With a slight nod to Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused: I keep getting older and Spider-Man keeps getting younger.
Tobey Maguire was 32 the last time he played the webbed one, Andrew Garfield was 31. And Tom Holland, the newest Spider-Man, is but a lad of 21—and he semi-convincingly plays Peter Parker as 15. (Our next Spider Man will undoubtedly be played by one of Beyonce’s twins.)
The good news about Spidey Benjamin Buttoning is twofold: Spider-Man Homecoming is at least partly a (very good) teen high school comedy; also Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is a total MILF.
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With Homecoming, Spider-Man has been effectively blended into the MCU (that’s Marvel Comic Universe for the recently comatose), meaning that not only is young Peter mentored by a grumpy, tough-love administering Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), but that the film has the Universe’s same strategically formulated ratio of action, jokes, and sentiment. It’s uncanny how well they’ve perfected this formula—always pausing for a joke in the middle of an action sequence (“Gross!” Spidey says, when he sees gum under the seats of a careening bus), or adding a bit of sneaky sentiment when you least expect it (an old lady Spidey helps across the street buys him a churro). Spider-Man: Homecoming is slick, entertaining, an absolute gas—but you can never shake the fact that it took 12 writers to wrestle it into its current, Marvel-tastic form. Even some of the good things about it—its pleasingly multicultural cast, for example—feels formulated to perfectly capitalize on the zeitgeist.
Still, there’s lots to like.
Number one, there’s NO ORIGINAL STORY! Huzzah! We don’t see Peter get bitten by the radioactive spider; we don’t see his beloved uncle get killed. We don’t see him adjusting to his new powers or watch his parents get murdered in front of him in Gotham City (wait—wrong origin story). By the time we meet him, he’s already Spider-Man, albeit in a cheap, homemade suit. (Later, Stark outfits him with a tricked-out super suit, complete with a talking AI component.)
And, as we already saw, briefly, in Captain America: Civil War, Holland is great as Parker. He plays the character as the ultimate kid brother—goofy, nimble, with a whiz-bang, wide-eyed charm. He’s just itching to be accepted by The Avengers, his spiritual older siblings, if you will.
His computer genius best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is the first to find out Peter’s secret identity and he’s super geeked about it. Ned wants to blast out the news to all of their classmates for instant cool points (Peter says no), and he wants to be Spider-Man’s “chair-man”—that is, the guy skidding around from computer-to-computer, telling the hero what to do. Peter has a crush on a pretty girl named Liz (Laura Harrier), but she’s also the captain of the debate team that Peter is on—a nice touch. Another girl on the debate team is the too-cool-for-school Michelle (a hilarious Zendaya), who’s harboring a little torch for Peter, not that she would ever tell him. Peter’s nemesis at school is a richie, an obnoxious deejay who drives his daddy’s Audi and whose name is—wait for it—Flash (Tony Revolori). (The film’s high school stuff so closely follows the beats of old John Hughes comedies, it even uses ’80s music in the Homecoming dance scene.) Another nice touch: Every once in a while the school trots out wholesome PSA videos about physical fitness and staying out of trouble starring none other than Captain America himself (Chris Evans, in a cameo).
The villains in the film are a little problematic. When we first meet Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), he’s a hard-working, salt-of-the-earth type guy who’s the foreman of a crew tasked with cleaning up the alien debris left over from The Avengers’ last battle. Then government agents—at the behest of Stark Industries—swoop in and take over the job. Furious, Toomes steals some of the alien raw material and begins to forge highly powerful weapons, which he sells on the open market and uses to turn himself in The Vulture, a winged creature hellbent on taking down the Avengers. (Any resemblance to Keaton’s Oscar-bait superhero alter-ego Birdman is strictly coincidental.) Since a lot of Spider-Man: Homecoming deals with our responsibility to family and community over personal glory, it does seems strange that a bunch of guys just trying to make an honest buck are transformed into the bad guys. That being said, Keaton is great as Vulture—and he retains enough of his basic humanity to make him unpredictable.
So yeah, I liked Spider-Man: Homecoming. I laughed during the funny parts, felt moved during the moving parts, and got excited during the exciting parts. And that Tom Holland—he seems like a good kid. I’ll be sure to vote for him at the Teen Choice Awards, or whatever. I am another customer who has happily consumed the latest Marvel product. Resistance is futile.