Premiered on July 7, 2017. 133 minutes, rated PG-13.
Directed by Jon Watts
Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Screen story by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley
This is a very accessible movie for long time, aka “old”, fans and those who’ve never seen a super-hero film, which would be an incredible feat in itself. The biggest change is the age of the wall crawler, who’s back in high school. There’s no origin story whatsoever (Thank you, writers!), but the spider bite is referenced for a funny bit.
The trailers for the film, which were impossible to avoid in the theaters and online, don’t spoil the final fight of the film in any way, and they included a scene not in the film: Spidey zipping through the city side by side with Iron Man. I was ecstatic that the end was a surprise and happy that Iron Man and Spidey don’t make this a Marvel Team-Up film. Big thumbs up for these trailer non-spoilers!
The movie opens with Adrian Toomes, played outstandingly by Michael Keaton, and his crew cleaning up after the events of the first Avengers film. Sadly, his crew is fired with the arrival of Damage Control, a government clean up group that will complete the job and keep all the alien artifacts. Adrian tries to reason with their supervisor, Anne Marie Hoag, played by Tyne Daly (?!?!), to no avail. He’s purchased equipment for the job and it will financially destroy him. Back at their warehouse, one of his crew reveals they didn’t turn in all the alien tech, sparking Toomes to realize there’s money to be had in selling the tech to those with the cash.
Peter Parker is introduced making a video diary of his trip to Berlin with Happy Hogan (played wonderfully by Jon Favreau), including events from different perspectives from the major hero fight in Captain America: Civil War. Tom Holland is great as Peter Parker and Spider-Man, reacting as any fifteen-year-old would if he had those amazing powers. Once home, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) tells Peter to stay out of trouble and contact Hap if anything major comes up. Stark is the father figure in this film and works, as Downey owns this character, but his final scene was unnecessarily silly, with one supporting character showing up seemingly only to fulfill a contract obligation. He has to come down, hard, on Peter at one point, but there’s never any doubt that by the end of the film they’ll be on good terms. Aunt May pops in and out of the film, and Marisa Tomei is fine, but the character contributes nothing to the film, except to make men horny and cause Peter to worry. Sadly, she could have been eliminated and nothing lost.
Seeing Peter in his science magnet high school is one of the film’s high points. Watching him suffer, unable to be cool and unable to speak with the girl he yearns for, makes him an instantly relatable and sympathetic character. His best friend is Ned, played by Jacob Batalon. He’s got every characteristic one would expect from a non-powered friend and does everything one would expect, from gushing over Spidey to helping him in the film’s end. He’s primarily comic relief. Laura Harrier plays Liz, the girl Peter pines for, and she’s fine, but nothing spectacular.
The action is good. The opening scenes in Berlin looked great and were hilarious due to the commentary. The ATM robbery that was in the trailer goes a litter further than was shown and was good. A chase through the suburbs was really exciting, since Spidey’s webshooters were useless for swinging. The fights with the Vulture were strong, building in intensity. Their first encounter was realistic with its duration, the second is somewhat spoiled by the trailer, while the final outstanding. The effects are excellent, with nothing looking like CG, though obviously much was. The battles with the Shocker are also good, though I wish he was dressed more like his comic book inspiration.
That’s my biggest beef with the film, and it’s because I’m old and have been reading Spider-Man’s adventures since the 1970s: the villains look nothing like the characters I’m used to. Keaton is great, but he’s too young and too attractive for Toomes. His suit is way too Robotech. It looked more like S.H.I.E.L.D. technology than a Tinkerer creation (and he’s in the movie, too!). Did he need to be in spandex? Not necessarily, but if the audience can buy Spidey in tights, why not the villain? Too much machine, not enough man. I felt the creators of this film didn’t believe the audience could buy it or believe they could pull it off. Another negative is Zendaya, who plays Michelle, the real outsider of Peter’s group, who’s teased to have an iconic pair of initials in the film’s end. Like Tomei, she could be edited out of the film and nothing lost. This isn’t due to her acting, but what the script has her doing. Also ineffective is the movie’s original score from Michael Giacchino. It has no original themes and is utterly forgettable. His scores continue to go into cinematic obscurity. Spidey’s first suit’s AI is too much in Tony Stark’s footsteps, and I was surprised to learn it was voiced by Jennifer Connelly.
There are several pluses besides the acting, action, and effects. The movie moves a very quick clip without feeling rushed. The use of music from the 1980s is fantastic. The climax is really well constructed, doing something new in a Marvel movie without it being an end of the world scenario. There’s a really neat homage to a classic Stan Lee — Steve Ditko Spidey moment from the comics that occurs at the start of the climax. Donald Glover is in the movie, seemingly inexplicably so until he mentions a family relation and it has me wondering who could appear in the next film. The first scene in the end credits teases a relationship between two villains, with one not in costume, but giving a promise of six characters uniting to off Spidey. At the end of the credits there’s a cameo from a hero who popped up throughout the film, and it’s funny.
I’d definitely place this film far above Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, but below Wonder Woman. Of all six Spidey films, it’s third. I’d still place Spider-Man 2 in first, followed by Spider-Man. Coming up fourth is Spider-Man 3, followed by The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the end.
The final line: An enjoyable Spider-Man film, but not a great one. I’ll definitely see a sequel, but I won’t run to one. Overall grade: B-