Though he comes off as kind of a brat in last year's "Captain America: Civil War", Tom Holland plays Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man with a great deal of fun and panache in the newest installment, "Spider-Man: Homecoming", based on the beloved teenage crime fighter.
Fifteen, protecting his local 'hood and obsessed with impressing Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man may just be nerdy Parker with superhero abilities, dressed up in a cool suit, but he believes in his heart that he is ready to rock and roll with the big guns who make up the Avengers.
Living in Queens with his attractive --- according to Tony Stark --- Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), Peter's high school days resemble most nerds'. His best friend, Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), unwittingly learns that Peter is, in fact, Spider-Man and wants to use this knowledge to increase their cred with girls, most notably Liz Allan (Laura Harrier), their beautiful teammate on the Academic Decathlon team.
Peter, however, is determined to keep his superhero status a secret, even when he finds out that Liz has a soft spot for Spider-Man. He's become embroiled with a local crime crew led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a.k.a. Vulture, who is stealing very dangerous Chitauri weapons from the government. All of this comes to a head when Spidey's guardian, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), allows Stark's cargo plane to be intercepted by Vulture and Spider-Man is the only one who can stop him.
Following "Captain America: Civil War", I was not a fan of Holland's. He came off as a little too smug and not as charming a young student as perhaps Tobey Maguire had been. (I never liked Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, so I won't even count him.) But as "Spider-Man: Homecoming" moves along, Holland begins to win me over. His athleticism and self-effacing demeanor work well for him to convince us that he is the nerdy kid turned superhero.
Also, I'm not altogether enamored with Keaton as Vulture. Every time he appears in his winged supervillain costume, all I could think of was his role in "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance"), 2014. Keaton is a superb actor, but the role of Toomes/Vulture would have been better-suited to someone a tad younger. Both he and Downey, Jr. are getting a little long in the tooth to be playing august super "men" --- good or bad.
My favorite in this ensemble is Batalon. He is perfectly cast as the armchair wingman whose character is almost more excited than Peter that he is Spider-Man. Batalon provides just the right amount of levity and true friendship, which helps "Spider-Man: Homecoming" be as genuine as it is.
Director Jon Watts, who up until now has only directed one other film, helms a terrific cast and crew with aplomb. He also contributed to the writing of the screenplay with five others. The special effects are incredible, as we've come to expect, with one particular dramatic scene involving the Staten Island Ferry.
Suffice to say, if you are a Spider-Man fan, you will not be disappointed. Even those of us like David and me, who were not enthused about another outing of Spidey, are amazed by the entertainment value achieved in "Spider-Man: Homecoming". It's a summer blockbuster worthy of the moniker.
Opinion: See It Now!
The release of yet a new Spider-Man movie begs the question: did we really need another one of these, with a different actor playing the lead role, and a budget of $175 million? Not only that, but Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios relied on an untested 36-year-old director to make "Spider-Man: Homecoming" pay off.
The answer is no, we all could have lived without this movie. But since it's here, let's say that Colorado-born director Jon Watts and a mostly familiar cast have managed to put a fresh face on the franchise, one that's entertaining to boot.
Tom Holland, 19 during filming, is at least as good as his predecessors, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. As Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Holland is imbued with superior visual effects as far as his amazing climbing/jumping/flying abilities. Eye-opening sequences involve the Washington Monument and the Staten Island Ferry split in half. And Spidey's primary defensive/offensive
weapon --- the sticky webbing shooting from his hands --- is better crafted. Holland's chiseled physique, however slight, is a definite plus.
A BAFTA Award winner for Rising Star in his native England, Holland has the experience of a much older actor. He's played the lead in the world-class musical "Billy Elliot" on stage in London, starred opposite Naomi Watts in "The Impossible", and more recently was Charlie Hunnam's son in the underrated "The Lost City of Z" from 2016.
In addition to gambling on Watts, the studios put their faith in the up-and-down writing team of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, among others. The pair collaborated on the hilarious "Horrible Bosses", but their follow-up to that film, plus disasters "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" and "Vacation", means they are not yet bankable scribes.
But the writing in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is not essential to its success. Holland's performance and the visuals are the keys, and they will ensure that the film returns a healthy profit. In fairness to the writers, much of the script's humor and pathos focus on Peter's high school years, including a budding relationship with a beautiful upper classman, Liz (Laura Harrier).
Marisa Tomei reprises her role as Peter Parker's Aunt May, from "Captain America: Civil War", and Robert Downey Jr. does likewise with his on-going portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man. Downey Jr.'s usual wisecracking style falls flat here, and Tomei is given little to do or say, except for an outstanding brief expletive at the end of the movie which suggests a sequel. Michael Keaton has the role of supervillain to Spider-Man, embittered when his construction company is given the heave-ho by a government entity, represented by the always dependable Tyne Daley, in a small part.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow is given fourth billing in the cast credits for what amounts to a 60-second performance. They don't call it the "Amazing" Spider-Man for nothing.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!