Monday, 15 July 2024



There is no escaping the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which now includes the popular comic book character Spider-Man in its orbit along with all of the Avengers, is being rebooted once again after the initial Sam Raimi effort fifteen years ago.

As good as the earlier “Spider-Man” superhero action films were when Tobey Maguire was the web-slinger in the first two installments directed by Sam Raimi, British actor Tom Holland looks appropriately youthful to be teenaged Peter Parker, aka Spidey the apprentice crime-fighter.

Moreover, Holland not only looks convincing as the 15-year-old nerdy high school student struggling with social awkwardness in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” he has an almost uncanny resemblance to Tobey Maguire’s exuberant portrayal of the very same character.

During last year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” which featured battling superheroes that aligned with either Chris Evans’ Captain America or Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, Holland was introduced as the up-and-coming novice Spider-Man to be mentored by Tony Stark.

The opening scenes of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” offer Peter Parker the ability to demonstrate his enthusiasm, by way of cellphone recordings of the action in “Civil War,” for graduating from his current status of the neighborhood good guy helping old ladies and thwarting car thieves.

It’s great fun to see Peter donning his homemade superhero costume so he can sling his web throughout his home turf of Queens in search of doing good deeds at night while trying to fit in at his high school by day.

Teen angst drives the science student to have a big crush on a fellow teammate on the school’s academic decathlon squad that is set to compete in a national tournament in Washington, D.C.

The object of his affection would be senior Liz (Laura Harrier), a beautiful, popular classmate who happens to have a family connection that proves to be challenging for Peter in other ways unrelated to any courtship.

Meanwhile, the sarcastic, sardonic Michelle (Zendaya) is a better fit for Peter, if only because smarts and intellectual demeanor allow her to catch on to Peter’s game. Besides, Liz is way out of the league of a nerdy sophomore.

Aside from hiding his talents from his attractive guardian Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), the object of the unrequited attention of the local deli owner, Peter must contend with the fact that his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) inadvertently learns of his alter-ego’s identity.

As a fellow science geek, Ned proves to be a source of comic relief as he tries to convince classmates that Peter is actually a friend of Spider-Man who could get the superhero to show up at a house party, resulting in Ned constantly teetering on the edge of spilling the beans.

Meanwhile, the brilliant Peter starts failing at school when he becomes preoccupied with a shiny new costume outfitted with serious technological gadgets provided by Tony Stark, despite misgivings about Spider-Man moving at too fast of a pace to superhero status.

Seeking to put a leash on Peter/Spider-Man, Stark dispatches his driver Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) to keep his protégé in check, sticking to simple neighborhood chores rather than becoming embroiled in bigger things.

But fate has other plans for Spider-Man’s evolution when only Peter realizes that a serious criminal enterprise has formed before his very eyes with super villain Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, in fine bad guy mode) running a salvage operation of the debris left behind by the Avengers’ alien battle in “Civil War.”

Thanks to the machinations of Tony Stark, Toomes loses the salvage contract to a bunch of officious bureaucrats and federal agents that toss his crew from the wreckage site, but not before Toomes makes off with some dangerous weapons grade technology.

From that point forward, Spider-Man is pretty much alone in fighting the Toomes gang as they seek to destroy the Washington Monument during the school field trip to the decathlon. The destructive scene at the national landmark is spectacularly well-staged and executed.

Ordinarily, I would be skeptical about the surfeit of superhero movies that seem to dominate the summer box office, but “Homecoming” actually works for a doubter like me, and I suspect that fans of the genre would likely be thrilled with this one.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” functions well on a personal level of fleshing out Tom Holland’s Peter Parker as an ordinary guy wanting to do spectacular things, and then allowing just enough dazzling action scenes to generate plenty of excitement and wonder.

Tom Holland delivers the goods as Spider-Man so well that anyone should instantly forget that Andrew Garfield once donned the red-and-blue tight-fitting costume for two very forgettable films.

“Homecoming” is a welcome return for a popular comic book superhero.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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