Of all the superhero movies that have come out the last five years — Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, etc. — my two favorites have been Spider-Man: Homecoming and the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. So the fact that I’m suffering superhero fatigue, didn’t make me less excited about seeing the first movie Marvel is serving up since Endgame (and while that’s still in some theatres).
The movie starts with a touching and humorous tribute to the superheroes lost in Endgame (I won’t spoil that for the 3 people on the planet that haven’t seen Endgame, and this review won’t spoil anything from this Spider-Man). It’s interesting and fun how they talk about “The Blip” — the five year period when half the population disappeared from the planet.
Peter Parker (Tom Hollander), MJ (Zendaya), and the rest of his classmates are going on a science trip to Europe. Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) is fury-ious that Parker doesn’t seem interested in taking his calls and would rather decompress (who can blame him, after what he went through in Endgame?). This is easily the most bored Jackson has looked in one of these films. The only fun moment he generated was shooting a dart into the neck of Parker’s sidekick, Ned (Jacob Batalon) and a veiled threat to do some more damage.
Ned’s romance with a blonde classmate (Angourie Rice) is hysterical and a lot of fun, but the awkwardness of Parker and MJ feels forced and they lack the chemistry that Parker had with his first crush in Homecoming.
There’s another romance that could’ve been interesting. It was just…so poorly written and we end up being about as grossed out as Parker is by it. Happy (Jon Favreau) is putting the moves on Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Perhaps it’s because I think of the Jim Gaffigan bit where he’s on stage talking about making love to his wife, knowing that people in the audience are all thinking — I bet he sweats a lot. Favreau in these movies looks like he’s probably sweating when he’s merely sitting on a fancy jet flying into a situation to bail out Parker.
It’s also a shame that teacher Martin Starr (who was great as a stoner tech guy on Silicon Valley and a nerdy friend in Adventureland), is wasted as a buffoon. Another teacher (the always hysterical JB Smoove), is also a bit too hapless as a chaperone (although I did chuckle every time he talked about witches).
The first 45 minutes of this movie works. The jokes are funny, the characters interesting, and the set up is fine. But it’s 2 hours and 10 minutes, and it goes downhill in the second half. It starts feeling like all the tropes you’ve seen in so many other superhero films.
The villain isn’t all that interesting. The CGI they use to create what would be interesting set pieces in another film, just confuses things. And it’s a bit of a cop-out. I can’t explain why without spoiling, but will give you an example. As cool as it is in the Mission: Impossible films when someone pulls off their face to reveal they’re really someone else, you just roll your eyes because it’s already been done before. You shouldn’t have to start watching the movie wondering…is this really happening, or is this just fake? At one point, it felt as if characters were having a dream while on LSD.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a new superhero in this, and it’s one of the rare performances of his I haven’t cared for. He just wasn’t interesting to watch.
He’s dubbed Mysterio, and helps Spider-Man and Fury defeat these creatures called the “Elementals” because one is made of water, another fire, and another, very strong wind (air). Mysterio didn’t get the memo after the Aquaman movie, that when you have a suit that has a big round orb around your head, it just looks goofy.
Holland does a great job conveying a range of emotions: sadness, lovestruck, angst, toughness. Watching him try to deal with a romantic rival (Remy Hill) is a bit of fun (especially now that he has some of the tools that used to be at Tony Stark’s disposal).
Instead of all the relentless action sequences, perhaps a few more scenes showing these New York teenagers dealing with the culture shock of foreign countries would have been fun.
This film also has a lot of plot holes that you can’t discuss without spoilers.
There were two moments that would’ve been really powerful if I hadn’t seen such similar scenes in the Superman movie from 1978 and the one from 1981 (you can see why at this point, I have superhero fatigue).
The best part was a cameo I wouldn’t begin to spoil (but the crowd went nuts when they saw the person on screen). Also, the closing credits were cool to look at, and wisely played The Go-Go’s “Vacation.” They also get extra credit for playing the great song “Town Called Malice” by The Jam, although you can barely hear it in a bar scene. And for those that know everything Spider-Man, those fans are aware The Ramones did a cover of the Spider-Man theme on their last album Adios Amigos. So, it was kind of cool that the film played a song from The Ramones first album called “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (not to be confused with “I Wanna Be Sedated”).
This all felt like a video game, and I stopped caring about video games when I was a teenager. Luckily there was enough humor to make some of it entertaining.
2 stars out of 5.