Upon first hearing that there would be a new Spider-Man, the first word that popped into the ole noggin was, “why?” Then, we saw Tom Holland in Captain America: Civil War. He stole scenes in a movie that was stacked with our favorite Marvel superheroes — no easy task. Yet, truthfully, the moment he was cast as Peter Parker and the webbed wonder… anticipation ran high.
He gave a simultaneously breathtaking and heartbreaking turn in The Impossible, out-acting actors three-times his age, such as Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor (they played his parents in the real life tale of an English family who survived the Thailand Tsunami).
This kid can act and given the script he has to work with in Spider-Man: Homecoming from writer Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses), and a few others, it is a case of a thespian meeting a story that was custom fit for his prolific talents. Speaking of great fits, Holland slips into the Spider-Man suit and makes us forget all about Andrew Garfield and the last two Spidey adventures that should be firmly rooted in our conscious — given that the last one came and went from theaters in 2014.
Also welcomed is the fact that we are not given another Spider-Man origins story, which would have been our third in a decade-and-a-half. At this point, who needs it? Peter Parker and his fate colliding with a radioactive spider are essentially in the public domain, so-to-speak. Audiences need not waste their time with it. Plus, given that his Spidey senses were on full alert in Civil War, would not it be going backwards to give us the whole backstory?
Sure, the whole losing his Uncle to violence and how that propels him to extol his own brand justice is lost. But, through that pitch perfect script, we get all the emotional motivation for our young teenager’s actions that is needed.
That’s the other thing. Both Tobey Maguire and Garfield were not quite right at capturing that youthful exuberance that Holland has in spades. Both were fine, Maguire more than Garfield, yet it didn’t take long for either franchise to speed past those teen years that make Spider-Man “Spider-Man” and give Parker serious adult problems to cope with.
Holland can immediately be taken seriously as a teenager given superhuman powers and how each of us would act given that situation. Director Jon Watts also harnesses that power and hands it to the audience on a silver platter in the film’s opening moments. We get to relive the closing moments of Civil War from Parker’s perspective. What would a teenager, circa 2017, do in a situation like that? You guessed it, document it all on video with his smart phone!
Quickly, the action reverts back to his native Queens and New York City as a whole. Happy (Jon Favreau) is a running intermediary between Peter and his “mentor,” Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Ever ambitious, the young pup seeks to get back on an Avengers mission. The truth is he needs to learn how to walk before he can, well, run and then fly.
Frustrated, he takes street justice matters into his own hands with mixed results.
No superhero movie (or any film for that matter) is worth its weight without a villain to ground our hero and give him or her means for their sling-shot into personal greatness and destiny. That devilish evil-doer arrives brilliantly in the form of Michael Keaton’s Vulture.
Keaton, who has worn a winged costumed a few times in the past (of course as Batman and in the Oscar nominated Birdman) — once again takes flight and he could not have been a better choice to serve as the foil for our young hero. The script is also kind to his character as it gives him layers beyond just a bad guy seeking to wreak havoc.
The Vulture has his reasons for what he does and they are quite timely. He is firmly a working class guy who was wronged by the one-percenters. In this case, they are embodied by the Stark led Avengers. At the same time, his power to go toe-to-toe with Spidey also does not come out of left field as it is rooted in this new world he lives in, where aliens exist (such as Thor) and technological advances have gone through the roof because of that fact.
Spider-Man: Homecoming gives our hero a first romantic interest in Liz (Laura Harrier), a tribute to the comics where he was born. Zendaya’s casting as “Michelle” caused quite the buzz, but she is not the object of Parker’s affections in this installment. She does a solid job and we cannot wait to see how she and Parker intermingle in the next chapter of this movie series that so far is delightfully delectable, electrically enjoyable and absolutely affable on every level.
Yes, it is the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2, and one of the more wholly satisfying entries in the MCU.