Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Favreau
Have I Seen it Before: No. Even that middle-credit scene was still a breath of fresh air.
Did I Like It: Yes.
I do wonder if some of this review is actually fueled by the theater-going experience. We tried the new Cinergy facility here in Tulsa. They’re Chuck-E-Cheese for grownups milieu might work for some people, and it is encouraging that they cannibalized the auditoriums of the late, great Village 8 for their screening purposes. However, their attempts to provide the same amenity-rich experience as the Warren falls flat with a limited menu and an awkward ordering process. Also, apparently they haven’t mastered the air conditioning of these facilities. To their credit, they were aware of the climate control issue and took it upon themselves to hand out gift cards like they were after dinner mints. If I had previously known I could make fifty bucks in fifteen minutes just by staring at Samuel L. Jackson while sweating most of my body mass away, I might have made different career choices. It was a perplexingly unique movie-going experience. They have pinball machines there, so I imagine I will be back if for that reason alone.
And the immediately difficult task ahead of me is to start comparing it to other films. Is it the greatest Spider-Man movie of all time? No. Is it even the greatest Spider-Man movie released in the last twelve months? No.
This movie is really running up against some rough competition coming so soon after the awe-inspiring, adrenaline-goosing Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse (2018). It even tries to dabble in some multi-verse shenanigans, but mostly as a fake out for the true plot in play*. I can’t even say that this is the greatest movie featuring the character as assayed by Tom Holland. Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) is jauntier. It’s blending of teen movie and big budget spectacle is more seamless.
And, of course, Homecoming had Michael Keaton in it. There were reports that he would appear in this film as well. I’d like to say I don’t dock any points away from a movie for not featuring the once and future Batman, but I think that I even remotely like a film that could have featured Michael Keaton and opted not to is something of a testament to the film’s resiliency.
And that’s where it becomes clear that the comparison to other Spider-men is unfair. Should we be griping that this film isn’t quite as good as some of the greatest recent entries, or should we marvel (I see what I did there, and I’m not all that thrilled with it) that it is arguably true that the three greatest films (in no particular order) in the series are the most recent ones.
Because there is quite a lot to love here. Tom Holland is never not believable as a teen who’s in just a little bit over his head. Jake Gyllenhaal brings a manic charm to his role as Beck/Mysterio and so thoroughly plays on Peter’s unspoken need to fill the void in his life left by certain other characters, that you can’t help but hate him even more in the third act when his petulant villainy is brought to bear. On that note, it’s fairly effective as the more life-affirming wake for Tony Stark, where Avengers: Endgame (2019) felt like a gut-punch of a funeral. Zendaya accomplishes a startling task, keeping all of the brittle fun of her MJ, while still rising to the romantic comedy around her and showing vulnerability when the scenes demand. Jon Favreau shifts from the grumpy put-upon schlub of Homecoming to be the understanding grown up Peter eventually finds. Apparently the love of Marisa Tomei is the magical fuel of this series.
It’s a very sweet movie, and absolutely worth watching. I just hope they keep this up. And Gods of Asgard, please keep Venom (as played by anyone) as far away from this series as possible.
I’m just now wondering how long Talos has been covering for Fury… Huh. That makes me re-think a lot of things.
*Or is it? Are we 100% that the J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons, you read that right) who runs the the Info Wars-esque dailybugle.net isn’t the same J. Jonah Jameson that gave Tobey Maguire such grief? Mysterio’s cover story of coming form an alternate universe is just a bit too specific to not have any truth to it. Wouldn’t Mysterio be far more interested in injecting just a little bit of truth into the large lie. Is anyone wondering how Jameson got an exclusive on Spider-Man’s identity? One wonders.