Editor’s Notes: Spider-Man: Homecoming is out on its respective home entertainment release October 17th.
Hollywood brought Spider-Man to the screen previously with two leads — Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield — who were in their 20s rather than teenagers, as in Stan Lee’s comic book original. Now, in Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony Home Entertainment), we finally have an age-appropriate actor in the iconic blue and red body suit. Tom Holland,19 during filming, easily passes for 15, and breathes renewed energy into a foundering franchise.
It helps also that the new film, directed by Jon Watts, deals more with Spider-Man’s alter-ego, Peter Parker, a Queens kid in high school who has trouble summoning up the courage to ask a girl on a date. A bundle of nervous energy, Peter remains excited about his recent adventure with the Avengers featured in Captain America: Civil War. He’s eager to keep fighting the big bad guys rather than retrieve stolen bicycles and serve as neighborhood do-gooder. But his mentor, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), believes Peter isn’t ready. He feels Peter is still too young, too green, and not responsible enough to tackle bigger bad-guy challenges.
A great deal of the movie is devoted to Peter’s day-to-day life with his best friend Ned (Jacob Battalion), his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), corporate babysitter Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), his classes in school, and after-school involvement with an academic decathlon team. These scenes are often the most engaging, even though director Watts doesn’t skimp on action.
Holland, an experienced gymnast and dancer, brings a gracefulness to the Spider-Man incarnation, but it’s Peter’s racing mind, youthful recklessness, impatience to graduate from being the neighborhood guardian, and awkwardness with the girl of his dreams, Liz (Laura Harrier), that make this superhero relatable as a kid who hasn’t fully realized the extent of his abilities. Holland has a charming screen presence and infuses Peter with a humility and shyness that is both touching and humorous. For maybe the first time, an actor manages to convey the angst of a teenager trying to lead a typical life while hiding a secret identity.
Ms. Tomei, a younger Aunt May than in previous movies, is convincing as a Queens woman trying her best to raise a teenager alone. She doesn’t have a lot of screen time, just enough to give the viewer a sense of Peter’s home life. Aunt May is a caring guardian and, like the rest of the world, is in the dark about Peter’s secret life.
The requisite villain is Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a salvage contractor whose crew is cleaning up alien debris left from the climactic New York City battle in Captain America: Civil War. When the government closes down his operation, he and his associates use some of the debris to fashion high-powered weapons and an elaborate set of wings. These he uses to conduct robberies in his alter-ego as the Vulture. The swooping, soaring Vulture becomes Spider-Man’s nemesis.
While most superhero movies overdo the big action scenes, Spider-Man: Homecoming concentrates on two, one involving a Staten Island ferry that splits in two. Beautifully shot, with considerable CGI help, the sequence is exhilarating. The other is set in Washington, D.C., when Peter and his decathlon team are there for a competition. When an elevator in the Washington Monument threatens to plummet, Peter swings into action, climbs the monument and rescues his trapped schoolmates. Shot from a myriad of angles, both scenes offer thrills and satisfy the genre’s requirement to present Big Moments.
Rated PG-13, Spider-Man: Homecoming is hard not to like. The director and writers have made smart decisions, particularly the casting of Tom Holland. Witty and action-packed, it ranks among the very best superhero films.
Bonus materials on the 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital release include the Spidey Study Guide,10 deleted scenes, gag reel, 7 behind-the-scenes featurettes, and photo gallery. The film is also available in 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/Digital, 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital, and DVD editions.