July 11, 2019 – One of the most appealing notions of superhero stories, is a saying attributed to the late Stan Lee, who wrote this oft-quoted phrase in Amazing Stories number 15 in 1962, “...with great power there must also come -- great responsibility!”
This saying expresses the idea that superheroes not only use their power for good, but they feel a responsibility to do all they can to make the world a better place because of their power. In real life, of course, great power often leads to great corruption. A few movies, such as “Sidekick” (2005) and Chronicle (2012) depict such corruption, but most follow the Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man superhero path.
This film gets to the heart of the matter as Spider-Man (AKA Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, reprising his role from “Spider-Man Homecoming” and three other Marvel films) does not want this great responsibility. He is asked to be an Avenger, following the death of his mentor, Tony Stark. Parker would rather have a more normal life, and spend time with his sweetheart, Mary Jane Watson (AKA MJ, played by Zendaya, also reprising her role from the earlier Spider-Man film).
Parker does not mind being “Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” but he doesn't want the leadership role that Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson, reprising this role from numerous Marvel films) seems eager to push on him. Against his will, Fury maneuvers Parker into taking on a super-villain in Europe, alongside an alien superhero, Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal of “Nightcrawler”).
Bequeathed a high tech device by Tony Stark, Parker can now control a bevvy of high tech weapons systems. He helps Mysterio defeat some mysterious elemental super villains. Parker is so impressed by Mysterio, that he turns over the weapons system control to Mysterio in order to evade the responsibility of a leadership role in the Avengers. This turns out to be a monumental mistake. He returns to his European high school class tour with the hopes of romancing MJ and leading a more normal life.
When a new super villain shows up shortly in Europe, Parker is forced to confront it, and to correct his mistake. In short, Parker, a high school student, has to grow up in a hurry. As usual for a Marvel movie, there are plenty of special effects. In fact, a key plot element of the movie involves special effects, projected as 3D holographic images by drones. The story involves illusions and misdirection, like a magic act, or, more aptly, a deadly confidence scheme. A mid-credits scene with a twist sets up future Marvel superhero movies.
This coming-of-age story built around the reluctant hero, Peter Parker, works very well, partly because Tom Holland does a great job projecting doubt and vulnerability. Holland's Peter Parker is just about as good as Tobey Maguire's performance of the same character in the first two Spider-Man movies in 2002 and 2004. I don't think Andrew Garfield's performance as Peter Parker was quite up to par with Maguire and Holland in his two Spider-Man movies in 2012 and 2014.
The other reason this film works so well is that it has a great villain. Every hero needs a great villain to fight and this one is played by one of the finest actors of our time, Jake Gyllenhaal. In “Spider-Man: Homecoming” Spider-Man encountered another great villain, Adrian Toomes (AKA Vulture) played by the versatile, talented, veteran actor Michael Keaton. I think Marvel movies are successful mainly because Marvel seems to know how to tell a compelling story. Sadly, many movies fall short in this regard. This film rates a B.
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