Actually, Spider-BOY might have been a better title.
Sony Pictures, now joining the Marvel Universe, has rebooted the cash-cow Spider-Man franchise with a decidedly new and different approach that makes the sixth film to carry the webslinger’s moniker perhaps the most financially promising yet. After three outings with Tobey Maguire and another two with Andrew Garfield, the studio finally decided to bring Spider-Man fully into the Marvel cinematic canon with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel Producer-in-Chief Kevin Feige was brought aboard for the first time, and Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) takes a major supporting role as Spidey’s mentor and father figure. Chris Evans’ humorous Captain America PSAs, Jon Favreau as Stark’s right hand and even another brief surprise cameo from that world add to the expanding cast of comic book legends never before seen with Spidey on film.
Of course, this all was tried out last year in Captain America: Civil War, in which new Spidey star Tom Holland was introduced into the role as part of an all-star Avengers airport battle scene. But this is the first time the 20-year-old actor has had to carry the whole shebang. In Homecoming, he is a normal high school kid who soon finds he is the one chosen by Stark, who basically serves a guidance counselor to Peter Parker and designs the infamous red and blue suit he wears to exhibit his impressive powers. How much of that is actually him and how much the outfit is anybody’s guess since the script credited to six writers — Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers and director Jon Watts — basically makes Parker out to be an awkward superhero-in-training, stumbling his way through a body-change experience like no other teen ever has. Some of the funnier moments revolve around the big reveal when best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) discovers that his buddy is the Spider-Man. There’s even a typical teen crush when he falls for classmate Liz (Laura Harrier).
As I say in my video review above, at its heart this is just a coming-of-age story told in comic book terms, and perfectly pitched to a new generation. It’s a clever reboot, and Holland handles it all in style, reminiscent of the way Michael J. Fox brought humor and wonder to the original Back To The Future. All the set pieces and typical hero-vs.-villain stuff you expect from this genre is here, including bad guy Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton, in a nice comic book movie switch from Batman persona to evil dude), whose alter ego Vulture is out to make trouble for Spidey. It seems he is unloading a stash of alien weapons on the black market, and that doesn’t go down well. Keaton is icily good in the role, even if, in full-winged Vulture getup, he isn’t as threatening as some past Spider-Man villains. The best part of this new rivalry is a nifty twist I won’t give away here.
The scenes with Downey are nicely played and give the movie much-needed Marvel cred. Rest assured that Aunt May is still around, this time played by Marisa Tomei. Director Watts was plucked for this project on the basis of a terrific indie thriller called Cop Car, which was in my 2015 top 10. It proved he could work with young actors and get great results, just as he has done here on a much-larger scale. The best action scene takes place on the Washington Monument in D.C., where Parker’s schoolmates are stuck in an elevator after an alien explosion on the site. Of course, Peter must ditch them and quickly return as Spidey to save the day. It is terrific filmmaking of this sort, and Watts proves he is the real deal.
As summertime blockbuster fun, Spider-Man: Homecoming is grand, commercial, top-flight filmmaking and sure to charm Marvel fanatics. Producers are Feige and former Sony chairman Amy Pascal, who OK’d this reboot when she was studio chief. Sony launches it all this Friday.
Do you plan to see Spider-Man: Homecoming? Watch my video review and let us know what you think.