Comedy/Adventure/Drama, 133 Minutes, 2017
This is an incredibly fun movie. Tom Holland [IMDB] is perfectly cast and Michael Keaton [IMDB] is always on his game. There’s thrills, chills and spills. The character’s integration into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe is clean and elegant. It’s absolutely worth your time and money.
…it’s missing something. It’s funny, warm and gorgeous, but also – and there’s no gentle way to say this – shallow. Shallow as in, “no depth.” Emotional moments are effective within the framework of the film without being truly meaningful or memorable.
The simplest problem is simple bathos. Very few moments are allowed to build passed anything but a mood destroying quip. They’re good quips, mind. Some are even delivered by the most impressive, deluxe and traditional of means: the fat, funny, best friend! You’ll laugh so hard that you’ll almost forget how empty and fleeting it is.
A fear of emotion has been an issue for most of the later Marvel movies. A more serious problem for “Spiderman” is a persistent unwillingness to embrace the mythology of the character. It’s so desperately worried about being compared to previous incarnations that it hamstrings itself.
[Minor Spoilers Follow]
The film smartly skips the origin story. We know how it goes; we’ve seen two big-screen versions of it in the past 15 years after all. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and gets powers. It’s simple and everybody knows it. It’s the mechanical part of his origin, the technical part.
Unfortunately the film also tosses the meaningful, emotional part of the story: Peter allowing a criminal to escape who later kills his beloved uncle, Ben. That crushing guilt pushes Peter to do better, to ignore his personal desires and to be a hero. In this movie, Uncle Ben is literally never mentioned. Here, Peter’s primary motivation is to impress Tony Stark.
It works, it makes sense and it’s simple. It also lacks depth, conflict and meaning.
One of the staples of the character and of the previous films, is his close ties to New York City. While many Marvel characters are based in New York, few inhabit the city so completely. Few images are as uplifting as Spiderman clinging to its iconic architecture. Few scenes are as powerful as when the people of the city selflessly stand by their hero.
There’s almost none of that here. Much of the action takes place outside the city or in generic-looking suburbs. Nearly all of the direct conflicts are lonely, one-on-one affairs far from witnesses. New York, such a strong character in and of itself, is all but ignored. Neutered.
The movie is good. It’s simply not deep. I’ve written before about how deeply moving 2004’s Spiderman 2 [IMDB] was. It was a movie that stuck with you. It choked you up and made you feel. This one doesn’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a missed opportunity.