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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Spiderman: Homecoming, Review by Siraj Syed: The Age of Coming

Spiderman: Homecoming, Review by Siraj Syed: The Age of Coming

This tale of and by (the opening credits say so) Peter Parker is just a shade slower than Transformers 5, which means it is crack-neck, if not break-neck. Nevertheless, that’s some relief. Looks like it is the trend now, and this is what comic/superhero films are going to be all about—hundreds of rapid fire cuts and thousands of barely discernible special effects, all adding up to a good two-and-a half hours or thereabouts. To be precise, this one is 133 minutes long.

Either come to the cinema as a well-read, updated fan, even if it means attending a web-inar on the prequels and sequels of the Avengers, or keep staring and listening hard to grasp the proceedings, even missing out on pivotal one-liners that slip through the web in the bargain. Chances are, niche audiences will love Spiderman Homecoming, while more demanding cine-goers will merely like this coming of age saga. If you are 15 and Peter Parker (Spiderman), your coming of age story--friends, hormones and ambitions included--will interest a few million for sure, even those outside the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU).

It is 2012. Tony Stark and the federal government create the U.S. Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.), to take over alien and other weapon scavenging operations, driving salvage company owner Adrian Toomes out of business. Toomes convinces his colleagues to not surrender the Chitauri technology already scavenged from the Battle of New York, and use it to further a criminal agenda.

Peter Parker resumes his studies, after Stark tells him he is not yet ready to become an Avenger. One night, after preventing Toomes' associates from robbing an ATM, Peter returns to his apartment, only to find his best friend Ned waiting in his house. Since Peter is in costume, Ned discovers his secret identity. Peter comes across Toomes' associates, Herman Schultz and Jackson Brice, selling Chitauri weaponry to local gangster Aaron Davis. When he tries to intervene, Peter nearly loses his life at Toomes' hands, and is rescued by Stark.

Peter persuades Davis to reveal Toomes' whereabouts. Confronting Toomes and his associates on the Staten Island Ferry, Peter captures the group's new buyer, Mac Gargan, while Toomes escapes after a malfunctioning weapon tears the ferry in half. Stark helps Peter save the passengers, before admonishing him. Later, while picking up Liz for Midtown's annual homecoming dance, Peter learns that his secret love is Toomes' daughter, and Toomes discovers Peter is Spiderman.

Besides the comic series by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, there is a team of six writers credited with Spiderman: Homecoming--Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley (team that gave us Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Horrible Bosses), Jon Watts (director), Christopher Ford (Robot & Frank, graphic novels Stickman Odyssey 1 and 2), Chris McKenna (TV) and Erik Sommers (The Lego Batman Movie). They’ve got the ‘coming of age’ stuff right, but the villain’s character and capers aren’t very exciting. He appears to be a clone of Iron Man. Also, the premise of wreaking life-long vengeance, convincing his co-workers like-wise and embarking on a career in crime, merely because a scavenging contract was abruptly terminated is not convincing at all. An ATM robbery looks like peanuts for a movie of this scale, and the twist that nobody saw coming—Liz is Toomes’ daughter—is straight out of so many Indian Hindi pot-boilers on 1950-80. The burglary with the criminals wearing Avengers’ masks was a good idea, not too well exploited. They give us a couple of laughs by bringing in an Indian scene where Stark is being honoured in traditional costume. But the routine of Spiderman rushing into missions, only to be rescued by Stark, happens once too often. Likewise, the ferry-break into half and its subsequent perfect splicing is ferrying things too far. Toomes’ capture, in the end, is a tame affair.

Spiderman: Homecoming’s director Jon Watts (crowd sourced Our Robocop Remake, Clown, Cop-Car) just turned 36, and that age is not more than a generation away from real-time Avengers fans. Watts loads the film with special effect after special effect. A lot is made of the need for Spiderman to change into his costume and back into his civvies time and again. Casting Batman/Birdman as the Badman may have been a coup of sorts had Watts succeeded in turning out a villain that stayed with us after the movie got over. Toomes doesn’t, despite the end credits scene. (There you are; spoilers in reverse!)

One loses count of how many times Peter yells his ouches and ohs as he is tossed around and round. In a strange case of egalitarianism, Watts has Peter tossed about just as many times as he ensnares and ties up his quarries in his own web. There are some breathtaking automobile sequences and the high altitude effects are brilliantly done. Many of the other computer effects are, sadly, over, before they register. Music is commendable, until it gets to playing the ballad over and over again. Overall, it is a big asset.

Tom Holland (The Impossible, Wolf Hall, In the Heart of the Sea) has a dream role, and does it realistically. Michael Keaton as Toomes is ever competent, without being distinguished. Playing Stark’s lieutenant Happy Hogan, Jon Favreau has a few funny lines, and enjoys delivering them. Laura Harrier (Liz) and Zendaya (Michelle—MJ), Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson) and Jacob Batalon (Ned) fill the bill as classmates of Peter. As Aunt May Parker, Marisa Tomei does sparkle a bit. What can you say about Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his woman Friday, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)? They are their usual selves. Paltrow has a cameo, while Downey has much more than a cameo.

Spiderman: Homecoming derives its title from a school event, but it is really the coming of age of a superhero, who has to come to terms with so many aspects of his life all at once, while he is still at an awkward age. After all, human superheroes are human too. And hardly any superhero films deal with their growing up pangs, so this is territory less charted.

It is a good film that could have been better and is even now better appreciated with the help of referencing. Maybe the sequel will make things clearer and do a one-up? Who wants to see Pater Parker at 17,18,19,20,21...!

Rating: ** ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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