Spider-Man: Homecoming,
directed by Jon Watts
(Walt Disney/Sony, 2017)

It was with a certain weariness that I greeted news of yet another reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. Resurrecting an old property is one thing, but with two recent Spider-Man film series in recent memory, it seemed like this was a tiresome example of overkill.

Then I saw the new Spider-Man's brief appearances in Captain America: Civil War, and I was stoked for this stand-alone movie to arrive. Now, having finally seen it, I can say it does not disappoint.

Where this version of Spider-Man tops the previous incarnations is actor Tom Holland, who plays the arachnid-themed superhero and, more importantly, his alter-ego, good-hearted high school dweeb Peter Parker. I'm a big fan of the Tobey Maguire version of the character -- despite the third movie in that series, which still makes me cringe -- and the Andrew Garfield version also had a few good things going for it. But Holland really captures the "gee whiz" excitement of a teenager gifted with superpowers.

Although this movie leapfrogs over the Spider-Man origin story -- thankfully, since it's been done often enough on the big screen already -- it focuses on Peter Parker coming to terms with the price he pays for his powers.

Despite the many temptations, Peter resists the urge to use Spider-Man for frivolous reasons; he is determined to use his abilities for good. He's excited about it -- he's overconfident when he's fighting bad guys, while still somewhat timid in his dealings with classmates and especially (gulp!) girls. He's socially awkward, but quick with a quip when dealing with baddies.

Michael Keaton, who's had experience as a superhero, is gritty as villain Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture, who is just a working joe until he's chiseled out of a steady paycheck and lucks into some alien technology. Marisa Tomei is great as a younger, hipper, sexier Aunt May than we're used to. And at school, Peter is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including Jacob Batalon as steadfast pal Ned, Laura Harrier as out-of-Peter's-league classmate Liz, Tony Revolori as bully Flash, and Zendaya as Michelle who, since she reintroduces herself as MJ at the end, is probably Peter's future gal.

Of course, Robert Downey Jr. always shines as Tony Stark/Iron Man. He appears in only a few scenes -- along with right-hand man Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and, briefly, love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) -- but he really stands out at every appearance.

All in all, Spider-Man: Homecoming hits all the right notes. Since the addition of Sony-owned Spider-Man into the greater Marvel cinematic universe necessitated a reboot, I don't think filmmakers could have done much better than this.

review by
Tom Knapp

5 August 2017

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