‘Homecoming’ King

New Spider-Man returns Marvel’s web star to his high school roots

Photographer select; Tom HollandSpider-Man: Homecoming
Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marissa Tomei & Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by Jon Watts
PG-13

Of all the comic-book superheroes, Spider-Man was always the one that always connected most directly to me as a kid.

Mainly because he was a kid, too—unlike Superman, Batman, Daredevil, Thor, the Hulk and just about everyone else. They were all bona fide adults with day jobs, or at least grown-up lives and responsibilities.

Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, was an insecure, misunderstood high school student, a teenager who juggled classes, crime-fighting and mad crushes on Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy.

I could dig that.

More than 50 years after his first appearance in a Marvel Comic, and now after three big-screen movies starring Tobey McGuire and two with Andrew Garfield, Spider-Man: Homecoming returns the character to the hormones and high-school hallways of his roots.

And it marks the full-blown debut of a new Spider-Man, Tom Holland, and he crushes it. The young British actor, 21, has appeared in several other films, including In The Heart of the Sea and The Lost City of Z, and he was one of the kids swept away by the tsunami with Naomi Watts in The Impossible. But he rocks Spider-Man as if this was the role he’s been waiting in the wings to play all along.

Tom HollandHe gave a teaser cameo appearance as Spidey in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, and the movie creatively begins with Peter’s “home video” leading up to his experience in that film’s “clash of the Avengers” tarmac scene.

Do we need yet another Spider-Man movie? Heck yeah—if it’s this one, a rollicking, soaring glide of a ride that puts a bright new, fun, feisty, re-energized spin on pop culture’s top web star.

Although it’s officially a franchise reboot, Spider-Man: Homecoming dispenses (thankfully) with much of the backstory—how Peter Parker became an orphan, how he became Spider-Man—and gets right down to business. In the opening scene, we meet the character who’ll become Spidey’s next nemesis: Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), the owner of a New York salvage company who exacts revenge on the circumstances—and bureaucrats—that screwed him out a big job, spurring him to a life of crime as the Vulture.

Using a high-tech winged harness that allows him to fly, Toomes uses giz-mology stolen from superhero smack-down sites to create guns that can obliterate people and buildings. That’s bad news for just about everyone, except bad guys who’ll pay him big bucks for the black-market bang.

There are several delightful surprises, and one huge one, so the less said about certain things, the better.

Jon Favreau;Robert Downey Jr;Tom Holland

Robert Downey Jr. & Tom Holland

Yes, Stan Lee makes a cameo. Robert Downey Jr. pops in and out as Tony Stark, who provides Peter Parker with his righteously upgraded Spidey suit. The scene in which Peter discovers, and activates, the suit’s Siri-like personal-assistant is simply terrific.

Marissa Tomei returns as Peter’s Aunt May, and there’s Jon Favreau as Stark’s right-hand man, Happy Hogan. Donald Glover (from TV’s Atlanta) has a couple of scenes as a chill, not-so-good guy. Laura Harrier (who played Liz on the soap One Life to Live) plays the gorgeous senior for whom young Peter pines. Singer-actress Zendaya (from the Disney TV series K.C. Undercover) provides some coy comic relief as quirky Michelle, another student, a budding artist who might—or might not—be drawn to Peter.

Newcomer Jacob Batalon is introduced as Peter’s super-nerdy best friend, Ned, who’s thrilled when he accidentally discovers Peter’s secret identity and is allowed to become his Spidey confidant.

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton

And Keaton… Well, his menacing, metallic Vulture is like Birdman by way of Boeing, and he brings a pathos and dimensionality to his villainy that makes his character more than the typical comic-book baddie. Based on the end-credits scene tag, it’s good to know he might be back for more in the next Spidey installment, coming in 2018.

Director Jon Watts, whose Cop Car (2015) with Kevin Bacon was an underappreciated gem, brings a fresh, fly perspective to everything, from Peter’s anxious relationships to the movie’s big action scenes. And unlike his predecessors, this Spider-Man, still a greenhorn to what he can do, keeps “close to the ground,” not high in the Big Apple sky. A major chase sequence takes place in a suburban neighborhood, across grassy lawns, over low-slung rooftops and through leafy backyards—not between the concrete canyons of Manhattan skyscrapers.

When Spider-Man hesitates at the top of a the Washington Monument, during a boffo rescue scene a bit later, the personal assistant in his suit asks him why he’s pausing, some 550 feet off the plaza below.

His response: “I’ve never been this high before.”

Spider-Man: Homecoming have leave giddy Spidey fans feeling the same way.

In theaters July 7, 2017

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