Spider-Man is a character that has spent the past decade trapped in a web of competing corporate interests. Arguably the most famous character in Marvel Comics gallery of heroes, Spider-Man was launched onto the big screen by Sony in 2002, as “Spider-Man” starring Tobey Maguire proved superhero movies could be super-duper, box-office busters.
It wasn’t long before Marvel Studios was acquired by Disney and started cranking out hit after hit with movies based on other superheroes. They proved a character didn’t necessarily have to be well-known to star in a hit movie (see Raccoon, Rocket), but Marvel still longed to get Spidey back in the fold.
Meanwhile, Sony had to keep making Spider-Man movies every couple of years to retain the movie rights to the character, but after “Spider-Man 2,” the movies produced diminishing creative and financial returns.
Sony read the writing stuck to the wall and agreed to a partnership with Marvel that led to Spider-Man’s appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War.”
Marvel clearly had no interest in wasting this opportunity and now Spider-Man has his own Marvel-approved movie “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and the result is the best Spider-Man movie ever made.
First, we have our star, fresh-faced British actor Tom Holland, who exudes charm and enthusiasm. He plays Peter Parker, not as someone struggling under the weight of great power and responsibility, but more true to the comics, where he is a high school kid dealing with high school problems with some really cool superpowers thrown into the mix.
But while Holland is great, it’s the grownups that give “Spider-Man: Homecoming” a boost to the next level. Marisa Tomei plays Peter’s sympathetic Aunt May, who strives to give Peter a happy home even as she can tell he’s dealing with some weighty issues.
Robert Downey Jr. has fun exploring a new side of Tony Stark as he tries, in the best way he can, to be a super-mentor and father figure to Peter. Of course, most of this involves having his right-hand man Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) babysit Peter and make sure he doesn’t take on anything more challenging than local street thugs.
Naturally, all of that changes when Peter stumbles across a gang who scavenges and repurposes high-tech weapons left in the wreckage of the Avengers’ various battles to be sold on the black market. The gang is led by the Vulture, aka Adrian Toomes, aka Michael Keaton. As played by Keaton, the Vulture is oddly sympathetic — a working stiff taking his shots at the system, but who can turn on a dime and be as menacing and dangerous as any top-shelf villain.
But why “Spider-Man: Homecoming” works as well as it does is all of the superhero action and drama is only slightly more stressful for Peter than his high school drama. Director Jon Watts (a bit of a newbie in his own right) gives the pressures of adolescence equal billing with rescuing everyone on the Staten Island Ferry — because when you are 15 there’s really not much difference.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a breath of fresh air and marks the rejuvenation of a classic character being taken back to his ink-and-paper roots. This is a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man we should all hope to spend more time with.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language, and brief suggestive comments.