Set in New York City, a 15-year-old Peter Parker, well played by Tom Holland, experiences new heroics as the web slinging Spider-Man when he pits his strengths against The Vulture (a.k.a. Adrian Toomes), well played by Michael Keaton, in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Special note: no spoilers here.
This sixth film in the Spider-Man film series comes 15 years after the first, 2002’s Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire as Spidey (Andrew Garfield was in this role in the two previous films) the friendly neighborhood superhero created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The 21 year-old Holland gets a long time to grow into his role with at least three more appearances coming. He constantly exudes realistic emotional turmoil he must endure.
Since it’s Holland’s second time in the role after last year’s Captain America: Civil War, director Jon Watts and his crew can hit the ground running after a nice classic theme song homage at the beginning. Audiences know the basics so important elements like the spider bite and Aunt May’s life journey can be quickly referenced in dialogue only.
The large screenwriting team (including Watt) establishes the main conflict in a key flash back sequence where Anne Marie Hoag, played by Tyne Daly (TV’s Cagney and Lacey, Judging Amy) and the U.S. Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.) encounters a hard working salvage company owner who is highly invested in harvesting the Chitauri technology from the Stark/Avengers Tower site. These events lay the ground work for the engaging story as several great characters converge throughout the two-hour and 13 minutes running time that also include two bonus sequences during and after the entertaining and colorfully creative ending credits.
Filmmakers ace the Midtown science and technology high school atmosphere as well as the main conflicts and amazing action sequences that include several amazing sequences where figures fly through the air and maneuver through the urban settings in various ways. Many of these scenes surpass what any stuntman could accomplish, so naturally filmmakers turn to special effects to for these action sequences.
Robert Downey Jr. provides the bridge linking Peter to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Iron Man/Tony Stark (his eighth time in this role) along with Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan who finds his responsibilities expanding as Tony’s right hand man who originally started as just a chauffeur.
Keaton, who has definitely had some superhero movie experience, impresses with his “every man” persona and dialogue delivery. This villain has multiple layers plus great skill at using available resources though the new Chitauri technology does present unique challenges. Michael Chernus (Orange is the New Black) also stars as Toomes’ skilled technician Phineas Mason (a.k.a. “The Tinkerer”) who gets to prove his “metal” with a special high altitude breakthrough invention.
The large screenwriting team (including Watt who also wrote the song “Flashdry” featured in a party sequence) establishes Keaton’s impeccable appeal along with Marisa Tomei’s as Peter’s Aunt May. Her background gets the back seat while her support and guidance of Peter takes center stage in an admirable, realistic way. Her last line is priceless.
Jacob Batalon has a star making role as Peter’s best friend Ned. His character provides a nice bridge to the audience while he closely identifies with Peter’s genuine excitement, resourcefulness and enthusiasm in all the extraordinary circumstances they face. He also provides some comic relief with lines like “no one wants that” after Peter mentions that he should “be himself.”
Laura Harrier stars as Liz Allan, Peter’s school mate/love interest, a senior who also leads Peter’s special academic decathlon team on competitions while Zendaya also stars as Michelle, another school mate/team member who provides quirky appeal as she says what everyone’s thinking. Filmmakers make full use of her background scenes (show here reading the book Of Human Bondage) and her comment at the Washington Monument is priceless. Garcelle Beauvais stars as Liz’s mom Doris.
Zendaya gets a higher billing than Harrier even though her character has the least function in the main cast of this film, but audiences should see why by the film’s end. Tony Revolori also stars as Flash Thompson, Peter’s number one detractor besides Vulture.
Donald Glover (The Martian, Atlanta TV series) makes the most of his limited, but memorable screen time as Aaron Davis, especially in a key parking garage sequence. Oscar® winner Jennifer Connelly (Beautiful Mind) also stars as the voice of K.A.R.E.N. (a.k.a. “suit lady”) while Bokeem Woodbine co-stars as Herman Schultz who gets some added abilities. Martin Starr also impresses with his deadpan comic dialogue delivery and timing as teacher Mr. Harrington.
Audiences can easily identify with Peter’s adventures and good morals as Stark supports him with upgrades while Peter and Ned also learn about important limitations. Filmmakers also provide a great beginning, “documentary” sequence that immediately molds Peter’s place in this story.
Spider-Man comic/film veterans (and even 80s film buff, especially John Hughes’) will definitely enjoy a deeper experience watching this film than novices like being able to recognize the significance of Michael Mando, Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys), Kenneth Choi and Abraham Attah’s roles as Mac Gargan, Betty, Principal Morita and Abe respectively. Stan Lee also makes his now standard appearance in a perfect NYC neighbor sequence. Audiences can expect appearances from other key Marvel characters.
Michael Giacchino creates another stellar musical score except filmmakers and editors cause on odd sequence transition with Spidey moving through the neighborhood rooftops that starts with a light, almost comical tone then turns serious too quickly.
Various songs keep the tone light and the action quick. These songs include The Beat, Canned Heat, Flipbois, A Flock of Seagulls, Galactic, Icy Black, Kill the Giant, Rolling Stones, Spoon, Traffic and Yello. The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” even gets two notable inclusions.
Highly recommended (***1/2) and rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments. The stuntwork, special effects and direction provide thrills and genuine emotion. Enough realism, but plenty of antics so audiences can truly escape and enjoy. Also showing in 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D theaters. Spider-Man is scheduled to return on July 5, 2019.