“Please, can’t you just be the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?” It was a request made to Tom Holland, now suiting up as the young web slinger, a key member of the new generation of superheroes. This is Spider-Man at it’s very best. Applaud the future that’s coming to the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
It’s a celebration. The marriage of an intellectual-property in which Spidey, one of the cherished creations of the ink-and-paper Marvel Comics empire, finally swings into Marvel’s big-screen cinematic universe hitherto dominated by Avengers such as Captain America and Thor. Having the Marvel magic added could open up new creative doors for other franchises such as the “X-Men.”
In Jon Watts’ “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” our hero is only 15 years old and is dealing with the traps of adolescence. He is an innocent, and Holland’s performance is thoroughly winning. According to press materials there were no fewer than six writers credited on the screenplay, but the end result has shown in the box-office receipts.
Holland’s Peter Parker enters the film with superpowers intact—no clunky origin story to weigh down the action. In the “Captain America: Civil War” video diary of events, Peter rightly expects to be joining the Avengers. Instead, he’s given the brush-off by Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. There are good parting gifts: the industrialist genius gives him a multimillion-dollar outfit full of electronics, makes his flunky Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) Peter’s “point guy,” and basically gives the oldest brush-off on record, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” He’s young and patient, at first, watching the clock every day at school, waiting for the final bell so he can go fight petty crime, checking in with Hogan in hopes that he’ll get Stark’s attention. Peter waits a long time, and then he doesn’t!
Peter’s waiting is classic coming-of-age stuff and it works. Here is where the movie really nails it.
Peter swooning over the pretty upperclassman Liz (Laura Harrier); the teasing he gets from Flash (Tony Revolori) and the humiliating commentary of Michelle (Disney Channel veteran Zendaya) almost makes it perfect. This Peter is not good at keeping a secret. In chemistry class, he tinkers with formulations of his web fluid, conveniently labeled as such. He totally blows his cover with best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and he dissects alien technology with him right in the middle of shop class. Kids!
As it happens, that alien tech was left behind by a crew of evil guys led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who way back then, was just a hard-working salvage contractor when the Avengers first wreaked havoc on Manhattan some years ago. Toomes saw opportunity, he realized that the Battle of New York left behind enough super-powered debris to make him wealthy. Now, he’s an arms merchant. His crew are called Vultures, for obvious reasons.
Spider-Man crosses paths with the Vultures just as he’s learning more about the suit Stark gave him. Whimsical genius that Stark is, he has enabled a “training wheels protocol,” setting most of its more powerful features off-limits until Peter is more experienced. Stark “child proofed” the suit. That is funny stuff, but he’s underestimated this generation of nerds, and within minutes of discovering this protocol, Peter and Ned have unlocked it.
Spider-Man’s technology has heat vision, super-hearing, assorted drones and tracking devices and a parachute—just in case. Plus, there is an artificial intelligence assistant.
Then it gets better: This Stark-designed suit can sling spider webs in ways Peter has not yet imagined!
In his personal life, Peter manages to land a date to homecoming and a shot at a normal guy’s life, but then a major battle, outside of a jet plane high above Brooklyn, beckons. He answers the call to duty with gusto.
Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) helps keep Peter grounded, and there are plenty of clever setups for the next installment.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is rated PG-13 and is 133 minutes.