Ever wonder what a ‘Generation Z’ Peter Parker would be like? If so, look no further than Spider-Man: Homecoming, the latest (reboot? reimagining? prequel? pseudo-origin story?) of your friendly neighborhood superhero (and Avenger in training). As introduced briefly in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, English actor Tom Holland is the newest, and youngest Spidey to don the suit in what is, in essence, Smallville: the Spider-Man edition (i.e. instead of Tom Welling as a young Clark Kent navigating the challenges of both High School and superheroism on TV, you get Tom Holland as a young Peter Parker navigating the challenges of both High School and superheroism on the big screen). The film certainly provides a fresh and interesting take on the iconic character and his place in the Marvel franchise; I just don’t feel like we needed it. But since we’ve got it anyway, here’s the bottom line: Spider-Man: Homecoming is perfectly entertaining for what it is (a superhero coming-of-age comedy drama action flick) and sets the stage for a Spider-Man for a new generation. Only time will tell if Holland has more web-slinging staying power than his predecessors Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3) and Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Young Spidey’s integration into the Avengers franchise could give him a solid advantage.
Here’s the gist: 15-year-old Peter Parker is still feeling the adrenaline rush from his experience fighting alongside the Avengers under the watchful eye of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in Captain America: Civil War. So he finds it rather hard to get back into the swing of a daily routine at home in New York, where he lives with his hip and attractive Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), is a valued member of the school’s Academic Decathlon team, and is hoping to score a date to the Homecoming dance with his crush, Liz (Laura Harrier). He’s a smart, over-eager, charming, goofy kid constantly distracted by the need to prove himself worthy of full Avenger status (Tony Stark has him on a “Training Wheels protocol”). Peter gets his shot when a new villain, Vulture (Michael Keaton), emerges. Vulture has been turning alien junk into deadly space-age weapons that pose a threat to Peter, his friends, the city and pretty much everyone else in the world. Peter wants to take Vulture down, but he may be in over his head. After all, he is just a kid.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a satisfying ride for fanboys (and gals), especially those resistant to superhero fatigue. If you’ve seen the bulk of the Avengers movies, it’s definitely worth seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming because… it’s an Avengers movie. Avengers movies are fun – and often funny. This Spider-Man is no different, though it’s definitely got a bit of a John Hughes teen-superhero meets Breakfast Club vibe going. Traditionalists may cringe at a millennial version of Peter Parker who is more likely to become a YouTuber than a Daily Bugle photographer. But the times they are a-changin’.
Homecoming does have its serious moments as well, especially when the stakes are raised in the latter part of the film, with Tony Stark telling a petulant Peter, “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t be wearing it.” In other words, with great power comes great responsibility. Yadda yadda yadda. Peter’s still got some growing-up to do. But he’s got a good heart, and the potential to be a great Avenger.
Note: Captain America (Chris Evans) provides some additional comic relief throughout Homecoming, in a series of motivational PSAs aimed at the high school students. And of course, in true Marvel fashion, there are two bonus clips at the end of the movie. So stick around to the very end of the end credits for a last laugh.