Jason’s Jottings

by Jason Strangis

Amazing Spider-Man is still going strong after all these years


It’s truly amazing but Spider-Man is still going strong more than half a century after the webbed wonder first hit the pages of comic books.

Created in 1962 by legendary writer Stan Lee and eccentric artist Steve Ditko, Spider-Man has since appeared in thousands of superhero stories, several animated television series, and now six live-action movies for the big screen. The most recent Marvel movie — “Spider-Man: Homecoming” — swung through theaters starting July 7. It looks like another surefire hit for Marvel, assuring fans that the Spidey saga should remain strong for years to come.

This time the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is played by a young and relatively unknown actor named Tom Holland. Comic book fans first saw Holland in a memorable cameo appearance during a big battle scene in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War.” And now in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Holland gives an enthusiastic and highly energetic and at times hyper-active fresh take on the famous Webslinger. He also seems to have a bit of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and always seems to be bouncing off walls — literally and figuratively. Peter is more of the wisecracking hero of the comics with his trademark sense of humor and that really shows in this movie, much more so than other actors who wore the spider-mask like Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

“Homecoming” is really a coming-of-age Spider-Man story as a teenage Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still adapting to his new powers, while trying to impress his mentor Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man, played yet again by Robert Downey Jr.). Spidey wants to show he is good enough to someday make the Avengers roster. Yet deep down Peter is still the shy, socially awkward yet totally likeable guy we all remember from the comic books, and somewhat of a science nerd as well. As usual Peter has a difficult time getting up the courage to ask a popular girl in school to the Homecoming dance. Some things never change!

But some things do, such as the addition of new technology and a spectacular spider suit that Peter tries to figure out while swinging around New York City and fighting crime as Spider-Man. In this way the film is highlighting our rapidly increasing reliance on technology, and the screenwriters cleverly adapt this to fit with the current techno-craze of today. But Spidey still has those super-cool and old reliable web-shooters which are used in abundance in the new movie. And there are other spider-gadgets that are simply amazing to see.

Another clever move by director Jon Watts and the filmmakers was to change the look of the movie’s main antagonist, the Vulture. In the early days of the Spider-Man comics the Vulture really wasn’t all that imposing or threatening, but the film version has added impressive new mechanical wings so this villain can soar high into the sky. Plus he has a metallic helmet with glowing green eyes that makes the all-new Vulture seem like a powerful bird of prey.

In an inspired bit of casting, Michael Keaton plays the main villain in “Homecoming.” Superhero fans might notice a “winged theme” to Keaton’s career work, starting of course with Batman in 1989, and later with the Oscar-winning film Birdman (2014), and now the Vulture. Even today Keaton proves to be a very good actor and his portrayal of Adrian Toomes (a.k.a. the Vulture) is another standout performance from the reliable veteran actor.

In an odd choice of casting, though, actress Marisa Tomei is perhaps the youngest Aunt May to ever appear on screen or in the comics. It’s not a big role, though, and there are more notable supporting performances such as Peter’s best friend, the over-enthusiastic Ned Leeds, as well as Tony Stark’s main assistant “Happy” Hogan. Disney star Zendaya also appears in the movie as a mysterious character and outsider of her high school class.

Overall I felt that “Homecoming” is entertaining enough as a summer blockbuster. And there are some neat twists and turns. It might lack the powerful messages and substance of “Wonder Woman” but then again these are two totally different movies. In fact, “Homecoming” is much less serious and more light-hearted than several other superhero blockbusters of the past decade and seems to be geared for audiences of all ages. Everyone — young and old alike — seems to still find Spider-Man a favorite hero to this day. And they probably always will. When Spidey was first created in the early 1960s, the character was totally radical for that time. It was perhaps the first time in comic book history that a teenager was the main star of a superhero adventure. His powers were weird and the Wallcrawler didn’t always win, especially in his early adventures. Peter Parker often struggled with guilt and insecurity and doubt. As do we all.

As Stan Lee pointed out time and again: Spider-Man is the hero who could be you!