEATON), a former salvage company owner who years earlier got cut out of a big contract by one of Stark's subsidiary companies, but not before keeping some of the alien technology they found for themselves.

Since then, they've been using such tech to create powerful weapons that help with their criminal endeavors, while also providing the materials needed to create a powered wingsuit for Toomes that essentially gives him superpowers (as the villain Vulture) whenever he's wearing that. When Peter tries to thwart an illegal sale of such weaponry, he's attacked by Toomes and then rescued by Tony, but only via long distance and his empty Iron Man suit.

All of which means he doesn't pay heed to Peter's warnings about such weaponry. Ned does, however, especially when he learns of Peter's secret identity and abilities as well as being given some of that alien technology to examine. From that point on and as Peter tries to lead his secret double life, he tries to thwart Toomes and his criminal endeavors, unaware of what the villain ultimately has planned.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Back when it was revealed in 2015 that we were going to get yet another reboot of the "Spider-Man" film franchise, I wasn't exactly overjoyed and salivating with anticipation of yet another go-round with the web slinger.

After all, and following the Sam Raimi directed and Tobey Maguire starring Spidey trilogy that saw installments released in 2002, 2004 and 2007, we had the new versions directed by Marc Webb where the too-old-for-the-role Andrew Garfield played the title character in 2012 and 2014.

Did we really need news of a reboot just a year after the latest version? Was this becoming the new ADD version of Hollywood where we were just supposed to forget what we just saw? Could Spidey himself save us from this cinematic madness?

Surprisingly, the answer to the last question arrived not in the form of yet another origins story version of the tale, but rather a supporting character in last year's "Captain America: Civil War" where the younger superhero literally and figuratively swung back into the picture, stole the scenes he was in, and made a lot of us wonder if perhaps we were too quick to pass judgment on the upcoming reboot.

Well, having enjoyed the character's appearance in Cap's last film and now having sat through "Spider-Man: Homecoming," I'm happy to report that it looks like the powers that be got it right this time as this is a thoroughly entertaining offering.

Taking up a little bit of time after "Civil War" (rather than rewind and do the origins story all over again), the story -- penned by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers -- has our 15-year-old local NYC hero (an infectiously charismatic Tom Holland) wanting to be big superhero like his mentor Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man, once again played by Robert Downey Jr. who's so good in the part he's the cinematic equivalent of a jazz musician who can do no wrong whatever he wants to do with the material).

But the wise veteran thinks the kid should stay in school and keep things small, what with living in Queens with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and having a secret crush on the pretty (and smart) girl in school, Liz (Laura Harrier). Things become a bit complicated (but also enjoyably fun) when his best friend, nerdy brainiac Ned (a fun Jacob Batalon), learns of his secret alter-ego and enthusiastically wants to be his helper.

Beyond all of the high school shenanigans that are straight from a teen comedy (but in a good way), the plot revolves around Peter/Spider-Man uncovering some local criminal types who are selling modified weaponry (based on alien technology they salvaged from the Avengers headquarters wreckage from a previous film) to the bad guys. Their leader, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), was the owner of the salvage company that got gypped out of their contract by one of Stark's subsidiaries and thus he has an ax to grind along with a need to put food on the table for his family.

Keaton is terrific in the part when in normal (if nefarious) regular human mode (and especially during a surprise revelation and aftermath scene), but less so when he dons a futuristic, mechanical winged suit and the super-villain alter ego of Vulture (despite the not intended tie-in with his Birdman character from the film of the same name).

Part of the latter disappointment stems not only from the obligatory big battle at the end, but also that director Jon Watts has shot those action/fight scenes in such dimly lit environs, tight camera angles and quick edits that it's hard to tell what's happening and clearly feels as if something is being covered up. Otherwise, the special effects are good, convincing, and often used for clever comedic effect.

Notwithstanding such mediocre closing action in the third act, this is a terrific reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, something I would never have imagined myself saying just a few years back. If you like a youthful vibe to your superhero movies and have tired of the far too somber DC Comics offerings (not counting "Wonder Woman"), "Spider-Man: Homecoming" could very well be the cinematic web in which you find yourself happily stuck. It rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed June 28, 2017 / Posted July 7, 2017


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