Everything is so dour. By everything, I mean our entertainment. Overwrought, over-thinking, cynical and determined to have a “realistic” ending and that means, always, a bad ending, Hollywood is dark. The guy doesn’t get the girl. The important person dies. There’s no redemption to be found.
Spiderman does not follow that formula. Spiderman is a refreshing, wholesome, bubblegum bubble pop of a movie. Peter Parker is not some maudlin emo kid dressed in black and thinking deep thoughts. He’s a hapless teenager trying to make things work and stumbling around while doing it.
The other big superhero movies of the summer, Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy, were adult films. By that, I mean that the humor winked at the parents through innuendo and adult situations. The setting was World War I for Wonder Woman and Dad’s Planet in Guardians. The protagonists were grown-ups with grown-up problems.
Spiderman is a kids film. Peter Parker is bright, and shiny, and new. And all the wonder of his situation is mirrored through his pal Ned’s unabashed awe of him. His high school friends might as well be my own kids’ friends group. In fact, the dialogue, clothes, and teenage vibe was so perfect, that I kept turning to one of my kids and saying, “That’s so-and-so, that’s so-and-so!” My teens, in turn, were squirming a bit because the interaction was so “relatable.”
Michael Keaton’s blue-collar villain was difficult to dislike. He had good reasons to be pissed off and while he went too far (robbery and murder), his motivation was clear and obvious (both Wonder Woman and Guardians II had trouble conveying their villains’ motivations.) Forget Batman, Keaton is a better bad guy. (Aside, it seems impossible that he’s 65. He looks twenty years younger, easily.)
Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark made a fatherly appearance (not a very good one, either.) Downey brings so much energy to the screen that he can overpower lesser actors but it’s matched by newcomer Tom Holland. Happy also enters the fray and displays plenty more fatherly irritation with his ward, Peter Parker.
I’ve read reviews of Spiderman saying that the Toby Maguire iteration was better because the stakes were higher – leaving behind the love of his life, etc. Bah! to all that. Let Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine carry the weight of the world’s sorrows. Let The Hulk sulk when he’s not angry. Spiderman needs to be young and less burdened.
And we, the audience, could use some fun, too. Wonder Woman might have been the more moving movie, but Spiderman Homecoming was just what we needed – good humor and some fun distraction. The perfect summer popcorn blockbuster.
Our local Movie Critic