PLOT A high-school kid with spider powers yearns to join the Avengers.
CAST Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Laura Harrier
RATED PG-13 (action violence)
BOTTOM LINE A homecoming indeed for this upbeat and up-to-date Spidey.
Few movies have as much riding on them as “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” This isn’t just another blockbuster hoping to recoup its sizable budget, it’s a referendum on the cinematic future of one of the most popular superheroes in the pantheon. After a long custody battle over the Marvel family — Sony got Spidey while Disney got nearly everyone else — “Spider-Man: Homecoming” must not only restore its hero to his rightful place in the Avengers’ universe, but win over audiences still soured by a fizzled reboot just a few years ago.
Good news: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” admirably rises to the occasion. It delivers all the flash and bang we expect from today’s Marvel movies, but it also has the sweet, youthful spirit we remember from Sam Raimi’s trilogy with a baby-faced Tobey Maguire. Though likable newcomer Tom Holland still needs to fully grow into the title role, and the storyline sometimes feels thin (the six writers are all Marvel neophytes), this “Spider-Man” is the smart, savvy, culturally clued-in relaunch fans have been waiting for.
“Homecoming” dispenses, thank goodness, with the familiar spider-bite story and the death of Uncle Ben. (Marisa Tomei plays a newly vibrant Aunt May.) Instead, “Homecoming” immediately drops Peter Parker (Holland) into our favorite part of his story: The shrimpy high-school sophomore who must keep his superpowers a secret.
Parker now lives in a Marvel world. As we saw in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” he aspires to join the Avengers the way young techies aspire to join Google. (Robert Downey, Jr., pops in and out as billionaire Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.) Peter also lives in a multiethnic world — his nerdy pal Ned (Jacob Batalon), his frenemy Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) and his secret crush, Liz (Laura Harrier), provide the color spectrum you’d expect in Peter’s native borough of Queens.
Director Jon Watts nicely handles the scenes of adolescent banter and awkwardness; if anything, they’re more engaging than the action sequences. One, involving the Staten Island ferry, seems swiped directly from Raimi. Likewise, the film’s metal-winged villain, The Vulture, isn’t entirely compelling. He’s driven by money, not vengeance or power, but with the dependably devilish Michael Keaton in the role, we’ll buy it.
Overall, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a welcome return for a superhero we’ve sorely missed.