ReelBob: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ ★★★ 1/2
By Bob Bloom
Mix a teenage coming-of-age story and a superhero action flick and you get “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Sony Pictures officially becomes part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with this release that follows high-school student Peter Parker (Tom Holland) after his involvement with The Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War.”
Because this is the third iteration of the Spider-Man franchise, the movie smartly avoids showing Spider-Man’s origin story again. Instead, Peter simply tells his best friend, Ned, who accidentally discovers Peter’s secret, that he was bitten by a radioactive spider.
After that, on with the show.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” picks up after the events in “Civil War” with Peter impatiently waiting for his next assignment from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his initiation into The Avengers.
Peter is so single-mindedly focused on joining the superhero club that he has quit all his after-school activities so he can rush home and await that phone call that never comes.
The teen has not forsaken his Spider-Man identity completely. He helps around the neighborhood, thwarting or catching petty criminals who steal bicycles or grab purses.
But Peter wants so much more. He wants to sit at the adult table with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the other Marvel-ous saviors of the world.
One night, Spidey interrupts a burglary of a local ATM. He unexpectedly comes up against a crew using advanced weapons that outmatch his spidey powers.
The weapons are being manufactured by Adrian Toomes a k a The Vulture (Michael Keaton), a former salvage company boss who lost a big contract demolishing The Avengers’ headquarters after the Battle of New York (for references, see “The Avengers”).
A government agency shut down his project, but Toomes and some of his workers pocketed some of the alien technology from the rubble and went into business for themselves, selling new weapons on the black market.
Where these guys acquired the technical know-how to manufacture these gadgets is passed over rather quickly, as is why the government did not step in immediately to even let Toomes and his crew begin the demolition.
It doesn’t matter. It is refreshing to see a superhero battle a desperate, blue-collar villain whose motivation is simply money to support his family and employees, rather than someone or something seeking world domination.
Holland’s performance is the heart of the movie. The actor is 21, closer to Parker’s age than previous Spider-Men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
Holland brings a John Hughes-teen-age-movie vibe to the role, as if he were channeling an Anthony Michael Hall character from a Hughes 1980s’ flick.
Holland deftly wears Parker’s uncertainties and insecurities — not only about his responsibilities as Spider-Man, but also about the hazards of navigating the shark-infested waters of high school.
Even a superhero can become tongue-tied and feel inadequate around the girl he worships from afar.
Keaton’s performance also raises the movie. You feel a twinge of sympathy for the situation that drove him to a life of crime. His humanity, though, does not diminish the danger he exudes when necessary.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a story of self-discovery as a teenager not only learns about the extent of his powers but of the responsibilities that go with them.
The movie is a pleasure, a delightful and exciting visual treat plus a solid story — surprisingly cobbled together by six writers — that concentrates more on the humanity of its protagonist as well as its antagonist.
This newest incarnation of “Spider-Man” is a blast, a lively combination of special-effects action and teen angst that will joyfully entice you into its web.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
3½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), science-fiction action and violence, language, suggestive comments