When I heard the news last year that Spider-Man was going to be rebooted yet again, I was like “are you freaking serious”? After the successful Toby Maguire trilogy (though the less said about “Spider-Man 3” the better) and the mildly successful “Amazing Spider-Man” duo with Andrew Garfield only finishing in 2014, did we REALLY need another reboot? More dramatic spider biting? More Uncle Ben spouting then dying? The same old – same old, rewarmed in a pan with a bit of red wine added just to stop it feeling so dry and tasteless.
And I still feel the same way. I understand that its more to do with rights ownership between Sony, Marvel and Disney that this got made so quickly…. but in the words of Ian Malcolm “they didn’t stop to think if they should”.
But actually, although I still don’t really approve of it, they’ve done a pretty good job in rebooting in a different manner. I commented in my review for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” that that first reboot was “much less earnest and quirkier than the original Tobey Maguire series, and reveling more in the fun to be had around a superhero’s schooldays.” This latest reboot moves even further along that scale, being very much more of a high-school comedy that a pure superhero flick.
Wearing the suit this time is a far more age-appropriate Tom Holland, winner of last year’s BAFTA Rising Star award. And very personable he is too. The suit in question has been jizzed up by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr) – perhaps I could have rephrased that better! Because here the Spider-Man story carries on from the brief cameo in “Captain America: Civil War” that crossed Spidey into the mainstream Marvel timeline.
Within the high-school setting, Peter Parker’s geeky, and almost too deliberately multi-racial, gang includes his pal Ned (Jacob Batalon), very funny with a “chair guy” sequence, the unattainable Liz (Laura Harrier) as the love-interest, Betty (the excellent Angourie Rice who made such a great impression in “The Nice Guys” but didn’t really move the meter for me here I’m afraid), Flash (Tony Revolori) and best of all for me the almost horizontally laconic Michelle (Zendaya, of Shoshone heritage) – uber-cool but harbouring a secret crush on Peter.
Chris Evans pops up for comic relief as Captain America doing motivational high-school videos. And older viewers might want to have fun watching out for Tyne Daly: Lacey in the old cop show “Cagney and Lacey”.
But stealing the show in the acting stakes is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes (aka “The Vulture”) who could for all the world be auditioning for “Birdman 2”. The well-judged thing about this villain is that he is no hyper-galactic being with superpowers, or a typical “rule the world” Bond villain, but just an ordinary Joe in search of financial profit to keep his family in the manner to which they are accustomed. I really liked that. The script (an army of people, but led by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who also wrote the story) also nicely counterpoints the thin-line between the “good arms dealer” (Tony Stark) and the “bad arms dealer” (Toomes).
The script also very wisely leaps several months into where the reboot could have started. None of the tedious spider biting. No Uncle Ben – just a sly reference to “what Aunt May’s been through”. Now this might confuse anyone not familiar with the Spider-Man story, but the percentage of people in the Western world in that segment must be less than 2%.
There are however also significant character changes that may annoy Spider-Man devotees. Aunt May herself is no longer the frail old lady of previous depictions, but a hot and attractive middle-aged woman (AILF?) played by Marisa Tomei (who does indeed look ‘Mila Kunis‘).
Many of the action scenes are well done, with a scene at the Washington Monument being particularly exciting. It all gets rather overblown though with a later scene aboard the Avenger’s plane. And this scene sums up my problem with many of these films: the superhero characters are pretty well indestructible. You know they are. So the scenes of peril, that might thrill in an Indiana Jones, an M.I. or a Bond film, lack any sort of tension. Even when the protagonist does have a superhero on the ropes, they don’t carry on kicking the proverbial c**p out of them until they are “dead”…. they lay off so the superhero can recover and kick their ass in a few minutes time!
The director is Jon Watts in only his third directorial outing (with only the much praised “Cop Car” to pretty up his CV). With such a lot on his shoulders he does a good job.
At 133 minutes its a tad over-long (I watched this in a double bill with “War for the Planet of the Apes” so my eyes afterwards were 16:9!). But it’s a fun summer flick that both amuses and entertains. If you have the choice between this and Planet of the Apes though for your Saturday night at the movies, I would personally choose the latter.
By the way, in terms of “monkeys” – yep, it’s a Marvel film, of course there are monkeys! One early on in the credits and another one at the end… which is actually very funny indeed.
Fad Rating: FFFf.