Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 2:49 pm 
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A zippy little guy, boyish Tom Holland swamped by Disney-Marvel-Sony nexus

The new Spider-Man movie is zippy, with a muscular sprite of a star. Tom Holland is nine years younger than the last (2014) one, Andrew Garfield, was when he first played Peter Parker, and in principle that's good, an actor as young as his role. Tom's still 20, five years older than his character's supposed to be. But Holland played Billy Elliot. He's short and has a squeaky voice, though he's built like a gymnast. Macguire's voice was squeaky, or he made it sound so. Maguire and Garfield were more interesting actors. They made the role count. So did different directors and writers.

The explanation of the new one is corporate. Disney, Marvel Studios and Sony made a deal to share the franchise. When that happened, the third Spider-Man with Marc Webb at the helm and Andrew Garfield starring was cancelled, and the new Spider-Man was found. Comics in the movies are a vast corporate universe now, with separate empires, Dell and Marvel. Once upon a time they were newsprint booklets for kids that cost 5-10¢ and normal adults did not pour over them. Now - well, you know. They're billion-dollar enterprises.

Must Robert Downey Jr. horn in everywhere? Apparently Stark Enterprises have taken over the boy, and leased out his spider suit to him, which is now fitted with a huge array of electronic, computerized functions and powers he did not create. Tony Stark is now a passive-aggressive withholding dad to Peter Parker, who is now played by the zippy, boyish Tom Holland. He isn't a boy: he's 20, playing 15. But when his predecessor, whom I much preferred, took on the role he got only to play in two movies (the third cancelled as the fourth with Tobey Maguire was), he was already 29, and over 30 when he played the role next.

The corporate merger has required a lot to be cut out. this movie is dominated by a very few people. It's true there is Jon Favreau, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr., but they don't take the place of the last version's both augmentation and paring-down. Tom Holland is an emotional blank. The vocabularies of Peter and his cyber genius pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) have been pared down to a cluster of dude's, wow's, and awsome's. Contemporary talk, for kids. Somehow despite membership on a brainathon team and his other smarts, it's hard to see Holland's Peter as anything but gee-whiz, not whiz-kid.

"Homecoming" is dominated by Michael Keaton, whose revived career we're all happy about. He plays this angry man realistically and believably. It's one of the best performances in a comic book movie. But his working class victim turned crime boss, Adrian Toomes AKA Vulture, whose sale of alien-augmented weaponry Peter AKA Spidey must stop, hijacks the picture. Apart from the intrusive, and in-the-wings-dominant Tony Stark AKA Iron Man role Downey Jr. owns, there is a girl, of color this time, Michelle (Zendaya), who gets shortchanged, so far, and a right hand man for Tony, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and an overweight best pal for Peter, Ned (Jacob Batalon). Ned and Peter are supposed to be whiz kids. But to update them for the modern generation, they talk in a 100-word vocabulary made up mostly of "Wow," "awsome," and "dude." Technically this Peter Parker is smart, but mostly he's more gee-whiz than whiz, and as a personality - he's too much in a hurry to have much of one, really. Everything about him is aspirational.

The previous cast included: Paul Giamatti, Martin Sheen, Rys Ifans, Sally Field, Irfan Khan, C. Thomas Howell, Campbell Scott. Later came Paul Giamatti and Dane DeHaan and Felicity Jones. I miss them but I also miss the scenes between Andrew Garfield and anybody, especially Emma Stone, and his long sailing swings through the urban air. It doesn't seem this Peter has time to show the joys of being a Spider-Man. His use of webs is fast and utilitarian. He shoots out strings of web. He jumps over things. He does back flips. He splats out big blobs of web to trap bad guys. The whole urban art of arachnid air travel and the catching of wrongdoers is hijacked by the Michael Keaton story. Peter has an Aunt May, as usual, played by Marisa Tomei here, but she's gone before you notice her.

Let's face it: there is no viable bad guy this time. Keaton's Adrien Tomes is good-bad.
Only a little of the original Spider-Man has been preserved here. You see a lot of shots of a kid flying through the air in a Spider-Man suit, and that covers for the absence of some of the more basic elements that have been cleared to make way for the new conglomerate. the "the Marvel Cinematic Universe."

Spider-Man: Homecoming, 133 mins., debuted in Los Angeles 28 June 2017. US theatrical release 7 July 2017.


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