School can be boring when you’d prefer to save the world than read books, right? So Peter Parker (Tom Holland) aka Spider-man, tends to be somewhat distracted in class, knowing just what he could do if the occasion called for it.
Billionaire playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) – his mentor – tries to persuade him to be just a ‘friendly neighbourhood’ hero. But when arch-villain Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) comes out of the woodwork it’s time to don the famous red and blue suit and commence incognito webbing duties.
Holland plays Spidey as a mere 15-year-old in this prequel-style re-boot of the series that emanated from a Marvel comic creation all those years ago, taking over from where his predecessors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield left off and giving the ‘dual identity’ theme an extra resonance even in the casting department. (Who’s the ‘real’ Parker, you may ask, just like characters in the films want to know who the ‘real’ Spider-man is.)
In Homecoming he’s living with his Aunt May (a much-too-young Marisa Tomei). One of his classmates is Toomes’ daughter Michelle (Zendaya), which connects the two worlds he inhabits in a different way. Laura Harrier is the love interest.
Parker received his acrobatic gifts after being bitten by a genetically-modified spider. His demonstration of them is as electrifying as ever here. And yet in another sense Spider-man isn’t as showy as many screen superheroes these days
Neither is Vulture (Toomes Senior) as demonic as many screen super-villains. He’s more a businessman than a Bond-style creation who wants to blow up the planet. This makes everything look very realistic but I still found it hard to get my head around the fact that a man who once played Batman (remember the Tim Burton movie?) has now turned to the ‘dark side’ of the comic cosmos.
Parker morphing into Spider-man never had quite the same magic for me as Clark Kent becoming Superman. He’s ‘one of us’. We empathise with him more than idolise him. His transmogrification from high school nerd into nonchalant skyscraper-hugger is less the stuff of fantasy than science fiction. Or even science fact?
That doesn’t stop him packing a punch, though, in the action scenes. And when you have the kind of budget Jon Watts, the film’s director, has at his disposal it makes them hum with an even more resonant energy, whether he’s in the air, at sea or ‘merely’ climbing up tall buildings.
Fasten your seatbelts, load up on the popcorn and expect the unexpected in a unique instalment of a franchise that looks set to run for a long time to come, no matter how often they change the main star.
Many people thought Holland was going to fall on his face after he landed the much-coveted role but his previous experience (in Wolf Hall and The Impossible) stands him in good stead for this thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride.
Very Good ****