The brand new Spider-Man, as played by the English Tom Holland, was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, and there was a minor outcry that this Spidey was so young.
Holland just turned 20, and Spider-Man here is 14 (or 15?), but he can’t call himself ‘Spider-Kid’, ‘Spider-Teen’ or ‘Spider-Millennial’, now can he? Surprisingly, Holland is one of the key elements here that makes this Jon-Watts-directed Marvel epic work so well, as his Spidey/Peter Parker is a nerdy high school student (just like in the original comics) who’s full of goofy enthusiasm about his Spidery powers and seriously resentful that Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. in a few scenes) won’t let him be a proper Avenger. No fair!
A pre-credits flashback sequence finds a group of construction types cleaning up after the ‘Battle Of New York’ from the first Avengers, and their boss Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton in terrific form) takes it badly when they’re screwed out of work, so he and the guys steal some of the alien technology and start putting it to nefarious use. Eight years later and they’ve started robbing ATMs and trying out their new and improved weapons. This coincides with Peter becoming more adept with his Spider-Man status as he web-slings about Queens, New York, nabbing baddies, becoming a YouTube star, having a fine old time and prompting the expected Stan Lee cameo.
After an action highlight on the Staten Island Ferry (naturally given away in the trailer), Spidey is forced to give his fancy new suit back to Stark and ruins his chances to start Avenging. He settles into being a teenager complete with a dorky bestie (Jacob Batalon), a big crush on Liz (Laura Harrier) and major trouble with keeping his Spiderish life a secret from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). But not for long. The final act here is stronger, more personalised and tenser than expected, and comes complete with a visual trick that true comic Spider-Man fans will love which (spoilers?) involves (look away now!) a half-mask.
Offering a cool and unusually retro soundtrack (including a little Ramones, who were Spider-Man devotees), a supporting cast that includes Donald Glover, Zendaya, Australia’s Angourie Rice and Jon Favreau as the long-suffering Happy Hogan once again, and Keaton’s turn as the grudge-bearing, pseudo-politically-motivated supervillain ‘The Vulture’, and you’ve got a saga that puts right so much that previous pics got wrong.
Holland’s also very funny at times, and less mawkish than Tobey Maguire (from director Sam Raimi’s trilogy of films) and silly than Andrew Garfield (star of the two more recent outings), although it must be said that the best gag here doesn’t involve him and comes after the final credit crawl. Lifelong Marvel lovers know to stay until the very, very end for stings or jokes or even important plot points, and that they have to sit waiting calmly instead of leaping up and dashing out of the cinema, now don’t they?
Rated M. Spider-Man: Homecoming is in cinemas now