3 Stars – Wholesome
Putting Tony Stark in charge of a teenager is predictably disturbing. As Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Stark has a whimsical nonchalance in the face of danger that is entertaining, but when he uses that same lack of concern about the well-being of fifteen-year-old Spider-man (Tom Holland) it is no longer funny. When we add the fact that Spidey is similar to his mentor in that he seems to also have no sense of fear or concern for his own safety, then we know we are in for an exciting film.
Based on the writing of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley who partnered to help write the campy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, director Jon Watts does a masterful job of joining quirky with endearing, and excitement with danger. It is unclear how this story fits within the timeline of previous films depicting Marvel’s Spider-man, but we experience Spidey as a love-sick nerd who is struggling with high school.
Helping him in both his education and crime-fighting life is his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). As a fellow-nerd, Ned happens upon the secret life of his friend Peter Parker and is sworn to secrecy. But as is often true of young teens who lack the wisdom and self-control gained from life experience, when Ned finds out that Peter’s love desire, Liz (Laura Harrier) has a crush on Spider-man, he blurts out that Peter knows him. This sets up expectations and predictably complicates their burgeoning relationship.
The central plot is that Peter is an “intern” for Stark Enterprises, where he is in fact being trained and equipped by Tony Stark to be an Avenger. Although Stark does not purposefully put him into danger, danger comes nevertheless through the evil of Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton). We won’t spoil the way this comes or how it progresses, except to say it is full of unexpected twists and turns. This is even true in the reason Toomes turns to thievery. The contrast between Toomes’ cynicism and Parker’s innocence is part of the moral struggle that adds depth to the story.
Told with a playfulness that goes through to the end of the credits, we look forward to the sequel that is already in the works!
- When Peter is discovered by his friend Ned as being Spider-Man he swears him to secrecy. What would you do if someone found out your secrets?
- The affirmation that Peter is a “good boy” is pronounced by his principal and by his handler Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Did you find this innocent goodness engaging or overdone?
- Spoiler: The end of the film Peter makes a choice to be a teenager rather than as a sophomore in High School to leave and move into Avenger headquarter. Do you think this was wise or foolish?