Movie Review (SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING)

I went with my husband to see SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING. **Spoilers ahead.** What a mixed bag. Spidey’s new AI/”smart” suit is way over-equipped, including with a soft-spoken woman’s voice that Peter names “Karen.” (Oh, please!) “She” can practically anticipate and fulfill his every need. Obnoxious, not to mention sexist and cliched.

I know I know, the movie was made, in part, to be a large infomercial for a tie-in video game. But, many of us moviegoers could care less about gaming, or we don’t care *that* much to have it make a comic book superhero created in 1962 virtually unrecognizable. The powered up suit hugely diminishes Peter’s/Spiderman’s original independence and intuitive know-how. They tried to impose the high-tech. template of Ironman or Batman– both understandably tech.-oriented characters– onto Spiderman. It didn’t work at all for me. And while Peter Parker ultimately makes a good decision in his role to not accept Tony Stark’s (Ironman’s) offer to directly join the Avengers and, hence, take an even higher upgrade for a superhero suit, by that far along in the movie I still felt somehow cheated, removed from genuinely witnessing a favorite superhero of my childhood.

Peter Parker having an awe-struck sidekick (Ned) was cute but not at all like the Peter Parker I grew up knowing in the comics. He was always a complete loner, very introverted and nerdy. That’s what made so many of us fans during childhood and adolescence identify with him in the first place. From this tacked-on buddy thing, add the superimposing of Spiderman into the corporate, military industrial complex world of the Avengers and you have him completely removed from the character and universe in which he originally exists, where Spidey *alone* swings from his webs in the asphalt jungle he calls home, protecting his neighbors against small and big crimes. Peter wouldn’t have it any other way.

I did not like how Ironman helped to bail out Spiderman in a big, action-packed incident. Snarky Stark Ironman was amusing here and there, but, hey, enough already. We see way too much of him. Ironman has his own movies, for gods’ sake!

Superficially, Tom Holland did a good job portraying cuteness and naivete, but he was far too outgoing and socially adept to be a truly believable Peter Parker. Age-wise, he was more credible as a youth than previous actors playing him, as Peter is indeed a high school kid with a lot of growing up to do. Given better material to work with, I think Mr. Holland would have risen to the occasion.

Michael Keaton was very competent as the villain, an honest, aging, small businessman contractor cynically hardened into criminality by the unfairness of big government pairing up with corporate capitalists (namely, Tony Stark). Hence, his character seemed partially sympathetic rather than one dimensional. I sensed the possibility of irony, intended or not, by having a portrayer of Batman play a black market dealer of arms made from alien spacecraft materials (referenced from an earlier Avengers’ film). Keaton chewed the scenery well, as effectively fun bad guys do.

And then there was Marisa Tomei playing Peter’s younger, slinkier Aunt May. Personally, I felt on the fence with this different portrayal, having been long-used to a grandmotherly version of this character. However, what felt like a “last straw” for me with this sexed up Aunt Mae was a suggestive embrace from her in which Peter makes a semi-muffled comment about how nice she smells. By itself, the scene was no big deal. Sexual tension exists between kids and their parents, adoptive and otherwise. But, this was at the top of a heap of constant references to Aunt May being a sex symbol, be it via frequent flirtatious mentions of her to Peter by other male characters, especially Tony Stark, or a waiter serving her extra food “on the house” because, Peter explained, “I think he likes you.” The sexism especially bled through here, as every female Peter has consistent interactions with (even his soft-voiced Spidey suit) was clearly attractive, or potentially so, for him and his sidekick Ned. In the comics, Aunt May was originally a much-needed, nurturing safe haven from this world of uncertain sexual tension and preoccupation for adolescent Peter, not to mention at least *one* other different representation of femininity in the already androcentric Spidey ‘verse.

The movie was generally fun, but not compelling, moving, or truly memorable. I often felt like I was watching someone impersonating Spiderman/Peter Parker, albeit looking cute and endearing while doing so.

Spiderman is very much a modern cultural icon and phenomenon but one that is over 50 years old with some solid canon. Altering that canon– especially by so damn much– is risky to do. A lot within the older generations who followed that icon are not going to connect with what’s been changed. And with a big portion of the audience not connecting, you have what could have been made into a classic (which, I think, the new WONDER WOMAN film may very well become) be just a current flash-in-the-pan instead. And that’s too bad.

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