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'Spider-Man' Swings For The Seats, But Can It Lasso 'Wonder Woman?'

'Spider-Man' Swings For The Seats, But Can It Lasso 'Wonder Woman?'

The early reviews of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” are in, and they’re pretty good.

Marvel Studios wants “Spider-Man” to snare some of the profitable prestige monopolized the past month by Warner Bros’ “Wonder Woman,” the biggest creative and commercial hit in a summer of box office bombs such as “Baywatch” and “The Mummy.”

For generations, the iconic characters from rival comics companies Marvel and DC have been part of a long and sometimes bitter rivalry, one that has extended to their current parent corporations, respectively Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS) and Time Warner Inc (NYSE: TWX).

The latest race is, surprisingly, about the power of reviews, the aggregates of which people online reach for like hot buttered popcorn. “Spider-Man” is getting its first reviews of the summer blockbuster season, and they're comparable to those of “Wonder Woman.”

The unanimous feeling among critics? Both movies have plenty of heart at a time when the trait seems in short supply. “Spider-Man” and “Wonder Woman” are both above the Rotten Tomatoes 90 percent “fresh” rating.

Spider-Man’s notices, though, come almost uniformly with caveats.

Positive Reviews With Certain Provisos

This is the third relaunch of Marvel's flagship character; Sam Raimi's original trilogy energized the superhero genre, but Sony Pictures subsequent reboot fell flat with critics, even though it made tons of money.

In an era in which social media has put commentary in the hands of the masses, it’s intriguing to see how the latest trend in box office success coincides with a movie’s review aggregate. Paramount Pictures went so far as to blame bad reviews for the failure of one of the year’s first would-be blockbusters, the Scarlett Johansson flop “Ghost in the Shell.”

The Hollywood Reporter complains that Peter Parker seems shoe-horned into the 15-and-counting films of the Marvel Universe. Maybe Disney tried too hard by having Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man play such a heavy role as Pete’s father figure.

“That's the kind of overeager cluelessness displayed in this occasionally exciting but often frustrating film,” scolds the Hollywood bible.

The other Hollywood gospel, Variety, took issue with instant superstar Tom Holland, the British lad playing Parker, for “his wormy pale handsomeness.”

“Holland has a likable presence, but he’s dutiful and imploring rather than captivating.”

How’s Michael Keaton?

Keaton, who created a singular Batman in Tim Burton’s 1980s classic, is the Vulture in Spider-Man, one of the most iconic yet kind of lame of Parker’s rogues: He’s basically a cranky guy with wings.

But he’s been reimagined to the point where The Verge says, despite little screen time, “his one most menacing villain turn is intimidating and personal enough to keep even Peter unnerved, pale, and uncharacteristically silent.”

The New York Times trashed the movie with a snotty dismissal, though it found Keaton “so very good in ‘Homecoming’ that he suggests a future narrative path down which the older, more experienced Spider-Man might eventually go if ever allowed to truly grow up.” As is the reporter’s prerogative, the Times nevertheless labeled the movie “fresh.”

Bottom Line: Shake Your Money Maker

“That the movie comes off as loose and sweet and light on its feet as it does feels like sort of minor Marvel miracle,” wrote Entertainment Weekly.

Marvel loves to co-opt other genres for its superhero flicks, and “Spider-Man” is no different. It was intentionally set up as a teen adventure flick. “It means the decision to turn his first full-length adventure into a teen movie is one that pays off heroically, the structure serving as the ideal device to describe the web-slinger’s journey to maturity,” writes the Guardian.

“Spider-Man” is sure to take the holiday box office, but matching the heady, long-distance run of “Wonder Woman” (closing in on $700 million globally) seems almost superhuman.

Related Link: Wonder Woman Shatters $600 Million Globally


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